The Great and Powerful (Dr.) Oz, dissected in The New Yorker

In the beginning, medicine was religion. Indeed, if you look at the history of medicine, you'll see that the very first physicians were virtually always religious figures in addition to their roles as healers. Indeed, in ancient Egypt, for example, the professions of priest and healer were one, and most medicine involved incantations, invocations of magic, and, of course, prayers to the gods, who were believed to be both the cause and the cure of human disease. Amulets were particularly popular, and consisted of three types: homeopoetic, phylactic and theophoric. Homeopoetic amulets, for example, portrayed an animal or part of an animal, and the wearer hoped to gain the attributes of the animal, while phylactic amuletes were believed to protect against evil gods and demons who sought to cause harm and theophoric amulets portrayed gods.

Of course, 4,000 years ago all of this made sense. People believed in gods who intervened directly in human affairs and believed that priests could intercede. They also had no scientific understanding how the human body functioned or broke down. Not surprisingly, the main areas in which ancient Egyptians developed treatments that didn't depend primarily on prayer or magic were traumatic injuries, as I discussed a very, very long time ago after having seen the Edwin Smith Papyrus at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They also realized that blood was important and that the heart pumped it. They also knew about breast cancer and tried treating it with cautery. Not surprisingly, it didn't work too well.

It took many hundreds of years, which stretched into thousands of years, before it was fully accepted that medicine should be based on science. Indeed, arguably, it wasn't until 103 years ago, with the advent of the Flexner Report, that medicine, in the U.S. at least, was placed on a firmly scientific basis, and what we now know as randomized controlled clinical trials did not see their debut, much less become the basis of determining which treatments worked and which did not, until the 1940s. Although physicians have been trying to base their craft on science for hundreds of years, it's really only been in the last century or so that they've succeeded. Yet still some would like to go back to the way it was. They yearn for the days when doctors were "healers" and shamans, the way medicine was for hundreds and hundreds of years before science intruded.

Unfortunately, one of those physicians happens to be "America's doctor," as quoted in an excellent article by Michael Specter entitled THE OPERATOR: Is the most trusted doctor in America doing more harm than good? In it we learn this about Dr. Mehmet Oz:

“I would take us all back a thousand years, when our ancestors lived in small villages and there was always a healer in that village—and his job wasn’t to give you heart surgery or medication but to help find a safe place for conversation.”

Oz went on, “Western medicine has a firm belief that studying human beings is like studying bacteria in petri dishes. Doctors do not want questions from their patients; it’s easier to tell them what to do than to listen to what they say. But people are on a serpentine path through life, and that is the way it is supposed to be. All I am trying to do is put a couple of road signs out there. I sit on that set every day, and that is what I am focussing on. The road signs.”

Of course, back when our ancestors lived in small villages, medicine consisted of shamans, priests, and magicians who couldn't actually do much for anything other than physical injuries, for which they could bind up wounds, sew up lacerations, and splint fractures. However, they could do little or nothing to treat infections or other diseases. If people got better, it was usually because the disease was self-limited or the victims were fortunate. Oz also appears to buy into the false dichotomy that drives me crazy whenever I hear it: Namely that in order to be a good "holistic" doctor, you have to embrace the quackery that is much of what is now referred to as "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM) or, more recently, "integrative medicine." My retort is always that you don't have to become a quack to be "holistic." I also question Oz's romantic view of these "healers." It sounds all too much like the "noble savage" myth, a case of Oz falling for romantic primitivism, which he seems to want to fuse with modern medicine.

Worst of all, if you want to know why Dr. Oz falls for so much quackery, Specter explains it by letting Dr. Oz speak for himself and asking Oz how he can feature on his show people like, for example, Joe Mercola, who are anathema to science and promote pure quackery. (OK, he didn't use those words, but that's in essence what he asked, and he did mention Mercola's rabid antivaccine views and his having promoted cancer quack Tullio Simoncini, who claims that cancer is a fungus and that baking soda cures it, on his show.) This passage is what I view as the central exchange in Specter's entire article, as to me it reveals exactly why Dr. Oz is the way he is and why he promotes the quackery he promotes:

"I’m usually earnestly honest and modest about what I think we’ve accomplished," Oz told me when we discussed his choice of guests. "If I don’t have Mercola on my show, I have thrown away the biggest opportunity that I have been given."

I had no idea what he meant. How was it Oz’s "biggest opportunity” to introduce a guest who explicitly rejects the tenets of science? "The fact that I am a professor—one of the youngest professors ever—at Columbia, and that I earned my stripes writing hundreds of papers in peer-reviewed journals," Oz began. "I know the system. I’ve been on those panels. I’m one of those guys who could talk about Mercola and not lose everybody. And so if I don’t talk to him I have abdicated my responsibility, because the currency that I deal in is trust, and it is trust that has been given to me by Oprah and by Columbia University, and by an audience that has watched over six hundred shows."

I was still puzzled. “Either data works or it doesn’t,” I said. “Science is supposed to answer, or at least address, those questions. Surely you don’t think that all information is created equal?”

Oz sighed. “Medicine is a very religious experience,” he said. “I have my religion and you have yours. It becomes difficult for us to agree on what we think works, since so much of it is in the eye of the beholder. Data is rarely clean.” All facts come with a point of view. But his spin on it—that one can simply choose those which make sense, rather than data that happen to be true—was chilling. “You find the arguments that support your data,” he said, “and it’s my fact versus your fact.”

