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Jimmy Wales To 'Holistic Healers': Prove Your Claims the Old-Fashioned Way 517

Barence (1228440) writes with this excerpt from PC Pro: "Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has issued a sharp response to petitioners calling for his site to "allow for true scientific discourse" on holistic healing. The petition, currently running on the site, claims that much of the information on Wikipedia relating to holistic approaches to healing is "biased, misleading, out of date, or just plain wrong". It has attracted almost 8,000 supporters at the time of publication. Wales's response to the petition, posted on the same page, is far from conciliatory: 'No, you have to be kidding me,' he writes. 'Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful. What we won't do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of 'true scientific discourse'. It isn't.'"
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Jimmy Wales To 'Holistic Healers': Prove Your Claims the Old-Fashioned Way

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:38AM (#46573209)

    Despite all of Wales' attempts to raise funds for Wikipedia, this is (by far) the best one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:39AM (#46573219)

    Good response from Wales.

    There are a lot of dumb motherfuckers out there, stay vigilant in making sure they don't put dumb things on Wikipedia.

  • Asimov quote. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lehk228 ( 705449 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:44AM (#46573267) Journal
    âoeAnti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'â

    â Isaac Asimov
  • by NatasRevol ( 731260 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:45AM (#46573269) Journal

    You know what they call it when it's proven NOT to work?

    Alternative medicine.

  • by invictusvoyd ( 3546069 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:46AM (#46573281)
    The wiki and the internet in general is by nature susceptible to plagarism , misinformation and the etc. The balancing factor is the presence of a relatively few knowledgeable individuals who keep check on malicious activity. Any open forum is and will be susceptible to manipulation for and by vested interests.
  • by rujasu ( 3450319 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:46AM (#46573297)

    Most of the information on Wikipedia is "biased, misleading, out of date, or just plain wrong."

    [citation needed]

    Even worse, most of it is plagiarized, drawing eyes away from the books, smaller sites and other sources that produced it.

    Evidently, you do not understand what "plagiarism" means.

  • Most of the information on Wikipedia is "biased, misleading, out of date, or just plain wrong."

    Based on.. what? Your comment seems biased and misleading and could possibly be just plain wrong. Is your comment just based on your personal impression? Have you actually gone through and examined most of all the content available on Wikipedia? No? Well, gee.

    Even worse, most of it is plagiarized, drawing eyes away from the books, smaller sites and other sources that produced it.

    And yet, while doing that it makes it much more easier to find both the sources and relevant information. If Wikipedia didn't exist finding all that information would be a major hassle, especially considering a lot of the sources mentioned are behind various paywalls, only available in physical forms or whatnot.

  • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:48AM (#46573323) Homepage

    "genuine anecdotal evidence"

    I'm not quite sure you understand the meaning of "genuine" here. Or "evidence"...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:48AM (#46573325)

    "Proven. To. Work." Period.
    Wales is entirely correct to try and protect the integrity of information presented on his site. I would feel exactly the same way.

  • by war4peace ( 1628283 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:54AM (#46573369)

    i would use the shorter, yet better term of "Bullshit" but for the sake of political correctness, your denomination would have to do.

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:05AM (#46573445)

    Besides Medicine, there is a huge debate and misconceptions about diets.

    We got Vegetarian, Vegan then we go the other ways with diets with a lot of meat.
    GMO food is either harmless just a quicker form of breading, or it is actually bad. Beyond GMO we got Organic vs traditional farming. Some people say to drink more water, others say we are drinking too much.

    Alternative medicines and Diets debates is about justifying to yourself the extra money you are paying. And make you feel special because it seems like you hold some special knowledge that the rest of the mindless masses doesn't.

    What I want is some real science.
    Because if I go with my own personal bias observations I find the following.
    Vegetarian and Vegans: Tend to look more aged then more omnivorous peers. They seems to look worn down, while thin they are not skinny. All fat no mussel.
    People who eat a lot of meat: Seem to be much heavier, and have particular health issues in digestion.

