Alternative medicne and the straight line to AIDS denialism

In order to bring you your daily dose of science, the Great Seed Overlords must pay the bills. Like any other medium, one of the ways this is done is by selling ad space. Internet ad engines generally have some sort of algorithm that choses ads based on the page content, thereby targeting readers’ interests. If you doubt the sophistication of these methods, check your suggestions, or your google search page.

For a skeptical blogger, this can make for some interesting ads. One of mine is for a book called Water: For Health, For Healing, For Life, by F. Batmanghelidj, M.D. I’ve never heard of this guy, so I gave him a click (although I probably should have just googled it to avoid giving him my business—as usual, I’m not providing links to the woo-meister so you’ll just have to google it).

What I found is an example of how the rejection of science and adoption of woo can lead inexorably toward some pretty nasty denialism.

The book advertised offers these promises:

Based on more than twenty years of clinical and scientific research into the role of water in the body, a pioneering physician and the acclaimed author of Your Body’s Many Cries for Water shows how water – yes, water! – can relieve a stunning range of medical conditions. Simply adjusting your fluid and salt intakes can help you treat and prevent dozens of diseases, avoid costly prescription drugs, and enjoy vibrant new health. Discover:

# The different signals of thirst and chronic dehydration in you body
# How much water and salt you need each day to stay healthy
# Why other beverages, including tea, coffee, and sodas, cannot be substituted for water
# How to naturally lessen, even eliminate, symptoms of asthma and allergies
# How to help prevent life-threatening conditions such as heart failure, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer
# How hypertension may be treated naturally, without diuretics or medication
# Why water is the key to losing weight without dieting
# How to hydrate your skin to combat premature aging

This book will save you from medical ignorance and killer chemicals that are used in health problems caused by chronic unintentional dehydration.

So, the usual woo—lots of promises based on nothing. I’d let it go at that, but I was curious about this Batmanghelidj guy. The first hit I got on google was—surprise!—his website full of wacky pseudoscience. First is the hilarious link to a 20 year old NYT article about his supposed water cure.

Then comes the denialist literature. Provided “free, as a public service” a bunch of AIDS denialist screeds. Thrown in for good measure was some cholesterol-denialism. His AIDS paper is actually humorous, or would be if it weren’t for, you know, AIDS. He talks quite a bit about semen and “rectal manipulation”. This is from a guy who, unfortunately, spent a lot of time in a Persian prison.

The point here is that once you abandon science you are open to anything. This may sound like a slippery slope fallacy, but it’s not. Abandoning scientific thought allows you to believe any idea a credulous mind can invent. Sometimes it’s sad, sometimes it’s funny, but more often than not it’s dangerous.