And there you go. Oz has bought into the "science is just another religion" canard. How he can manage to do that, given his history, is mind-boggling. After all, he really was a decent surgical researcher, and he really did publish a lot of papers in the peer-reviewed surgical literature. I've expressed wonder at this transformation before: How could such an undeniably brilliant surgeon and surgical investigator fall so far, at least from a scientific standpoint? Personally, I think I see a bit of rationalization in the passage above for his transformation. Actually, it's more denial. Dr. Oz thinks he is still a surgeon-scientist and doesn't seem to understand that his promotion of the vilest sorts of pseudoscience and quackery have removed from him the right to be considered as a serious scientist—or even as a serious science-based doctor. Notice how he takes on an attitude that says, in essence, "How dare you question me, you puny journalist? I am the Great and Powerful Oz. I'm co-author on hundreds of peer-reviewed articles. I cannot be corrupted, and I know what science is."

To which I reply: "Not so much. Not any more. You sold your soul for ratings." Even worse, he has thrown ethics to the wind, doing what is in essence a clinical trial without IRB approval or any ethical oversight, all for his television show. This is arguably against the rules of his university and violates the Common Rule, which is designed to protect patients who participate as subjects in human studies. None of this appears to bother Oz.

As for the part about religion, sadly, it's all of a piece with Oz's other stated desires, namely to have healers the way we used to hundreds or thousands of years ago. Many of those healers were shamans or priests, and much of what they did was little more than faith healing. So For Dr. Oz to pine for a return to that time makes perfect sense. Of course, I'm sure that Dr. Oz imagines that he will "integrate" those ancient healing practices with modern medicine. That's what "integrative medicine" is, after all. Personally, I love it that Specter basically got Oz to admit that he doesn't believe in science-based medicine. Homeopathy (which he just featured yesterday on his show, which I am thinking of blogging about as soon as the video is online at his website), reiki, acupuncture, supplements, it's all the same and to him it's all just as valid as science-based medicine. Indeed, it's hard not to conclude from this that Oz views science and science-based medicine as just "another way of knowing." It's also good to see Oz basically admit that he doesn't review the literature to see what does and doesn't work; instead he cherry picks the literature to support his conclusions, or, as he puts it,"it's my fact versus your fact."

No, it's not. While everyone has preexisting biases and it is true that the literature can legitimately be interpreted different ways by different scientists, that does not mean that it's "your fact versus my fact." That's far more a legalistic point of view than a scientific one, and or maybe more of a debate team point of view. It's like two lawyers, each picking his own facts and putting them into battle against his opponent's facts, without acknowledging their weaknesses or inconvenient facts that don't support the narrative each is trying to promote. It's not science. Specter is right. Oz's view of applying science to medicine is indeed pure spin—and chilling spin at that. Oz has clearly lost it when it comes to science. Even given how far Oz has fallen with respect to science, even I never imagined that he now has such contempt for science that he views it as no more than a "religious experience."

Then there's his claim that "so much of it is in the eye of the beholder." That's only true if you rely on personal experience and anecdotal evidence. The very reason we need science, the reason we need controlled clinical trials, is to compensate for the human tendency for observations to be "in the eye of the beholder." That Oz appears no longer to understand that (if indeed he ever did) is disturbing in the extreme given his enormous audience and influence. Instead of educating the public about science and what is and isn't good medicine, all too often, he sells quackery mixed with sensible, science-based advice, "integrating" to the point where even physicians sometimes have trouble separating the nonsense from the science. Indeed, Eric Topol is asks an incredibly apt question, "But how are consumers to know what is real and what is magic? Because Mehmet offers both as if they were one.”

That is, of course, exactly the problem with "integrating" quackery and magic with science and medicine, which is what Oz increasingly does these days. It's a problem that has become so widespread with the infiltration of "integrative medicine" into academia, that one has to wonder whether Oz is a cause or a symptom of the problem. Perhaps he is both. Worse, I'm not even sure that Oz is able to separate the nonsense from the science anymore. Perhaps he doesn't care anymore. His most pressing purpose now is not science or medicine. It is to pander to his audience so that he can remain The Great and Powerful Oz, adored by millions. His brand must remain supreme:

One day, I asked Oz whether he minded that many of his medical peers criticized him for following the dictates of daytime television more than the demands of scientific truth. “I have always played offense,” he responded. “So I don’t care what people call me. I used to. I felt that to say I was an entertainer was dismissive. But it is part of what I have to do. I want to get my message across to people who are not going to get it in other ways. And I can’t do that if I am not palatable to the people who watch the show.”

In other words, "Suck it, geeks!" It is now, sadly, very clear that Dr. Oz now values his celebrity over science and science-based medicine to the point that he will do and say whatever it takes to remain the most famous doctor in the country, if not the world, and if it takes fusing bronze age concepts of disease with the latest science until no one can tell which is which anymore, he's apparently fine with that.

It's rather amusing and ironic that in the course of this article, Oz is quoted as referring to surgeons as "assholes" and referring to surgery as "controlled arrogance." On the one hand, he has a point. On the other hand, the lack of self-awareness demonstrated by Oz in saying this is truly staggering. Indeed, I sense in Oz something I've seen in other doctors before, namely arrogance that rises to such a level that they think that their judgment should overrule science when they see fit. Unfortunately, these days, Dr. Oz sees fit a lot.


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Believe it or not, there was once a time when Dr. Mehmet Oz didn't bother me that much. At least, for all his flirting with woo, I never quite thought that he had completely gone over to the Dark Side. Although I probably knew deep down that I was fooling myself. Maybe it was because Dr. Oz is a…

If you'll allow me to tweak a song from the musical Evita:*

When the money keeps rolling in you don't keep books.
You can tell you've done well by the happy grateful looks

Scientists only slow things down, research gets in the way,
Never been such quackery spewed quite like the Doctor Oz Show...

Oz has sold out, and has (more dangerously) apparently convinced himself that he's doing good work for the public. He's in too deep, and is caught in a web of tenuous justifications and self-delusion.

When, I wonder, will we see the first lawsuit in a death/maiming citing the victim's belief in the Great and Powerful Oz?

