The Death and Rebirth of the Placebo

For just a brief moment, there was no placebo; there was no such thing. Just for a day. Placebo had its 15 minutes of antifame. And then the day passed, placebos resurfaced, and they've ruled ever since, just as before.

That day was May 24, 2001, and the front page read Survey Finds Placebo Effect Imaginary. From the Associated Press:

"One of the most strongly held beliefs in medicine, that dummy pills or other sham treatments greatly help many patients, has been called into question by Danish researchers who found little or no "placebo effect" in dozens of studies."

Those Danes had looked at study after study after study in which the experimental new drug was compared to the look-alike dummy pill, the placebo. If the new drug was any good, test results beat that of the placebo. But where researchers bothered to include a third group receiving neither drug nor placebo, the Danes found that that group fared about the same as the placebo group. In other words, people sometimes get better all by themselves! They sometimes do, in fact, just about as often as those who received the placebo.

I spoke to a few people involved in pharmaceuticals. They hadn't read the paper and hadn't heard of the survey and didn't believe me. A few days later, I googled "placebo." Conventional wisdom ruled once again. My article was buried many pages back. It took forever to find it. (But you can find it here.) Nobody ever touched the subject again.

I suspect placebo is a notion too good and too lucrative to let die. After all, when you're testing your new drug for efficacy and you can't wait to urge people to ask their doctors if it's right for them, you want it to seem like it has teeth. If it's so much better than the placebo and the placebo is so much better than nothing.....well, you've got some powerful stuff. But if the gap between nothing and placebo collapses, then your drug is not so effective as you thought. Better to keep that gap intact: broad shoulders for all new meds to stand on!

The fact is big pharma pushes a lot of drugs on us. We (in the USA) spent $2.7 billion on prescription drugs in 1960. By 2002 it was $162 billion. There were 600 prescription drugs to choose from in 1960. By 2002 it was 9000. Plus 4000 over-the-counter. Are we that much sicker that we need all those meds? Or conversely, are we that much healthier now that we have them?

And where did this term "meds" come from anyway? They're medicines, dammit! Isn't "meds" a sneaky con attempt to make them seem warm and fuzzy, friendly-like?...every day you take your meds just like you take your tea, or chocolate.

 

That's why when Pop goes to the doctor and the doctor "puts him on" this or that drug, Pop tells him to forget it. Either that or because he's a stubborn cuss. But it's hard to tell someone 85 who's in perfect health that he'd be so much better if he'd just be gobble down more pills. It's a standing joke with us. I meet him in the doctors office, after his yearly physical. (it took forever to get him to agree to those, and he only did so for insurance reasons) "What do ya think, Pop?" I ask, "Want me to get a wheelbarrow for all your pills?" "HA!" he says, "that'll be the day! No pills!"

Most people, overawed by our age's slobbering idolization of science and the doctor's high-priest membership of that discipline, obediently swallow anything they're told to. Not Pop. "Your blood pressures too high," the doctor says, reading his machine. "I want you to take these beta-blockers." "What I'll do," Pop says, "is buy one of those machines myself and see if I can get the blood pressure down with diet and exercise. If I can't, then I'll think about your beta-blockers." He's been able to do exactly that, aided with an immediate drop in blood pressure that comes just from not being in the doctor's office, where we're all at our hypochondriac worst.

Yeah, the old boy thinks that if you steer clear of drugs then one day you'll die in your sleep or drop in your tracks. And isn't that what we all want? A graceful exit when we go. But if you gobble down every pill someone pushes at you, you'll waste away slowly sans dignity in a nursing home. Who's to say he's wrong?

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Tom Irregardless and Me       No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Isaac Asimov and Ignaz Semmelweis

I once worked with a girl named Casey who positively loved science fiction. In the context of other things, I mentioned the film I, Robot.

Oh, that was terrible! she said.

But as we kept talking, it turned out she had never seen it. Um...Casey, how do know it's terrible if you've never seen it? I asked. The answer was that she was a purist. She knew the movie did not follow Isaac Asimov's storyline, and that was enough for her!