  • Re:Asimov quote. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:05AM (#46573447) Homepage Journal

    While a true statement about how anti-intellectualism works, good ideas need to be challenged sometimes by bad ideas, to help find their weaknesses and become (or be replaced by) better ideas. This is the true fundamental value of free speech. Not every challenge needs to come from someone who is smarter and better informed than you. Never underestimate the value of being wrong in the right way at the right time and place.

  • Re:Okay (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gaygirlie ( 1657131 ) <gaygirlie@[ ] ['hot' in gap]> on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:06AM (#46573463) Homepage

    Not really. Placebo - effect, indeed, is well-known and it does have tangible effect, but these people are claiming their products or methods actually work, not that they have a working placebo - effect. I mean, it would be entirely different thing if these people just wanted their products and/or methods to be listed under things that are known to have a placebo - effect. Besides, almost anything can have such an effect if you just believe it to have an effect -- should we then allow anything and everything to be listed as medicine?

  • by microbox ( 704317 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:08AM (#46573481)
    Dear AC, people really believe things. Really. They have values.

    The holistic "healers" really believe that they have science on their side, or that they are being scientific. It is just like Ken Ham, and Lord Monckton.

    That is what makes the situation sad. Not everything is about money.
  • by Kojiro Ganryu Sasaki ( 895364 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:12AM (#46573521)

    On a Swedish now defunct website for political discussion there used to hang out a Crazy radical feminist woman who had a Universal Theory of science.

    In her opinion, it was impossible to say what is science and what is not and as such nobody has the power to say that something is scientific and something else isn't. To her, everything is scientific and the people who disagree are proponents of "scientism".

    This tied in with the radical feminist angle because she also argued that science as it currently exists has been overtaken by men and now serves only male and masculine purposes such as technology and weapons. She elaborates that male science is destructive because it picks things apart to understand how they work and it creates destructive inventions.

    She says that female science, by contrast, does not pick anything apart. Instead it would look at things and examine them as a whole, and come to answers using hermeneutic analysis. (hint: it means you sit around and talk about it for a long time)

    Her ultimate point is that she believes it is not right to call something non-scientific simply because it cannot be empirically tested.

    She also got into weird and ultimately bizarre postmodernist arguments such as if someone believed a partcular treatment actually helped them, then the treatment was effective. She was strongly pro-homeopathy, crystal healing and whatever.

    (she also drove everyone insane by writing in 50 word sentences)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:13AM (#46573529)

    The charlatans are taking the argument to the wrong place, on purpose. Wales comment is spot-on. Get your results published in scientific journals and they will be noted in Wikipedia. Regardless of your opinion about the management of Wikipedia, it is trying to be an encyclopedia, of sorts. As such, it is NOT the place where scientific discourse takes place. That is elsewhere. Once the scientific discourse happens and the scientists come up with some settled science, THEN the encyclopedia will summarize it.

  • by NatasRevol ( 731260 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:14AM (#46573541) Journal

    Good examples you gave there.

  • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:17AM (#46573567)

    Decentralized information is extremely hard to access quickly. Wikipedia not only makes it incredibly easy to get a 20,000 ft view of just about any topic, but they cite a lot of their sources so that if you want the deep down on the topic you can access the sources for more info.

    And the claim that Wikipedia "controls" anything except for their little piece of the playground is absurd. You're free to start an alternative wiki-- there are already zillions-- just dont think you're entitled to be popular.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:18AM (#46573585)

    Considering the quality of the articles being used to debunk some of those techniques, I think they're well within their rights to point out the hypocracy of the situation. Just beause people don't believe in holistic healing, doesn't mean that the standards should be lower.

    Yes, there is a burden of proof on the holistic healers to prove their case, but that doesn't make it OK to misrepresent and generaly put up information that's known to be inaccurate as a method of debunking it. Debunking should be done on the basis of science, not on the basis of misleading, out of date or incorrect information. Give them the best platform you can and let them fail on their own lack of merit. Doing anything else just reinforces the notion that there's a conspiracy against them.