*Forgive me. It is a special time of year for my people, Ru Year! With it comes the start of a new series of the show 'RuPaul's Drag Race', and (in the Mrs+Mrs Elburto. residence) an initial 7000% increase in the proportion of time devoted to glitter, show tunes, hi-energy dance tracks, and shoes. The last two items are delightfully ironic considering my situation, but who cares! Colour and dazzle have arrived to chase away the January gloom.

I think I can summarise his change of heart in two words - filthy lucre.

You know, it pains me so much to see co-workers (nurses and assistants) sucking up his nonsense. When you have a co-worker taking green coffee extract and believes she is losing weight and she is STILL over a hundred pounds overweight, it makes you very cynical as to the source of the information. Unfortunately, until and unless someone gets hurt and sues, we are stuck with this dreck.

What an article!

And what a fiasco: Talent, education, reputation, and charisma--all wedded to SHIT.

All I am trying to do is put a couple of road signs out there. I sit on that set every day, and that is what I am focussing on. The road signs.

He appears to have been paying so much attention to "the road signs" that he hasn't noticed he is up to his neck in a swamp.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 29 Jan 2013 #permalink

When it comes to once-admired physicians and scientists embracing quackery, I think money is often secondary to desire for fame/notoriety - the kind you can't achieve in the scientific community alone.

For the darker aspects of woo (i.e. AIDS denial) we can't overlook the possibility of mental illness.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 29 Jan 2013 #permalink

@ Orac

Amulets [...] consisted of three types: homeopoetic, phylactic and theophoric

Thanks to you, I'm improving my vocabulary.
A bit difficult to place in everyday conversation :-) Although, we have modern-day equivalent of magical amulets. Are power bracelets phylactic or theophoric?

From Dr Oz:

when our ancestors lived in small villages and there was always a healer in that village—and his job wasn’t to give you heart surgery or medication but to help find a safe place for conversation

Well, you see...
Gosh, what a mess. Neutron-star-grade density of wishful thinking.
Where to start?

OK. Old-time healers [deep breath]
Herbalists (shaman, wise women, witches and associated trades) were certainly here to give you medication.
A number of common folk healers were certainly adept at giving you surgery (like the barber-dentist-blood-letter in medieval Europe, or even more primitive healers who left evidence of practicing trepanation, from indian tribes to paleolithic tribes)
There were people whose job was to listen to the patients, but as Orac pointed out they often were a mix of priest and healer. And since they were figures of authority, once they had decided that was wrong with you, you often don't have little choice but to accept their treatment. Especially in cases of demonic influence, no way to let you endanger the tribe. In extreme cases, the treatment is a good whack on your skull with a stone club. The signs on the side of the road were often about it being a one-way street.

Actually, these Golden Age healers are still present today. There are a number of documentaries on tribal villages in Amazonia, Africa or Asia which show people living like a few hundred or thousand of years ago, with their local, very active healer.

tl;dr - Dr Oz, please remove your pink-tinted glasses and stop making things up.

By Heliantus (not verified) on 29 Jan 2013 #permalink

" that has been given to me by Oprah..."

Sums it up for me.

when our ancestors lived in small villages and there was always a healer in that village—and his job wasn’t to give you heart surgery or medication but to help find a safe place for conversation

"Here is my hut. It's nice and quiet and we can have a long chat about that pain in your chest... Oh, dear me, you seem to have died. But at least we had a safe place for a conversation while you were expiring."

To which I reply: “Not so much. Not any more. You sold your soul for ratings.”


I realize that it can be difficult to remain an honest scientist while becoming a popularizer, and I can't name offhand any biomedical types who have succeeded. (The closest might be Isaac Asimov, but he gave up research entirely to concentrate on writing full time). But I can name two examples from the physics and astronomy world: Carl Sagan and Richard Feynman. So it certainly can be done. But Dr. Oz most definitely did not succeed.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 29 Jan 2013 #permalink

Y'know, some of my ancestors still live in small villages, and there's certainly not a healer, medic, priest or the like in every village. Precisely because the villages are small, the economics don't allow that and you have to share specialists with neighbouring villages.

By Andreas Johansson (not verified) on 29 Jan 2013 #permalink

I'll say the same thing here I just said over at Pharyngula. Alternative medicine is riding high and triumphant on the back of the cultural respect given to being a Person of Faith, having faith, respecting faith, and respecting diversity in faith. This is literally religion, and Oz is doing apologetics. Of course it sounds familiar.

Faith defines. The mere attempt to be objective is wrong. Embrace bias as if it were your tribal identity. Critical inquiry towards a universal consensus is smothered under the idea that there are many paths to truth, other ways of knowing, and special revelations and special snowflakes who have them.

The real enemy is not any particular form of “extreme” alt med any more than it’s an “extreme” religion. Method, method, method. The underlying problem is the sloppy thinking that mixes up categories and fetishizes “choices” — and it’s fueled by the idea that faith is a virtue -- and a humble one, too.

“I would take us all back a thousand years, when our ancestors lived in small villages and there was always a healer in that village—and his job wasn’t to give you heart surgery or medication but to help find a safe place for conversation.”

Oh please, oh please, oh please, won't Dr. Oz really do this and cut out all the pretense about medicine and just let his show concentrate on being a "safe place for conversation." He can have conversations about decorating, and how to deal with a difficult boss, and whether online dating needs to be approached with some caution. He can invite guests who talk about how their children don't appreciate all they do and other guests who talk about how their parents don't give them the space they need and get them all together and have a real conversation where solutions are found and people walk away happy and healed and damn none of that icky hard biological medical stuff comes up because that's not what the show is about any more.