For an Asimov purist, the movie would indeed be blasphemy. Asimov, who wrote literally almost all the time, having 500 books (written or edited) and 90,000 letters to his credit, with works in nine of the ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal system, penned the Foundation trilogy and the I, Robot series, both pillars among science fiction. His plotting was ingenious, and had he been able to empathetically sketch people as well as ideas, he might have gone down as one of literature's true greats. Alas, his characters are cardboard, like those TV characters who are freely interchangeable save for one or two superficial features: this one is mean, this one likes to eat, that one is a geek, etc. Too bad - for every other aspect of Asimov's writing is extraordinary.

Asimov was an atheist, but I always imagine that, if current atheists had been taught the Bible by Jehovah's Witnesses instead of the churches, they may not have turned atheist. It's probably not so but I dream it anyway. For example, in his last autobiographical book, Asimov observes that hell is "the drooling dream of a sadist" crudely affixed to an all-merciful God; if even human governments were willing to curtail cruel and unusual punishments, wondered Asimov, why would punishment in the afterlife not be restricted to a limited term.  [Wikipedia entry on Isaac Asimov] Yeah! Man, I wish he had heard first from Jehovah's Witnesses! Virtually alone among Christian faiths at the turn of the last century, Jehovah's Witnesses exposed hellfire for the vicious rubbish that it is. JW "founder" C. T. Russell was known in his lifetime as the man who "turned the hose on hell and put out the fire!"

At any rate, had he been a Witness, it would have benefited him personally. He died in 1992, of AIDS contracted from a blood transfusion nine years prior.

Still, I am grateful to Dr. Asimov, not only for the hours of intriguing science fiction he laid upon me, but also for his non-fiction works. Asimov's Guide to Science probably was my springboard to individual branches of science. If Asimov lacked in sketching fictional characters, he was gifted in sketching real ones. Not only the pillars, but also the buffoons, he succeeded in portraying the humanity of scientists. It is from him (Asimov's guide to Biology) that I first read of Ignaz Semmelweis, early advocate of antiseptic surgical practices and forerunner of germ theory.

In the mid 1800's, Semmelweis got it in his head that fever and death following doctor-assisted childbirth could be curtailed by washing hands and equipment frequently. Doctors back then would deliver a baby, having just emerged from an autopsy, only wiping their hands on their smocks! There were some sort of tiny "particles" contaminating the women, Semmelweis proposed. Doctors howled with laughter at such nonsense. Asimov's book vividly portrays Semmelweis' presenting his ideas at seminars, with his esteemed audience mocking him, hurling catcalls! Doctors argued that, even if Semmeweis' findings were correct, washing one's hands each time before treating a pregnant woman would be too much work. Semmelweis enforced strict antiseptic practices at the hospital under his supervision, cutting deaths to under 1%, and it made no difference in their attitude! Colleagues ridiculed him his entire life, he suffered a nervous breakdown and, says Asimov, died in an insane asylum tormented by memories of women screaming in their death-agonies following hospital-acquired infections. With Semmelweis out of the way, his own hospital went back to familiar practices and the mortality rate climbed to 35%.

You can read the bare facts in many places, but Asimov's account is the most vivid I have come across, remarkable in a book that purports only to be an outline, a "guide."

Whenever those atheists start prattling on about how scientists graciously change their views at the first hint they may be off-base, whereas it's only the pig-headed religionists who "stay the course" come hell or high water, I play the 'Semmelweis' card.

Athiest or not, I miss Isaac Asimov.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Mitochondria DNA and the Y Chromosome

 

Some scientists were reading a post on this blog or somewhere else when they came across a serious reference to Adam and Eve. They laughed so hard they fell off their perches and cracked their heads, whereupon they were rushed to the hospital. After some patching and a blood transfusion each to top off the tank, they were released.

Alright, alright! So they weren't scientists. I mean....they were, but they were specifically evolutionists. Not all scientists believe evolution, though most do.

But why should they laugh till they hurt themselves? Do we not hear all the time about the missing link that connects us to primates? That's link, (singular) not links (plural). If the necessary mutation needed to separate our ancestors from those of the orangutan has a one in bazillion chance of occurring, are we to believe it happened numerous times? So even from their standpoint, if it just happened once, why not term that being Eve, and its first mate Adam? (or vice versa)

This conclusion is supported by some evidence. Scientists have studied mitochondria DNA, inherited only from the female, and have traced all living humans back to a single female, a MRCA (most recent common ancestor). They have studied the Y chromosome, inherited only from the male, and traced us all back to a common male ancestor as well!

Now don't get all excited. Evolutionists don't say they were married, or even lived at the same time. The dates they assign, depending on who you read, are within the framework of Genesis. But they don't say these were the only two persons alive in their time. Far from it.

They do agree on a common male and a common female ancestor. Some agree on a time frame compliant with Genesis. And that's something.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Yes, with regard to the evolution/creation debate, we do think it's well to weigh in on behalf of the good guys, not only of account of the question itself, but also on account of its clear implications. If God truly did create the earth and humankind, maybe he has a purpose for them. Maybe he just won't stand by and see humans wreck everything he has made. Maybe he will toss the destructive louts, just like a landlord will toss rotten tenants. In short, maybe there's light at the end of the tunnel.

On the other hand, if earth and everything on it are merely the result of blind chance, of mutation, preserved only by natural selection, then if humans have any bright future, it lies in efforts they themselves are making.

And they’re not doing so well.

 

Tom Irregardless and Me                No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Ask Your Doctor if Reading is Right for You!

People don’t read like they used to and that’s not good for the Democrat and Chronicle. They want to boost circulation, not cut it. So they fired the clods that had been handling their publicity and entrusted their entire advertising budget to the Carriertom Into-Wishen Research Institute. True, Carriertom has no experience in that sort of thing but, as Tom persuasively argued to the D&C, you have to start somewhere.

It was a wise move. The Institute realized right off that the trick was to make people read the paper. And who has more authority today than one’s own doctor?

 

Ask your doctor if daily newspaper reading is right for you.

Ccf07162006_00005_1 I always wanted to be an intellectual but I didn’t know much.

Ccf07162006_00008_1 I only knew a few really big words for conversation, like rhinoceros.
       "So, whatdya think of those Rochester Rhinoceroses?"

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Whenever I agreed with something I would say yeppur!

I know what I want, and I don’t want to be dumb! So I asked my doctor if daily newspaper reading could help.

Ccf07162006_00003_1 And he said yes!

How about you? Why not ask your doctor if daily newspaper reading is right for you!


Daily newspaper reading is not for everyone. Blind or unconscious persons may experience impaired results. Editorials may cause busted guts due to anger or laughter. Pigheaded and pinheaded editorial writers may induce high blood pressure. Do not attempt to read while showering, sleeping, or water-skiing. Sourpusses should avoid comics. Do not attempt to follow all columnest advice, especially not that of Dr Ruth. In some cases, severe reactions can occur when you read that your mutual fund is going down the toilet. Ditto with the Buffalo Bills. (though you should be immune to that by now) Those over 110 years of age are at elevated risk of death within one year of reading a paper. Newspaper reading should not be used to avoid communication with one’s spouse or significant other. Unread newspapers should not be used to housebreak puppies. Speak with your linguist before beginning a reading program.

Daily newspaper reading is not for everyone. But maybe it’s right for you.
Ccf07162006_00006_1

Ya, know, I really am kinda stupid. What should I do?

 

 

      Ask your doctor if daily newspaper reading is right for you!

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me                No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Pop Goes to the Doctor...Sort of

Pop is 85 years old. He’s in perfect health.

He attributes that perfect health to the fact that he never goes to a doctor. Not since World War II. When we got him to agree to occasional physicals, it was a major victory. But he only did it so as to be on someone’s radar screen, in case he ever needs an insurance gatekeeper.

During those physicals, the doctor suggests this or that pill. Pop ignores it all.

Doctor: Actually, we don’t have any blood work on you.

Pop: That’s right, you don’t. Pills

…………………………

The Bible writer Luke was a doctor, whatever that meant back then.

“Luke the beloved physician sends you his greetings, and so does Demas.” - Col 4:11)

He writes, not unkindly, towards his own profession:      “And a woman, subject to a flow of blood for twelve years, who had not been able to get a cure from anyone, approached from behind and touched the fringe of his [Jesus’] outer garment, and instantly her flow of blood stopped.” - Luke 8:43-44

Yes, doctors had done their level best, but it hadn’t been enough. She hadn’t been able to get a cure from anyone.

But look what happens when the gospel writer Mark, not a doctor, relates the same event:

“Now there was a woman subject to a flow of blood twelve years, and she had been put to many pains by many physicians and had spent all her resources and had not been benefited but, rather, had got worse. [!]

a) put to many pains

b) spent all her resources

c) had not benefited; had gotten worse.

Mark and Pop would have gotten along well together.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me              No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)