  • by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:20AM (#46573603) Journal
    So what you're saying is ... "Citation Needed" ?
  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:22AM (#46573621) Journal
    Asteroid strike, nuclear war, conventional war for that matter, rampant disease, runaway GMO's, global warming, etc.. these are not what will destroy the human race. Willful ignorance is what will, along with it's partners, superstition and religion. More and more it seems people are rejecting the last thousand years or so of progress and turning back to these things. The Human race is in danger of falling in a new Dark Age if this keeps up.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:44AM (#46573805)

    The burden of proof is on the challengers to the status quo. Debunking is an inherently inefficient way to spend our research resources.

  • Which is why I prefer Science based medicine.
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicin... []

    "There's plenty of hokum peddled by physicians, too. "
    true, but it's not medicine. And Dr. should lose there license when the peddle that crap.

    " which is why you end up getting the "X is bad for you! Don't do/eat/use X!" "
    nope. You get that because the media reports on 1 study when they think that 1 study will get viewers. They never look at the body of research. That's for most of it.

    The other part of that is science learns something unexpected and the previous 'bad' for you' statement becomes more nuanced.

  • by the gnat ( 153162 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:11AM (#46574065)

    Willow bark used for minor aches and pains works this is where aspirin was discovered. Quinine came from the bark of another tree and was used to treat fevers and malaria. I am not aware of any studies that show these to be nothing more than a placebo they actually led to some of the real medicine you speak of.

    These certainly aren't homeopathic medicine, and I don't think they count as "holistic" either (whatever that means). They're naturally occurring remedies that have been through extensive scientific testing, which means they're simply "medicine". No one, here or anywhere else, is claiming that natural remedies are invalid - we're simply demanding that they be held to the same standard of evidence as other medical treatment.

  • Of course the problem with placebos is that they essentially require lying to the patient. If you are honest and actually tell the patient "it's just a sugar pill" then it's not going to have any affect.

    Which is why you get things like homeopathy dressing up placebos in some BS that sounds plausible to the uneducated.

  • Re:Asimov quote. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SoupGuru ( 723634 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:23AM (#46574185)

    Yes, it's good for good ideas to be challenged by a bad idea now and then.

    The problem is that a good idea challenged by a bad idea, a discussion occurs, evidence is presented, bad idea is shown to be a bad idea, and good idea is vindicated. And then 5 minutes later the same bad idea is presented. And then 5 minutes after that, the same bad idea is trotted out. And then five minutes after that, again. And again. And again. And again.

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:24AM (#46574205)
    He seems to have "believed" a lot of things where it's convenient and then suddenly not believed them when it's looked like he may get into trouble. Take his backflip on his cure of AIDS for example.
    When he's not running an "angle" he's for hire. If the "Arthur Daly" character in fiction had been as ridiculous as Monckton is in reality the writers would have been asked to tone it done and make it more believable.
  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:29AM (#46574267)
    The trouble is people who believe in alternative medicine (holistic, naturopathy, reiki, chiro etc.) think their claims are exempt from the standard of proof that applies to conventional medicine. i.e. that it be demonstrated that the outcome of a treatment is better than a placebo.

    Demand evidence of this (e.g. double blinded studies) and they'll provide anecdotes. If you go to the effort of explaining why anecdotes are weak evidence and prone to confirmation bias, you'll get increasingly bizarre and unconvincing explanations why the scientific method cannot possibly test these claims. Push hard enough and inevitably the response turns into a big rant about the FDA and big pharma, about how they kill people, are suppressing natural cures etc. What you won't get at any stage is actual evidence to support their claims.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:43AM (#46574397) Homepage

    we're simply demanding that they be held to the same standard of evidence as other medical treatment.

    And some of us who believe in science based medicine wish more of modern medicine was held to a higher standard than it is now.