Enough about reiki. We want to hear Dr. Oz give us tips on how to make our offices and waiting rooms look more friendly by bringing in some nice plants, a fireplace, and soft flute-and-drum music playing in the background. Take us back a thousand years. Do.

This article actually displays a startling amount of ignorance. Read in a different light, Dr. Oz (here, and here only), is clearly expressing one position within the central debate in clinical ethics (or, more broadly, the philosophy of medicine). That there is no reference to that here, nor to the numerous logical (let alone practical) problems with RCTs, is really no better than the ignorance Dr. Oz spouts on TV.

Oz himself doesn't bother me too much, he's dug his own grave a long time ago with the nonsense on his show. What bugs me a lot is that academic institutions like Columbia keep him on faculty. If schools would just withdraw the mantle of respectability from the quacks (I look at you UofA) he and his cohorts would quickly disappear in the usual daytime talk show morass is irrelevant.

I've said it before on SBM, but it bears repeating:

To Dr. Oz, I say the following:

You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

You have seen fit to sell out, and if there is any justice in this universe, it will do neither you nor your cause any good.

By Karl Withakay (not verified) on 29 Jan 2013 #permalink

A long time ago, there was a book called *Persuasion and Healing*: I think Dr Oz mistook it for a career plan.

Although Oz has a SB education and training, *he* has been won over to the Dark Side because *he* as been persuaded / persuaded himself of his own special abilities or capacities as a shaman or magical being who will change the course of medical history. This role ( like the primitive one) is singular within a community/ society so he would have no peers. He would heal us all and medicine itself. Lovely.

That propensity makes him like the alt med provocateurs I survey: they position themselves "above it all"- including science. Similarly, they follow the dictates of television success: be attractive and sympathetic to your target audience- mostly women. How many of their websites include posing and approprite costuming! Show business.

And -btw-, Ozzy, there is SB counselling and therapy that involve LISTENING and SB physicians have been aware of its importance in SBM as well, these past 20-30 years, in case you haven't heard.

And who would want to go back a thousand years where ONE person per community held most of the cards and your own decisions were automatically considered un-sanctified and disposable to begin with?

PLUS the clothes were so crap.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 29 Jan 2013 #permalink

Before Oz, "America's Doctor" was Dean Edell MD, a true medical skeptic. Here's his Wikipedia entry, and a 15-minute interview.

Come out of retirement, Dr. Edell, America needs you.

Great idea for Dr. Oz's next groundbreaking TV interview - the former male stripper and steroids dealer who's built up a successful sports supplement company by marketing things like holographic stickers that promise to improve strength up to 500%, negatively charged water and deer antler spray. The following article lists a bevy of well-known pro athletes (including, naturally, Johnny Damon) who buy into this silliness.


My favorite quote from the article:

"Christopher Key, who does personal training on the side to make ends meet, believes in S.W.A.T.S.'s technology and says that it's up to science to disprove it."

No doubt Dr. Oz would tell us that sports medicine is a very religious experience, quackery is in the eye of the beholder and that it's our facts vs. their facts. He could personally test the deer antler spray (sublingually) and tell us on-air if he feels more powerful afterwards.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 29 Jan 2013 #permalink

". . . it is trust that has been given to me by Oprah and by Columbia University. . ."

Let me translate that: "I have been anointed by the Goddess of Daytime Television and am a Real Doctor; how dare you question me!"

All I am trying to do is put a couple of road signs out there.

Perhaps he should try one of these.

This article actually displays a startling amount of ignorance. Read in a different light, Dr. Oz (here, and here only), is clearly expressing one position within the central debate in clinical ethics (or, more broadly, the philosophy of medicine). That there is no reference to that here, nor to the numerous logical (let alone practical) problems with RCTs, is really no better than the ignorance Dr. Oz spouts on TV.

So, let me see if I have your argument straight:

Part A:
1) If someone is expressing an opinion or position, they should be praised and held in respectful awe just for doing that. Even if that opinion or position, when examined, is stupid.
2) Dr. Oz gots himself a position.
3) So how dare we point out that his position is stupid.

Part B:
1) There are serious logical and practical problems with RCTs which make the whole foundation of modern medicine unsound. Really. Truly. Don't ask what they are. Don't ask for any details. There just are, okay.
2) If the whole foundation of modern medicine is unsound then Dr. Oz can spew whatever crap he likes and it's just as good as modern medicine, right?
3) So how dare you suggest that someone who brings a for-God's-sake numerologist on his show pretending that what she has to say has some sort of relevance to modern health isn't just as good as evidence from RCTs?

Pardon me if I find neither Part A nor Part B very convincing.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 29 Jan 2013 #permalink

"...and it is trust that has been given to me by Oprah and by Columbia University, and by an audience that has watched over six hundred shows.”

And that audience unfortunately holds people like Oprah and Dr. Oz to the same celebrity=authority standard that so many others do.

Funny how those pushing life as it was 1000 years ago never compare the life spans. Then average life expectancy ~30 years, today ~80 years.
Still, given the conditions of life back then I guess 30 years might feel like a lifetime

I guess there is a bit of a fallacy in my previous comment, as Dr. Oz should be (or once was, or never was, or whatever) an authority for general health knowledge. Does he have any governance of the content of his shows? Or does he even care? I just can't imagine anyone who should rightly be skeptical of all this CAM, pseudoscience, shaman/faith healing, Joe Mercola mumbo-jumbo to actually get to a point where throwing personal integrity down the drain is a fair compromise to getting ratings.

Jason, I'm curious what you perceive 'the central debate in clinical ethics" to be. Can you define that for me?

Here is a video of Dr. Oz's "Homeopathic Starter Kit". How can an educated doctor promote this crap?

Yesterday, I tuned in to the channel that runs Oz here just before the local news at 6 p.m. I unfortunately caught the last two minutes where I heard him say "not only is apple cider vinegar great for detox, but it has many other uses..." and then profiled some of his viewers' favourite applications for ACV, from disinfecting surfaces to healing a dog's skin problems.

Sheesh...this guy makes $10 million a year from his TV show?

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 29 Jan 2013 #permalink

Sheesh…this guy makes $10 million a year from his TV show?

Beats slicing and dicing, teaching snot-nosed med students, languishing in relative obscurity for low six figures/year and carrying med malpractice insurance doesn't it?

By Science Mom (not verified) on 29 Jan 2013 #permalink

It occured to me that Dr. Oz does not necessarily have the training and experience to claim authority over the subjects he is talking about. He's a cardiac surgeon, not a primary care physician. Unless I am missing something, he would have less training and exposure to primary care concerns than any qualified family doctor, pediatrician, internest or nurse-practitioner. Since he has also abandoned any respect for science, it's no wonder he's falling for this baloney.

@ Mark Stephens Is Insane: Thanks so much for Dr. Oz's Homeopathy Starter Kit videos. I loooove the introduction to homeopathy provided by Oz...and his explanation of "like cures like", example given, about insomnia when you drink coffee...but when you take a very dilute homeopathic "coffea medicine* you are able to *cure* your insomnia.

Our *esteemed* Dr. Dana Ullman features *coffea* homeopathic treatment on his it MUST BE so.…

I work in a Pharmacy. In the last 2 work days I have had the following happen:
1) A lady asks for agave nectar ( for her husband, a diabetic. Dr Oz has informed her it is a good sweetener for diabetics to use.
2) A man asks for peppermint oil. When I ask how he intends to use it he tells me he is going to add several drops to his tea, Dr. Oz has told him it's good for digestions. However, this man suffers from GERD, and was unaware that peppermint can often exacerbate this condition.
It's very possible that these people were very mistaken about what they heard on TV, however Dr. Oz remains, in my mind, a four-letter word.

By TwistBarbie (not verified) on 29 Jan 2013 #permalink

Off topic: Testing. I have had two comments disappear.

Try #3 disappeared also. Maybe it's the Coriente URL.

I suggest folk go and read Derek Lowe's "Dr. Oz's Problem". Googling the two together got me the link.

He also refers to Mercola's site as "a trackless fever swamp of craziness. "

And speaking of miasmic swamps....

I just listened to a tape of Null's show ( see progressiveradionetwork/ Gary Null show 012913)**
and lo and behold!

-starting at 36 minutes in- the host and Sayer Ji discuss the latest threat to Natural Healing: a movement of sceptics called SBM! They elaborate upon the twisted, secretive network of elitism, "power and money" behind these sceptics who even DARE criticise Tom Jefferson.

Yes, it seems a fellow named "Orac" is rather "clever" and manages to affect google listings of particular alt med healers. Others -like Drs Novella and DG- follow in the steps of Dr Barrett ( who has been "discredited", they say) acting as "Grand Inquistors".

A "culture war" is on. Or so they tell me.

Both of these guys' voices sound oddly perturbed and pressured. I wonder why that is?

** google progressiveradionetwork - go to shows- go to Gary Null Show- today's.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 29 Jan 2013 #permalink

He wants to go back to the Middle Ages?

For Oz and the alt-med 'healers' I couldn't agree more.
That is if all the 'patients' can time-travel back with their current knowledge and expectations of sci-based medical performance.

Then, when the 'healer' treats a rich and powerful patient and fails miserably, they will be accused of witchcraft or spiritual degradation (presumably via the devil).
They will then be hauled before the local magistrate, court tribunal, or Inquisition and tried and found guilty.
Next stop - The Stake, where they will be bound and turned into a medium-well woo-kabob.

Yeah, I could go for that in some respects.

The Middle Ages,
And the livin' is easy.
Witches are burnin',
And the serfs run and hide.

David Letterman just quoted from the New Yorker article where Oz's mentor says he wouldn't send patients to Oz anymore. It led into the Top-Ten List "How To Tell If Your Doctor Is Rusty".

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 29 Jan 2013 #permalink

MESSAGE BEGINS--------------------

Quoth the paranoid monkeys: "a secretive network of elitism . . ." Secret indeed. If only they knew the terrible truth. [cue theramin music] Fade to black.

Yours in Pure PharmaEvil™,
Lord Draconis Zeneca, VH7ihL
Foreward Mavoon of the Great Fleet, Pharmaca Magna of Terra, Grand Inquisitor of Harrod's Food Hall

----------------------MESSAGE ENDS

By Glaxxon Pharma… (not verified) on 29 Jan 2013 #permalink

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned what is probably number one cause of this man's slide into woo: Lisa Oz (and her wooey, Rock Doc father). Lisa Oz is a frikken antivaxx, reiki master . . . and she's his wife. Also read the part about his hardass, nothing-little-Mehmet-did-was-ever-good-enough-for-him father. Perhaps veering into woo was a way at getting back at him. There's always an emotional driver into woo. For me, that driver was existential angst (pissing my dad off was just a bonus). And yes, for the more nefarious and sinister woos, there is the distinct possibility of a mental illness component (sociopathy, narcissism, etc.).
I think this article is going to haunt the hell out of him, it won't reach the True Belivers™, but it's going to make everybody else think twice before trusting anything that comes out of his perfectly dentated mouth.

By Pareidolius (not verified) on 29 Jan 2013 #permalink

Well, if you weren't sure whether or not Oz was on the path of woo, you would be now after that little swipe about "Western medicine" and the "different ways of knowing" fallacy.

How long has it been since Oz has actually had to treat anyone?

How could such an undeniably brilliant surgeon and surgical investigator fall so far, at least from a scientific standpoint?

I've often wondered whether or not the cult of personality helps to shape what the leader ends up doing/thinking. That is, they start spouting stuff that's somewhat on the edge, they gather followers, and the more followers/adoration they get, the more they believe what they themselves are saying. It would be easy to fall for argument from popularity, especially when combined with Duning-Kruger effects, the decrease in attention to actual reality, and the increased time in an echo chamber. It's sort of a self-fulfilling circle, where the audience "must be right".

Not to mention the fact that his 'science' is filtered through production managers et al (ie. not scientists), a huge editorial bias to producing shows based on popularity rather than accuracy, and no doubt a less-involved approach to overviewing content. This is why I refuse to offer myself as an artist to those involved with medical or legal businesses - there's no way I'd have any clue as to what's accurate and what's bull.


Thank you for "perfectly dentated mouth". That's exactly what I think of every time I see Oz, I just never realised it before.

Dr. Phil did the same thing after hooking up with the Oprah Empire. In the beginning he had some good practical advice and a no nonsense approach. After 10 years in the Empire I can't t. tell him apart from Jerry Springer. I think it is fame, ego, and money that sends them on down the road.

It is a real handicap for our country that the *America's Most Trusted Doctor™* is a quack.

By Kelly M Bray (not verified) on 30 Jan 2013 #permalink

Kelly M Bray: It is a real handicap for our country that the *America’s Most Trusted Doctor™* is a quack
This is America, and Americans hate intellectuals. If he was effective and actually stuck to his guns...people wouldn't watch him. Seriously, Americans are stone cold dumb compared to the rest of the world- nearly half believe in Creationism, and more than that believe that G*d loves fetuses more than women. Sigh. Maybe winter's just making me cynical.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 30 Jan 2013 #permalink

"Seriously, Americans are stone cold dumb compared to the rest of the world- nearly half believe in Creationism, and more than that believe that G*d loves fetuses more than women."

There is a very large number of creationists in the rest of the world. There are also a great many people on this world who not only believe that G*d loves fetuses more than women, but also believe that G*d not only approves of but actually demands the enslavement, degradation, rape, torture, mutilation, and murder of women. These things are actually illegal in America.

LW:These things are actually illegal in America.

In theory. I invite you to google Cleveland Texas and Stuebensberg Ohio to see how these things work out in real life. Heck, google Kobe Bryant or Ben Rothlisberger.
As for Creationists, yes, I'd imagine that there are a lot in places where missionaries were allowed free reign, but the US is the only 'educated' 'modern' country with a preponderance of them. Seriously, find me a French creationist who isn't regarded as a total loon by his fellow citizens. Even Ireland has scientists. (I will concede that Italy is anti-science, rabidly so, but if they didn't live near the Vatican, things would be different.)

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 30 Jan 2013 #permalink


Even Ireland has scientists.

Yes they do. But they also have cranks. There was one who was promoting a creationist book a couple of years ago. I heard it on the Skeprechauns podcast where the Irish Science Minister backed an anti-evolution textbook.

Actually, that is a fun and amusing podcast. It has gone on hiatus a couple of times, to be resurrected by a couple very opinionated women who are very engaging.

Just following an evolution thread on HuffPo. Very depressing. It's hard to tell who is a Poe.

By Kelly M Bray (not verified) on 30 Jan 2013 #permalink

"I’d imagine that there are a lot in places where missionaries were allowed free reign". 75% of Saudis espouse a creationist view.  Ah yes, those Christian missionaries are hard at work corrupting the pro-science Saudis.  

It may have escaped your notice, but Islam is a major religion (over a billion adherents) and is strongly creationist.

Moreover, pointing to cases where laws are not adequately enforced while ignoring the millions of cases where they are adequately enforced or don't need to be enforced because no one would dream of violating them, is not  much of an argument.

I remind you that in Saudi Arabia the police burned thirteen-year-old girls because they dared try to escape a burning building without stopping to put on their (probably burning) tents before running out. The police forced them back into the fire, and that was perfectly fine and legal.

But living in a country where there are sometimes failures to adequately enforce the laws is just exactly like living in a country where you can be legally burned alive, right?

Is PGP aware of the creationist museum in the UK?

PGP you often generalise too much. See below for more examples of other countries with museums:

Is it that Americans are more creationist, that they are simpler louder, or that there is a bias in either what you read or who has access to the internet for them to spout their creationist views? Too many variables, which is why your generalisation isn't useful.

Interestingly enough I've just been reading a back issue of a skeptic magazine that discussed a museum for leprechauns in Ireland...

Thank you flip. I normally keep quiet about the anti-Christian bigotry sometimes spouted here because it's off-topic, but I have friends and family members who are Christian and/or pro-life; some are even creationists.

A good friend who is a pro-life Christian creationist hired me for my current job. He helped found a start-up company that grew into more than a billion-dollar company (it was acquired for over a billion dollars). Tuesday we got news about our compensation, and in a very tough economy, the company he helped found and build was able to give bonuses to most people.

Not bad for someone that Politicalguineapig is pleased to dismiss as "stone cold dumb".

As another example of an educated country that supports Creationism, Turkey recently banned books on evolution. And it isn't just textbooks. Books by people like Dawkins and Gould will also be unavailable to people in Turkey.

Just to finish up, "more than that believe that G*d loves fetuses more than women". This is not what pro-lifers believe. Everyone knows that at some point between conception and adulthood, what was not a human being entitled to the protection of the laws becomes a human being entitled to the protection of the laws.  The extreme pro-lifers believe that this occurs exactly at conception and therefore even interference with implantation is murder.  The rest of the American population believes that this occurs sometime after that, perhaps as late as birth.

You don't have to believe that G*d loves children more than women to say that it should be illegal for a woman to kill a two-year-old who is inconvenient to her. Once you believe -- and this is a moral question not a scientific question so having a different opinion from Politicalguineapig doesn't make you stone cold dumb -- that the fetus has developed far enough to become a human being like a two-year-old, then abortion becomes a much more fraught problem.  Then the question is really whether abortion should be prohibited even when necessary to save the woman's life.   

Most Americans do not believe that; In this poll this month, the question was asked,

"Which comes closest to your view on abortion: abortion should always be legal; should be legal most of the time; should be made illegal except in cases of rape, incest and to save the mother's life; or abortion should be made illegal without any exceptions?"

Just 9% chose the last option, "abortion should be made illegal without any exceptions".  This isn't exactly the woman-hating theocratic culture that Politicalguineapig imagines. There are such cultures in this world, a lot of them, which is why it annoys me so much that someone would trivialize the abject misery of women in those cultures by comparing them favorably to this one.

LW, I hate to say this, but fighting certain people's bigotry may be a lost cause.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 31 Jan 2013 #permalink

@Antaeus Feldspar: ohhh. Okay, no point arguing with a bigot like that. She must be a joy to deal with in real life.

Let's see if I can add something.
Our friend, Politicalguineapig, obviously feels herself to be the target of prejudice and lives in an area with very conservative politics. Often when we focus upon what personally and directly affects us, we may not contemplate the wider world. We become sensitive and attuned to signals that warn us of an oncoming threat. This distorts our vision but perhaps is the best strategy if one lives amongst 'hostiles'.. at least as a temporary means of self-protection.

Last year I saw a film about present-day Iran ( A Separation): it elucidates how helpless women are legally by dramatising ( intertwined) court cases involving emigration, employment, separation and loss of a foetus. It is un-believable but realistic, I'm told.

Obviously there are horror stories from all around the world: sexual traffic of women, genital mutilation, the burqa, girls' education in the third world .. I could go on.

When I was a student, I sometimes felt as though my own life could be determined by the outdated attitudes of general society - although I have only lived in the world's most liberal cities, attended universities that exemplfy modern ideals and come from enlightened atheistic/ agnostic business-oriented families. Right-wing rhetoric can sound frighteningly personal when issues like birth control and abortion are involved because these attitudes, if legally implemented, would restrict many women's lives- including our own.

I sometimes wonder if I feel better about this now because I have more social power or because I'm over 50 and have no daughters- or myself- to worry about. While the issues are the same as they were 30 years ago, attitudes in the western world are, for the most part, improving.

You may not feel that way if you were young and lived in the midst of conservative rhetoric.

The more you learn about the world, the better you might understand what is occuring locally. If you learn more about those who believe differently from yourself, the better you can deal with them. Extreme beliefs- right or left- don't originate from thin air but have a history and social as well as personal functions.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 31 Jan 2013 #permalink


Interestingly enough I’ve just been reading a back issue of a skeptic magazine that discussed a museum for leprechauns in Ireland…

And according to the Skeprechauns podcast it is actually quite a good museum.

@ Chris:

It's the *National* Leprechaun Museum yet- in Dublin-
they sponsor an October field trip to mystical places.

I've actually done a bit of that myself, self-guided- in a few countries- places associated with mythology/ magic BECAUSE they are aethetically interesting- photogenic too- you can understand how the ancients were intrigued with them or legends sprung up using them as backdrops. Thus stories elaborate upon happenings in the gorge at Delphi or in the woods of Big Sur - the later is also 'populated' with small magical beings.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 31 Jan 2013 #permalink

“I would take us all back a thousand years, when our ancestors lived in small villages and there was always a healer in that village....”

As well as a guy pulling a cart around while yelling "Bring out your dead."

By Tom Herling (not verified) on 31 Jan 2013 #permalink


I'm an atheist, so I'll take pot shots at all religions ;)

There is one site I read that posts stories about people doing stupid things. It's predominantly full of stuff from Americans, although anyone from anywhere can submit one. I often have to remind myself that the skew of American content does not indicate that all Americans are stupid, and that there are just as many idiots here. And it's easy to forget that people in third-world countries tend not to have internet access.

It's a perfect example of taking a skeptical eye and looking for ways you might be biased towards thinking something. So I take issue more with the generalisation than with the Christian bashing.

PGP might also enjoy knowing that the leader of the opposition in Australian federal politics would agree with handing out bibles to students in PUBLIC schools. Or that our female atheist Prime Minister does not want to do anything about gay marriage (despite the majority of the population wanting it introduced) for fear of upsetting the conservatives here. And we don't have a constitution that guarantees freedom of religion nor freedom of speech.

(To anyone who reads Bad Astronomy: does PGP remind you of Messier Tidier Upper?)


I hadn't finished reading the article yet, but it sounds like a hoot. I enjoy the mythology of the druids.

DW: Actually I live in a very liberal area. But the rest of the states around me are a sea o' red. And because I live in an urban area..well, I'm aware that lots of people around me don't have good intentions. Including the people just across the river. The city across the river is very Catholic and always will be so. I went to college there, and let's just say, I don't talk politics with the girls I call my friends.
Antaeus: Do you actually think I act like this off-line? Ha-ha, no. See above. If my friends want to believe in a G*d who hates them, I will smile, nod, and cheerfully natter about nothing that matters.
LW: I am VERY aware of Saudi Arabia, thanks. And that's where the US is headed very quickly. There's not much difference between the Taliban, Wahabism and the evangelical church.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 31 Jan 2013 #permalink

Never mind. That last paragraph wasn't worth responding to.

"There’s not much difference between the Taliban, Wahabism and the evangelical church."

No point in attempting to reason with this.

@flip: "I’m an atheist, so I’ll take pot shots at all religions"

I am too, but I distinguish between taking potshots at religions and viewing religious people with hatred and contempt. I know some very good and admirable people who happen to be religious and it offends me to see them defamed. Similiarly, there are real differences among religions in their pernicious effects and it is sloppy bigotry and ignorance to pretend that they're all just exactly equally bad.


I agree with you.


And that’s where the US is headed very quickly. There’s not much difference between the Taliban, Wahabism and the evangelical church.

Your own putting people into boxes only accelerates that process you’re criticizing.

Think about it.

"I’m aware that lots of people around me don’t have good intentions. Including the people just across the river. The city across the river is very Catholic and always will be so."

I wonder if Politicalguineapig is as good an actress as she imagines. If I had to deal with a bigot seething with barely concealed hatred and contempt toward me and everyone like me, I think I would find it hard to maintain any sort of good will toward her.

Like I said ... a lost cause. Especially for someone who believes, after it's been explained again and again, that making gross overgeneralizations based on samples one even *knows* to be very limited is bigotry. It doesn't become "clever" because one views it as the only way to avoid the unpredictability of people, the uncertainty of not knowing who people will be *before* interacting with them. It doesn't become something other than bigotry when it's hidden from those who are being prejudged.

But we've been through this before. Someone who can actually convince themselves that a majority of white males are "murderous and rapey" is not going to be convinced by logic.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 02 Feb 2013 #permalink

@Antaeus Feldspar: yes, a lost cause. I won't comment further on it.

Gee I wonder when he'll feature another "psychic medium" on the show to do cold readings on the audience?

By Doc Holliday (not verified) on 06 Feb 2013 #permalink


He had a "medical intuitive" on last week. A guy named Tony Leroy. And viewers were invited to write in with their medical mysteries and the best letters will win "readings" from Tony.

And then, ironically, after featuring homeopathy and medical psychics, he had Penn & Teller, the ultimate TV skeptics, on his show to participate in a skit about medical myths.

I wonder if P & T know just how much of a quack OZ really is, and that he promotes psychics? They could dedicate an entire episode of their show to the bullsh!t that Oz shills.

I lost a great deal of respect for P&T after hearing they participated in the "Medical Myths" episode.
Bullsh!t to the stuff

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 06 Feb 2013 #permalink

Sorry, last line should have been deleted.

By Marc Stephens … (not verified) on 06 Feb 2013 #permalink

So I am supposed to read this article and magically believe everything in it according to a few things you dug up from some words you got from Dr Oz. No I don't believe everything I hear from Dr Oz either. I do believe it is my decision to believe whatever and whoever I want to and if shaman alike is what helps then so be it! I would rather have 100 people putting natural things in my body than 1 putting harmful ingredients in there any day!

I do believe it is my decision to believe whatever and whoever I want to and if shaman alike is what helps then so be it!

Nobody's saying you can't. Just that you shouldn't. Everyone has the right to be conned.

I would rather have 100 people putting natural things in my body than 1 putting harmful ingredients in there any day!

Tina, why do you assume that "natural things" are inherently not harmful?

Pass the belladonna.

Tina, would you care from some foxglove tea? Perhaps I can interest you in some castor bean? How about some apricot seeds?

#79 So, arsenic, cyanide, maybe a little uranium? All those things are natural. A hundred people putting that in you is okay? Are you sure?

I hear pure sodium is a rush...and completely natural.

I would rather have 100 people putting natural things in my body than 1 putting harmful ingredients in there any day!

It's about time somebody started thinking about a treatment for a porn flick centered around naturopathy.

It’s about time somebody started thinking about a treatment for a porn flick centered around naturopathy.

Now that's what I call hole-istic medicine!

MAKE this bad dream -OZ & Family go away pleease &
also Susan Wagner-the producer. I think the OZ is responsible for anxiety, depression, stress --he is making people worse when they listen to him!
Never thought I would find a group of truly educated people who are not brainwashed by the wizard OZ. I say it's time we sign a petition to get the uneducated gullible producers and Oz to step down from the throne.
I like how the producers of this show Google to find the latest craze as their show topics and gives money hungry, stupid OZ to endorse it. I love it every time OZ says "O, I did not know that" and looks fascinated.
PS: Is it just me or does he look old and haggard and if you close your eyes and listen to him can you make out what he is saying with his Speech Impediment? OZ, SURGERY CAN FIX YOUR TIED TONGUE , SPEECH IMPEDIMENT & possibly YOUR BOWED LEGS!

Dr. Oz supports Monsanto! This should be one of the litmus tests as to whom to avoid. Anything or anyone supporting Monsanto or GMO’s should be avoided. Look into Monsanto thoroughly and this should answer most of your questions regarding anything related to your food and to your overall health. Monsanto is trying to dominate the entire world’s food supply. Please look into the harm and devastation this is causing, you will wish that you stayed in the dark about it, but it is necessary to know and understand if you want you and your family to live a healthy life. Wars, shootings, crimes, terrorism, etc… are nothing compared to the devastation caused by Monsanto. It will blow your mind away when you grasp what is really going on when it comes to your food. We always look at what is overt and miss the hidden largest killers causing far more devastation in the world.


That's an unusual way to spam for Monsanto. I think though it would be better if you added more Monsanto's to your comment.

Flip, research Monsanto thouroughly and it will all make sense. The harm that has been done is beyond words. This can only be reveresd by succession. The more awareness that is created regarding Monsanto, the better off we will be.

I really have no idea what you stated regarding my last comment, it is very strange to me.


You have blown my mind. Wow, just wow?

Apparently, the evidence that Dr Oz is a supporter of Monsanto is based on his characterisation of those who buy calling those who buy organic food snobs.

Do your own research, connect the dots I tell you, write Monsanto at least once in every sentence, it is what we need to do.

I connected the dots and all I got was a picture of an elephant.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 28 Apr 2013 #permalink