Jane vs. Alternative Medicine

Take numero dos in my Jane vs. ventures.

In the second episode of the show I’m watching because I felt compelled to take notes and express my thoughts (because isn’t that what bloggers do?), Bill and expert panelists debunk bogus alternative remedies, like homeopathy, the healing power of magnets, and cancer-curing sound therapy.

Instead of taking typed notes this time, I wrote notes down. It’s supposed to be better all around, so my notes typed up in this post are legit all of them.

This episode made me nervous, because I’m a hippie. 🙄

Bill Nye Saves the World 1.02: Tune Your Quack-O-Meter

Notes

  • Magnets do a lot from train track stuff to sticking notes to the fridge—but not heal your knee.
    • Rust doesn’t stick to magnet because it’s bound by oxygen.
    • Magnet + blood = nada
    • Blood is bound to a hemoglobin molecule
  • Medicine = double-blind testing, i.e. real vs. placebo
    • Placebo affect = alternative medicine, which is unregulated
  • Checklist to determine whether bogus alternative medicine
    • Dramatic stories
    • Claim to cure everything
    • Invokes ancient wisdom
    • Ambiguous cultural references
    • Better because it’s natural
    • “What doctors don’t want you to know”
  • Correspondent Joanna Hausmann goes to experience sound therapy with David Gibson in San Fransisco, CA
    • After, Joanna and Bill discuss what happened, and Bill notes that debating alternative medicine exercises critical thinking skills
  • Hard to tell if alternative medicine works or it’s just a placebo effect
  • Distinguished panel
    • Panelists + Bill Nye
      • Donald Schultz, filmmaker
      • Cara Santa Maria, skeptic and science communicator; friend of Bill
      • Chris Beedie, professor of applied sports and exercise at Canterbury Christ Church University; studies placebo effect in sports
    • Schultz: Ultrasound destroys kidney stones and stones in bladder; there are key differences, as determined via x-rays
    • Beedie: Nocebo effect = negative outcome from expecting something negative to happen
    • Cara interrupts Beedie (-100 points from Slytherin)
      • Homeopathy = placebo
    • Schultz: Scientific testing for magic mushrooms + depression
    • Beedie: Knowing you’ve taken something is part of the effectiveness of that something.
    • Schultz: Just because we don’t understand something yet doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.
  • Prashanth Venkat
    • Called white Americans out for cultural appropriation
    • Mentions “Deepak Chopra”, but I didn’t understand the context
  • Alternative medicine proven to work is medicine.
    • It starts out as alternative medicine, then word gets out, leading to tests and research; when it’s found to work, it gets approved (regulated)
Photo of Bill Nye and Steve Aoki in a lab
The guy with long hair is a guy named Steve Aoki. That’s all I know about him.
  • Steve Aoki joins Bill for end experiment1
    • Milk of magnesia (MgOH2) vs. antacid from Whole Foods
      • MgOH2 turns neutral
      • antacid from Whole Foods doesn’t change because it contains vinegar, which is sour/a type of acid

Thoughts on the episode

OKAY. WHERE TO BEGIN?? I feel like the alternative medicine featured within this episode was set up to fail. There are so many variations of it they could have featured instead of referring to all of it as basically bad. I mean, RUMPs are commonly referred to as “alternative medicine”, despite them not being any bit of new to the world at all. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I should share my thoughts in an order that will [hopefully] make the most sense.

Regulated medicine is not necessarily better

“If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Something that really baffles me in politics lately is

  1. many members of the Republican party don’t think the government should regulate anything (like the internet), but
  2. they expect the FDA and CDC to properly regulate what the US consumes.

It doesn’t make any sense to me. Likewise, there is seldom concern for what is in our water, and why is there no outcry over the persistence related companies partake in regarding the revealing of what is in disposable sanitary hygiene products? Citizens have to pay hefty fees to send these things to private labs to just learn disposable companies are putting rayon in them.

So I’m not a huge proponent of regulated medicine. I think we should use our critical thinking skills and be careful about what we put into our bodies, but I do not think something is better if it is “regulated”. Literally all regulated pertains to is a set list of rules companies must follow and pay a fee to be approved for. Literally. I almost started a company that required such a hefty fee by the FDA for. They don’t even request a sample of the product or go to the place of business to make sure it meets production standards.

FDA regulations are pretty much crap—and I thought highly of them until I learned how their regulations worked! Not everything is regulated by it, either, despite us putting it into our bodies with some level of trust. Supplements, anyone?

Alternative medicine examples set up to fail

Now I can explain what I meant more clearly! (Maybe!)

The end-of-the-show experiment: antacid from Whole Foods, circa $50/bottle, containing vinegar (acetic acid).

Of course something like this is going to do nada.

Considering papaya enzyme supplements have yet to be clinically studied for adverse effects, I would have preferred something along those lines to have been tested.

But that’s not the point of the episode—the point is to completely rule out any form of medication not prescribed by a doctor, basically. There is the checklist (above), but the “redeeming” quote of the episode for me was when he said alternative medicine proven to work is “medicine” and that it gets to that point when word gets out so much that it leads to testing and research.

Tune Your Quack-o-Meter sets up a can-never-win paradox for alternative medicine, in that it can become medicine if enough people try it and get results, but never try alternative medicine because it’s just a placebo effect is the message/moral of the story Bill is sending out after each segment of the show.

I feel like he’s trying to talk about something he doesn’t understand and is deliberately trying not to understand. I used to be like that, then I tried them not thinking anything of anything, and they worked…but then I don’t call things “alternative” medicine—I call what I use natural medicine.

Sound healing therapy

Going off the set up to fail idea, the sound healing therapy with David Gibson was really weird and strange, but I did not favor the show flat-out portraying this correspondent segment in a light that could potentially do some damage to Gibson’s reputation. Fan girls and boys be cray-cray, and I just got really gross feelings about that.

Gibson’s place of business, however, tied in to Bill Nye Saves the World show writer Prashanth Venkat’s standup “comedy” filler between the panelists and the MgOH2 vs. Whole Foods antacid experiment, but beyond that is left a bad taste in my mouth—all of it.

Panelist “discussion”

Okay. I’m starting to see the criticism here: Bill Nye cuts people off and refuses to consider anything someone who disagrees with the majority thinks. Ponytail dude was weird, referencing all his drugs and whatnot, but he made some good points. I’m noticing a slight pattern with Bill siding more with his colleagues, and especially those who fully agree with him, and I’m not big on that bias—so I do find that annoying.

Moreover, when Cara Santa Maria interrupted British-accented sports guy Beedie, she lost my respect. He was answering a question Bill had asked about the “nocebo effect”, and she just…cut in. It’s awkward in moments like these, because the panelists smile this awkward ugh-this-host-is-too-cocky-for-his-breeches smile, and I feel like they’re just trying to tolerate him. What’s more awkward is that I have a soft spot for Bill because #nostalgia.

I feel like #ChildhoodRuined in some ways.

Overall

I think this episode would have done better to instead discuss #FakeNews, even though that’s sorta what the show is doing with all the episodes! Bill’s an engineer and show host, and has worked with many companies, but I do think that he should perhaps venture outside his Facebook feed and try to experience for himself what he is so skeptical about—I mean, don’t you need an open mind going into science? The first episode literally spelled this out, and yet this second one goes against all that ish.

It baffles me, really. I wonder what he’d think about bentonite clay and its electric charge when it meets water.

  1. I don’t know who he is, but he’s in the screenshot above and seemed pretty awkward with Bills jokes.

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Comments on this post

Georgie’s gravatar

I saw Bill Nye live in Sydney (I actually forgot about that until just now haha). I kinda went because Nick was interested in going, and he is also interested in hearing thoughts from people like Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Richard Dawkins, people who hold very scientific views of the world. I’ve found that they tend to be really opinionated, but well informed, but I do get this slightly cocky vibe from all three of them – actually, I get a really cocky vibe from Richard Dawkins. I do think that they try to listen to people wherever they can, but oftentimes they feel that what people are saying is are so absurd that they just need to butt in and tell them they are wrong.

I wouldn’t say “alternative medicine” is really “medicine” either, but I understand what people mean by it. Since the word “medicine” comes from the word “medical” (I think), it implies that alternative medicine doesn’t really fit under this category. I would be more akin to call them “natural remedies” because while they are not necessarily medicines, they often provide some sort of remedy.

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Jane’s gravatar

I cannot STAND Neil DeGrasse Tyson. 😅 He makes a good point here and there, but beyond that, he annoys me to bits and gives me this impression that he things he’s better than everyone else. I don’t really follow anything Dawkins does. Tyson happened into my peripheral view because a deck was requested for him on the first TCG I managed, and the person got mad at me because I filed him under “Celebrities”, then “People” after I changed the category, because he was a scientist and not a celebrity/just a person. I guess that was when my dislike for him began, but then it drifted into more than just shallow dislike because…ugh, I don’t know. Just because someone is smart/intelligent/well-informed/opinionated/etc. doesn’t mean they have the right to be an asshole.

Ah, same, but the point he made in the show seemed to be more, like, “medicine that works is just called ‘medicine’, and everything else is a placebo effect.” But then he went on to say, “If it’s proven to work, then it is ‘medicine’.”

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Hiro’s gravatar

I think shows like that really don’t work when people come in with their own set of beliefs that are super rigid, and then try to debunk something they very strongly believe against or for. If you can’t at least feign neutrality for the sake of #Science (which is what you should be doing for scientific research), then you really can’t be talking about it in that kind capacity.

A lot of “alternative medicine” (like “vegan diet to cure cancer!” or “take this CBD to cure lupus!”) are dangerous, but I’ve had a lot of benefits from eastern medicine and supplements and the likes that aren’t chemical compounds in a pill form. Vaccines are important, no, you can’t cure things by praying it away!

But I get a lot out of acupuncture, even if it’s just psychological (which, honestly, if it works, and I don’t have to take meds, I’LL TAKE IT!), and Sun Lamps help me to get up in the morning feeling more energized and not nauseous when otherwise I can’t get out of bed because I’m so exhausted. Vitamin supplements are a hit or miss for me, but it’s probably because I take random stuff recommended, but it’s not necessarily what I need for my particular body. I’m vitamin D deficient, so I need to find ways to get more of that into my system.

While I won’t discount the fact that I need chemotherapy in order to get my arthritis into remission, I know diet, stress level management, and regular schedules in daily life plays a HUGE role. I can’t expect to get better by taking some meds. I have to change the way live, and that’s not exactly “medicine.” I think people who are so judgmental and dismissing of altering experiences are just too privileged to have to ever have to experience a time where “real medicine” fails. Medicine has definitely failed for me a lot, and honestly, unless it seems completely out of whack, I’d try most things once or twice, if it might help me… Because I’d much rather have a more holistic way of managing my health rather than pumping myself up with chemicals if I can.

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