Skepchick Quickies, 5.12


Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. I was pleasantly surprised at the thoughtful tone of the placebo article. I tend to side with Dr. Steven Novella on this issue – undeclared placebos undermine the doctor/patient relationship, and regular medicine has a placebo effect AS WELL as a physiological effect. Mark Crislip calls into question how “effective” the placebo effect even is – I am not sure I am 100% with him on that, but I do think most people overestimate how much the placebo effect really does to your body.

    However I really like the idea of placebo getting the full scientific treatment – figure out what makes it work, make it more powerful, etc. Very interesting stuff, and a good article that didn’t oversimplify the issue.

  2. In the (horribly depressing) article about Dr. Hawa Abdi , I couldn’t help but notice someone left this comment:

    Oprha,should step in.The world listens to her. [sic]

    Really? Oprah is the answer? Seriously?


    Are people really this stupid?

    Wait, don’t answer that. I’m sure I don’t want to know the answer.

  3. The news item about the Somali doctor is disturbing, and (if I may step on my soapbox) illustrates exactly what the problem with religion is and why it shouldn’t be respected: not that it creates problems —it was a guy, not a god, who came up with the “women should not be allowed in any position of responsibility” rule— but that it perpetuates problems. The idea that some beliefs are sacred just because they’re tagged as “religion” only helps to cement these stupid, backward rules and make them so much hard to remove, causing a lot of preventable suffering in the process. As far as morality goes, religion only gives evil people an excuse to be evil, while good people don’t need an excuse to be good.

    (And yes, I know the issue at hand is much more complicated than that. For example: when will those types in D.C. learn that invading another country to solve its problems just doesn’t work? Sheesh, you’d think they’d have enough data points by now.)

  4. Friday and Saturday nights are usually best for exorcisms anyway.With the busy work week, I usually don’t get around to expelling daemons until at least Friday afternoon; and that’s assuming I don’t get stuck on a call.

  5. Ummm so, I really, REALLY hate to do this, but I read that Daily Fail article on the new iphone app that lets his daughter with CP “speak” and other than saying it lets her “use her eyes” there was exactly no information on how it actually worked. I figured it probably used some externally created infrared beam of light bounced off the cornea into the iphone’s camera or something to detect where his daughter was looking. But no, it doesn’t do that at all. He’s just looking at her eyes to determine where she’s looking…..at two icons separated by about an inch….on a tiny screen several feet away. This looks VERY facilitated communicationy to me. Maybe this is how things are commonly done in the CP world and it’s totally accepted as legit, but it looks way shady to me.

  6. @Magnus H.:

    Well, it’s his daughter. He’s probably already very in tune with her subtle communication skills that he has had to adjust to, and her wants and needs, and this probably just makes it a bit easier to determine what she wants or needs at the time. It’s probably not exact, though.

  7. Have you people no consideration? Denizens of Hell would enjoy the weekend off, as well. But, noooo – all you exorcists out there insist on exorcisms day and night, seven days a week. Monday to Friday, nine-to-five – is that too much to ask? A normal work week? It’s bad enough getting those late-night call-ups from a) Goldman-Sachs and b) Michelle Malkin – ‘Help, we need True Evil to get us through a) bilking widows and orphans and well, the entire country; b) well, saying anything about anything’. And now someone wants to limit exorcisms to weekends, when there was usually a dim chance that most of the population uniquely suited to possession was at least drunk or hiking the Appalachian Trail and your average fiend could kick back and nap. Bah!

  8. The iphone app article made me a little suspicious too. Having good intentions and the best of hopes is usually the worst means by which to test if something actually works. I hope it works but it does sound a lot like facilitated communication from what scant information was provided.

    However, as pointed out before, it IS from the World’s Worst Newspaper so the actual story behind the article probably bears absolutely no resemblance to what was printed.

  9. I would *really* like to see a study on whether the effect of a placebo is diminished by being told it’s a placebo. Without any evidence, I don’t see why we should assume it’s a moral quandry between being truthful to save patient/doctor trust or an effective treatment. Being told the clinical effects of a sugar pill as well as being told it’s just a sugar pill could very well work just as well.

  10. Don’t have the link for a study for you, jemand, but I remember reading a discussion on a skeptical site somewhere that talked about how all of that influences how well a placebo works. To sum the relevant part up, taking any pill will have a modest placebo effect. Taking a pill you’re told by an authority will treat your condition will have a larger effect.

    But even so, I would characterize your recommendation as still being deceitful. It’s leaving out the key information that the doctor doesn’t expect the pill itself to have any physical effect on your body, but instead expects your body to exhibit some psychosomatic recovery and your mind to overinterpret the effects of the medication on your recover.

    Plus, if the patient in question knows what a sugar pill or placebo is, you’ve just lost a ton of trust.

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