    How many remedies have big pharma introduced which have subsequently proven to be disastrous because they either fudged their numbers, or hid the data which indicated that either their stuff didn't work or was dangerous?

    Because they rush it to market and want to conceal the risks. And then the advertise directly to consumers with a litany of "this product may kill you" warnings.

    That's not medicine, that's big business.

    And the problem is we have stuff being used in medicine for which the evidence is actually little better than some of the quackery out there.

  • Exactly, the science for wieght is easy.

    Energy in > Energy out => You gain weight
    Energy out > Energy in => You lose weight

    Beware of margins of error in your measuring methods and you're golden.

    Lost 70 lbs in 10 months with my 'scientific' diet :)


  • by Arker ( 91948 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @12:13PM (#46574671) Homepage
    "So would you be in favor of Tic Tac aggressively marketing their candies as a cure for cancer? "

    No. Have you quit beating your wife yet?

    FFS quit making stuff up.
  • by Mr_Wisenheimer ( 3534031 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @12:49PM (#46575031)

    I disagree. Placebo effects do cure people. Just because a symptom is subjective does not mean it is not real.

    If I have a subjective symptom like pain, take some placebo pills, placebo acupuncture, et cetera, and I feel better, then to some degree I have "cured" the pain. People will often dismiss it as saying, "it's all in your head", but so is all pain and many subjective symptoms. Many legitimate pain relievers work on your brain.

    The whole reason the FDA demands to test medicine designed to treat subjective symptoms against placebos is not because placebos do not work; it is because most honest to goodness medical treatments carry some risk, and if they cannot demonstrate much greater efficacy than placebos, they are exposing patients to increased risk without any increased benefit. If doctors could just give someone an IV drip, tell them it was morphine, and have them experience a placebo effect as strong as a real morphine drip, there would be no need for actual morphine.

    But it is important not to dismiss patients' subjective symptoms as unreal or "all in their head". Regardless of the objective evidence, the subjective symptoms are real.

  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @01:12PM (#46575251) Journal

    . Just beause people don't believe in holistic healing, doesn't mean that the standards should be lower.

    Yes, there is a burden of proof on the holistic healers to prove their case, but that doesn't make it OK to misrepresent and generaly put up information that's known to be inaccurate as a method of debunking it

    This! This is why there were intelligent people on both sides of the evolution "debate" for so long, until the FAQ matured (now there's really no excuse). So much BS and known false crap was taught in high school science classes and would turn up in casual searches back when the internet was young, that it was quite easy for someone from a religious background to assume that "evil-ution" was some big scam.

    It's only because of the many people on who respected the other side as intelligent people, and listened to their arguments that real debunking of the creationist position happened. It turned out that what many people had been taught about evolution (and still are!) was in fact wrong, and they were right to be skeptical of evolution based on what they had been taught. Once some intelligent, adult debate happened back on the place we don't speak of (unsurprisingly, it took a while), people realized that what they really needed to debunk was "bad high school-taught evolution myths", and 99% of skeptics would be convinced by explaining the actual science. (You wouldn't believe some of the BS taught in schools in the US South, apparently sincerely, as the science of evolution.)

    For Holistic Nonsense there's a different problem. I don't know what it is, but you can bet there's some equally non-obvious fundamental misunderstandings at work here, and the only way to convince believers in that BS is to understand why they believe it, and address the root of that belief in places like Wikipedia. Calling them stupid won't convince anyone.

  • Re:Storm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @01:36PM (#46575501) Homepage

    There are things that Science will NEVER understand because they are outside its domain i.e. What happened "before" the "Big Bang."

    Who says science can't reach beyond the Big Bang?

    Scientists have (yet) to (re)discover the 6 fundamental forces, white holes, the bi-nature of time

    Probably because you just made them up.

    Proof of this will come in 2024 when your POV (point of view) will be turned upside down. See my .sig for details

    Interesting use of the word "details," there.

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright