Quackery and the conceit of the brilliant heretic

11259841 - galileo galilei - picture from meyers lexicon books written in german language. collection of 21 volumes published between 1905 and 1909.

A pervasive theme in quackery (aka “alternative” health) is the notion of the brilliant heretic. Believers argue that science is transformed by brilliant heretics whose fabulous theories are initially rejected, but ultimately accepted as the new orthodoxy.

Alternative health practitioners, with no embarrassment at their own presumption, routinely liken themselves to Galileo and Darwin. Today their brilliant theories of homeopathy, therapeutic touch and “vaccine injuries” are rejected but ultimately they will be acknowledged as truth. As usual, their claim is based on a lack of knowledge about science, and ignorance of history.

Galileo and Darwin were considered heretics by religious leaders, not by other scientists.

As explained in The Holistic Heresy: Strategies of Ideological Challenge in the Medical Profession by Paul Wolpe, alternative health practitioners believe:

[Alternative health] is the inevitable (or desirable) next step in the history of medicine, and like other heroes of medical history who were initially rejected by the orthodoxy of the day … the [alternative health practitioner] is simply ahead of his time. Innovation is always initially resisted … Holistic heretics portray themselves as mavericks, leaders, with every expectation that soon all of medicine will, by necessity, follow in their footsteps.

It is a breathtaking conceit, and it betrays a profound lack of understanding of the history of science.

1. The conceit rests on the notion that revolutionary ideas are dreamed up by mavericks, but nothing could be further from the truth. Revolutionary scientific ideas are not dreamed up; they are the inevitable result of massive data collection. Galileo did not dream up the idea of a sun-centered solar system. He collected data with his new telescope, data never before available, and the sun-centered solar system was the only theory consistent with the data he had collected.

Similarly, Darwin did not dream up evolution. He collected data during his years of exploration on the Beagle, much of it previously unavailable. A theory of evolution was the only theory consistent with the data that he had collected.

In contrast, belief in alternative health has no basis in scientific fact. It has been dreamed up by its various adherents and practitioners. Far from depending on scientific evidence, it eschews the need for scientific evidence.

2. The notion of the heretical maverick betrays a lack of historical knowledge. Galileo and Darwin were considered heretics by religious leaders, not by other scientists. Their ideas swept across the scientific world precisely because of their explanatory power and the data that they had to back them up.

In the world of science, it was already well established that the orthodoxy could not explain what everyone had observed. Long before Galileo, scientists understood that the Biblical theory of the earth-centered universe did not accord with astronomical evidence. Long before Darwin, fossil discoveries had called into question the Biblical creation story.

Mainstream medical science has been astoundingly successful in both theory and practice. The power of the germ theory of disease or the molecular structure of DNA rests on their ability to explain what we observe, are confirmed by experimental data, and result in highly effective treatments and cure.

In contrast, alternative medicine exists independent of scientific observation. Its theories have poor explanatory power and are directly contradicted by copious scientific evidence. The treatments of alternative health are notoriously ineffective. Although anecdotes abound, scientific studies of “alternative” health treatments have yet to identify a single one that works.

3. New theories may be resisted by older scientists because they upset the orthodoxy, but they are not resisted by the scientific world. That’s the point of peer reviewed scientific journals. Scientists present their evidence, and other scientists decide whether that evidence supports a new theory.

For example, early in my medical career a scientist claimed that ulcers were caused not by acid, but by the H. pylori bacteria. The initial reaction of the medical world was disbelief. However, when doctors saw the data, and when the original studies were quickly reproduced by other scientists, doctors accepted the theory, created treatments based on the discovery and moved on.

In medicine, as in all science, the data comes first, the theory follows. In “alternative” health, the theory exists independent of the evidence, and no one even bothers to collect evidence. The idea that alternative health will ultimately be accepted as true is ludicrous.

The idea that heroic geniuses dream up new scientific theories that are initially rejected but ultimately embraced by other scientists is a fairy tale. It betrays a lack of understanding about how science works, and a lack of knowledge about what actually happened to people like Galileo and Darwin.

  • I like this post, but I am fond of a contrary example that I use to demonstrate the triumph, however delayed, of evidence over personalities.

    In 1912, the French biologist Alexis Carrel started a decades-long experiment that showed that chicken heart cells divided endlessly when cultured outside the body. He established the biological immortality of somatic animal cells as doctrine in biology.

    But he was wrong. Nobody could replicate his results, but this was always explained as experimental error — they’d simply failed to live up to Carrel’s standards. Biologists were satisfied with that, and few dared to publish blasphemy against doctrine. Decades passed.

    In the early 1960s, Leonard Hayflick and Paul Moorhead finally burst the orthodox bubble. They produced consistent, predictable experimental results that showed Carrel had been wrong, and they stuck to them. Instead of backing down, they held their ground. Now the Hayflick Limit is doctrine until and unless a better hypothesis can replace it.

    • FallsAngel

      My husband is a scientist, used to work in academia, and he says sometimes you have to wait until someone dies to overturn these type of ideas.

  • Mike Stevens

    A good background to the Helicobacter pylori story can be found here:
    http://www.csicop.org/si/show/bacteria_ulcers_and_ostracism_h._pylori_and_the_making_of_a_myth

  • AnnaPDE

    Good points, but maybe too rational?
    In my experience, the scientific maverick trope is very popular with people who have no background in a certain field but some pet theory that is clearly recognised as total BS by anyone who does. By comparing themselves to Galileo, the incompetent amateur can keep their feeling of superiority over those who actually know what they’re talking about.
    The typical fans of Tesla are quite a good example for that: usually unable to draw up a simple circuit or do a basic physics calculation, but convinced that evil mainstream physicists are suppressing knowledge about the perpetuum mobile (or zero point energy, or a combination of these).

    • Kerlyssa

      Tesla the car company or the scientist? I have yet to meet conspiracy theorists devoted to either.

      • corblimeybot

        Actually she’s right about this. There are a lot of really nutty people into Nikola Tesla. The first place I heard of him when I was a kid, was via the sort of New Age-y people who were into him in just the way AnnaPDE describes. They did really believe science was suppressing his infinite energy source device.

        • Nick Sanders

          It probably doesn’t help that mixed in with Tesla’s excellent work with electricity were some really bonkers devices and ideas.

          • AnnaPDE

            Those latter ones seem to be his drawcard with the maverick-revolutionises-science crowd.

          • Guest

            His deep-seated love of pigeons is absolutely hilarious.

          • Roadstergal

            Yeah, he invited the crazies into his camp. Like Duesberg, the HIV/AIDS-denying Nobel laureate. Just because you’re smart in one field doesn’t mean you can’t get a different one 100% wrong.

        • Kerlyssa

          o.0 yikes. I guess I have been lucky, then

        • AnnaPDE

          Yes. My first one was the classmate I’d coached through not failing the “why don’t roller coasters fall out of the loop” exam. Next thing I know he’s talking mystical crap about how Tesla discovered that the matrix of love is encoded in the vibration of electrons.

      • AnnaPDE

        The scientist. From mid-high school level all the way up to match PhD my sample of Tesla devotees spewed an interesting mix of misunderstood physics and full-on woo.

  • OT: talk me down please. I stopped breastfeeding about a month ago and my period came back. That was about 4 weeks ago. I had a tubal ligation during my second C section 14 months ago, but now that it’s been 4 weeks since I had a period I am freaking the fuck out about the possibility of the ligation failing. I can’t panic like this every month until menopause.

    And pregnancy? Oh holy hell no. I can’t do it again.I had accreta last time and they were able to save my uterus — but I wish they hadn’t. My husband has offered to get a vasectomy if it will help me calm down but I’m afraid if I don’t address the panic directly it won’t actually reassure me — 2 tiny failure rates is still nonzero, after all. I have an appointment with a therapist because I can’t function in a state of panic like this. I have to go to work, I have to take care of my kids.

    • Rach

      I’m kinda useless at this, so apologies in advance. I sort of get where you are coming from: I’m totally against ever being pregnant again.

      Everyone is different, but I found my first few periods after giving birth could be anywhere from two to six weeks apart. They were just so erratic! It seemed to take a while to readjust; it took a few cycles before they were back to normal. I’ve also got an implant and I get a ‘period’ maybe twice a year, so sometimes I do get an irrational ‘feel strange, haven’t had a period for ages, can’t be pregnant, but can I, please no’ thought or two running through my head.

      For what it’s worth, I think you are all kinds of awesome and brave to be facing head on something that obviously scares you very much.

      Hopefully I helped a bit until all the wonderful regulars get here, they are hands down the most supportive, hilarious bunch on the net. *hugs*

      • Thank you. I really appreciate hearing from someone who has felt similarly.

    • Who?

      it will probably take a while for your cycle to settle, and even when it does you might still feel anxious about this-you went through something that nearly killed you, and made you really sick in the meantime, by the sounds of it, so feeling concerned about being right back there is fair enough.

      That feeling you describe is horrible. It’s great to get some help with it-and I think you’re right, in your headspace at the moment your husband getting the snip mightn’t be the answer. You’ve obviously got good insight, and you want to change your thinking patterns, both of which hopefully will help you get through this.

      Take care of yourself, and remember this will pass.

      • Thank you. Of course it didn’t occur to me that it would take a few cycles for things to settle down. Because that makes sense, and I am not exactly thinking critically about this right now. It’s nice to hear a voice of reason.

    • J.B.

      Consider antidepressants for pmdd. Hormones plus a tough experience are rough.

      After giving birth my cycles were awful. Even more awful on weaning. For me mirena with continuous low dose progesterone and low dose ssris have been lifesavers.

    • Dr Kitty

      I’m so sorry you’re going through this.
      I think you are right that dealing with the anxiety as a priority is a better approach than dealing with your contraception alone and hoping that will resolve everything.

      I’m currently dealing with my own period issues.
      Currently weaning #2 off his early morning comfort feed, and I was hoping that my Nexplanon would keep me period free as my Mirena had done previously.

      It looks as though that is not to be.
      And it would appear as if my uterine tissue has spent the last year making a stealth bid to colonise my whole body, because I’ve got a delightful combo of light period spotting, rectal bleeding, nosebleeds and hellacious cramps- endometriosis is a joy!

      Hoping it will settle, going to have to see a gynaecologist pretty quickly if it doesn’t…

      • Oh no, endo is really awful. I feel for you. I hope your cycle settles down soon.

    • FormerPhysicist

      I had a uterine ablation with my tubal. It was wonderful! Scarred the bejeezus out of that thing, and no more bleeding (a spot once, after the initial healing). Now I’ve had my ovaries out (BRCA2) so definitely nothing.

      But it sounds like a therapist is a good call for the anxiety.

      • Uterine ablation? That is a thing? OMFG sign me up. That sounds great. Guessing it wasn’t an option for me because of the repairs they had to do after cutting out the part of the uterus affected by the Accreta. I saw the therapist today and also started spotting, so I’m feeling a lot less like the world is ending. I figure this gives me some time to work on the anxiety piece before the next cycle.

  • ObiWan Kenobi

    OT: But did anyone else hear about these idiots? Have no idea what they’re famous for, but their birth story is horrific and includes the husband admitting to stalling nurses from addressing his unborn child’s concerning decels on the basis of “Inkmow the heart rate is dropping but it’s fine and my wife needs to sleep so just chill and stop bothering her”. Never in my life have I witnessed such stupidity. Truly appalling.

    Link to their recently posted birth story YouTube video:
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-0np_TQzzio

    • Sue

      Wow – how did the experienced midwives and doctors ever cope before this first-timer came in to tell them that it’s just all about ”relaxing”?

      ”The nurse kept fidgeting”. This guy is INSUFFERABLE.

      • Melaniexxxx

        He is FOUL :O

    • mabelcruet

      I gave up watching after 10 minutes, it was all a bit waffly. But I googled them-they are YouTube bloggers and entrepreneurs, and have a business selling hair extensions. I looked at her website, and there is a picture of the nursery. In it, the cot is pushed right up against the radiator-a huge, dangerous no-no-and on top of the radiator cover there are large unsecured glass picture frames. As soon as that kid starts to become mobile, she is going to reach out to grab one of those and it will fall over and smash her over the head. I’m hoping that she arranged it like that for nice instagram pictures only, because otherwise it looks dangerous and frankly an accident waiting to happen.

    • guest

      “Some statistics done in like 1958…”

      Sounds legit.

    • Melaniexxxx

      Can’t deal with a single more AIR QUOTES sign ugh, i can’t believe i made it to 10:58. Had to give up at “ultrasound of the placenta fluid” wow so educated guys D:

  • Tori

    My favourite bit of the H. Pylori story is that one of the researchers infected himself with the bacteria. Kind of the opposite of anti-vax in a way, taking something you think is harmful for the good of all just to investigate it, versus not taking something very safe to prove your point.

    • Sue

      Exactly. The H pylori researchers didn’t just say ”believe me” – they went about providing the valid research evidence, which was replicated by other researchers, and, eventually, practice changed.

      Medicine is often criticised for being too slow to take up new knowledge, while also being accused of applying therapies that are insufficiently tested. When unpredicted harm occurs, there are accusations of overly enthusiastic implementation.

      Extraordinary claims – which included the infective theory of peptic ulceration, at the time, require extraordinary proof. The H pylori researchers supplied it.

    • mabelcruet

      It’s my favourite medical story-he swallowed a patients actual gastric juices to infect himself. You would never get that past health and safety these days! I tell all my work experience students that story-a relatively simple intervention (antibiotics) has saved the lives of potentially thousands of young men every year-mortality from gastric ulceration used to be significant in younger men prior to H Pylori eradication.

      • Dr Kitty

        Interestingly, the only young person I’ve seen recently with a ruptured gastric ulcer was a woman who overdosed on NSAIDS after a CS. I strongly feel that the “no take home opioids for breastfeeding women” policy leading to uncontrolled post op pain was the true underlying cause.

      • Tori

        I forget those details of the story, but I wonder if he used himself as a Guinea pig because of the difficulties with health and safety? I don’t know though, my memory is foggy.

        • mabelcruet

          I read up on it a bit when I was actively taking work experience students (so that I wasn’t telling them fibs!). Organisms were described in gastric mucosa way back at the end of the 19th century, but no one really associated them with any pathology until the 1940s. There was some discussion that patients being treated for syphilis-which was much more common then-had less peptic ulcer disease and I think it was thought that the spirochaetes were syphilitic ones in the stomach, not really a different type and that was when the possibility of peptic ulceration being an infection was first mooted. But then someone produced a very influential paper saying that he hadn’t seen a single organism in any of his thousands of cases, which would have been impossible given that retrospective examination of resection specimens at the time shows >50% of them containing organisms, so he either wasn’t looking, wasn’t doing the right special stains, or was deliberately ignoring them. So that paper meant that the infection possibility was discounted for years and years and why vagotomy surgery became the recommended treatment, despite considerable morbidity and mortality. There was some discussion in the literature in the 70s and 80s about peptic ulcers, mostly pathology data, about ulcer healing, but even with the ucer healed, the inflammation was still present and organisms were still present, which is why recurrence was so common.

          Enter Warren and Marshall-gung-ho Aussies, wouldn’t take no for an answer, couldn’t experiment on animals, because H pylori doesn’t infect animals, couldn’t get ethical approval to experiment on humans, so they ended up using themselves (obviously having given full informed consent beforehand!). Dr Marshall (the physician) drank the juices from a patient, and then Dr Warren confirmed the diagnosis. Before they did this, though, they were the first to be able to culture the bug in vitro and that was entirely accidentally. It was hard to grow and a lab technician inadvertently left culture plates too long. And they developed the urease breath test for the diagnosis which is a lot easier than endoscopy.

          For the last 100+ years, there were intermittent publications about the spirochaetes in the stomach, but these were often in obscure journals, or single speciality journals, or in non-English language journals, which meant that no one could put it all together. Its like the pathologists and the clinicians didn’t really communicate but each group went off and did their own thing-I use this bit of my discussion with students to talk about the benefits of multidisciplinary teams and how teamwork improves outcomes for patients

          • Tori

            That’s so fascinating! I thought there was something about refusal of ethics approval but not enough to say for sure. That’s the bit I remember from med school (of course!). Can’t get ethics? Let’s just use ourselves as a case study! It’s such a fascinating story, and some people very dedicated to their cause which is inspiring in itself.

          • mabelcruet

            Had they tried this in England in the NHS, they probably would have been struck off or something, can’t upset the health and safety people!

  • gtjarruda

    “Long before Galileo, scientists understood that the Biblical theory of the earth-centered universe did not accord with astronomical evidence”

    You may be a good OB/GYN, but you are a bad historian. This is so far from recognized historical truth these days.

    See one particular breakdown here: http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-great-ptolemaic-smackdown-table-of.html

    The most important bit is that Galileo predicted parallax error, but it could not be observed. Since a predicted feature of the theory could not be observed, the theory could not be trusted even though it had good predictive accuracy in the motions of planets and stars. It wasn’t until later when telescopes got better that parallax could be observed. Note that Aristotle (not a religious person) used this same argument against heliocentrism. So “long before Galileo” actually disagreed with Galileo.

    See also, for some myths surrounding the somewhat equivalent idea that great scientists are ‘brilliant heretics’ against religion:

    http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/6-reasons-the-dark-ages-werent-so-dark

    http://www.strangenotions.com/galileo-controversy/

    Also, I’m having a hard time finding any evidence of Darwin being condemned as a heretic by any major religious body. From this article: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14751-vatican-says-it-does-not-owe-darwin-an-apology/ we have the quote “never condemned by the Catholic Church nor was his book ever banned”. Oof.

    You complain (and rightly) about people crossing into disciplines where they have very little experience or information. This is a time to take your own advice.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Nothing you’ve presented contradicts what I’ve written. You need to do more than link to blogs and lay literature.

      • gtjarruda

        By this logic, since you are a lay blog on the subject of history, you are just as believable. You will find plenty of references within those links, especially in the first link.

        • guest

          Why, then, did you not link to the relevant references?

          • gtjarruda

            Because the summary crosses over hundreds of years of scientific history and contains many sources. There is a lot of good info in there, I recommend reading it and evaluating.

            Here is one source that you can find referenced in the posts: https://www.amazon.com/Galileo-Rome-Rise-Troublesome-Genius/dp/0195177584

            By a quick glance, the first author was a professor of Philosophy and History, making him well-qualified to comment and a reliable source.

          • attitude devant

            What is your point in citing a book review? That Galileo may have been a wee bit recklessly provocative? So what? He actually stood trial for heresy. It was only recently that the RCC publicly acknowledged their error in prosecuting him.

          • guest

            If you have read them and evaluated them, the onus is on you to use *those sources* to back your claims.

          • attitude devant

            the links are crap.

        • attitude devant

          Again, nothing that you’ve presented contradicts what she has written. Why are you here?

          • gtjarruda

            The author wrote: “The notion of the heretical maverick betrays a lack of historical knowledge”

            I’m here to point out that the author lacks that same knowledge.

            This is particularly frustrating to me, because the knowledge is out there. This site will rightfully complain against the inability of anti-vaxxers to read data and incorporate it into their worldview. This is an instance of the author doing the same thing with long lasting but demonstrably false tropes about Galileo.

          • attitude devant

            You seem to be a notably concrete thinker. Yes, Darwin was not the first or the only person to contemplate heliocentrism but he did actually stand trial for promoting that view. A heresy trial. Parallax error or not.

          • Dave Burke

            >>
            Yes, Darwin was not the first or the only person to contemplate heliocentrism but he did actually stand trial for promoting that view.
            >>

            You mean Galileo.

          • attitude devant

            Yes. I did. We had been discussing Darwin elsewhere and I got my heretics mixed up. Thanks.

        • Sue

          ”Why are you here?”

          I suspect this poster has no interest at all in pseudoscience in health, but just picks up key words that threaten his religious stance.

          • Sean Jungian

            Yeah, I figured he must have alerts set for certain words, like “heretic”.

      • MaineJen

        What, you’re not impressed by the mansplanation of someone who is preoccupied with the Church being blameless in all things? 😉

        • attitude devant

          I just can’t get over how awful the links are. The History Channel? Seriously?

          • Sean Jungian

            IT WAS ALIENS.

          • attitude devant

            In the Bermuda Triangle!

          • Charybdis

            What about the Bimini Road, Stonehenge, Atlantis and/or Mu?

          • Sean Jungian

            The Nazca Lines! Chariots of the Gods! Easter Island!

          • Roadstergal

            The Nazis Marching channel? That’s what they were when I stopped watching several years ago.

          • Lion

            I must have stopped watching after you, when I stopped it was people bidding on auctions in the hope of finding what was quite possibly a planted treasure.

      • Sean Jungian

        He’s using the strictly religious definition of “heresy” rather than the more general lay definition of “a person holding an opinion at odds with what is generally accepted”.

        The fact that he can find philosophers and historians in the past who disagreed with Galileo and probably also Copernicus and Newton doesn’t really seem to mean anything, but the fact does remain that these were not brand new ideas plucked from the aether; as the saying goes, they stood on the shoulders of giants…

        It is pretty clear that that was the intent of your essay – that these ideas don’t spring up fully-formed out of nowhere and then suffer condemnation for generations before being accepted (and it’s immaterial if they were banned by The Church or a church or any religion).

        • attitude devant

          I find it telling that he is focused on official positions of the RCC. Galileo stood trial for heresy….and famously recanted to save his skin. Giordano Bruno WAS burned at the stake a short time (by historical standards) for beliefs that included ‘atom theory’ and heliocentrism.

          • Sean Jungian

            Not to mention that even as a layperson I’m aware that Copernicus also believed the earth to orbit the sun, and that he also lived before Galileo.

    • lilin

      “The most important bit is that Galileo predicted parallax error, but it could not be observed. Since a predicted feature of the theory could not be observed, the theory could not be trusted even though it had good predictive accuracy in the motions of planets and stars. It wasn’t until later when telescopes got better that parallax could be observed. Note that Aristotle (not a religious person) used this same argument against heliocentrism. So “long before Galileo” actually disagreed with Galileo.”

      I’ve read this through three times and can’t understand what you’re getting at in general, and especially with the last sentence.

      • gtjarruda

        In the original post:

        “Long before Galileo, scientists understood that the Biblical theory of the earth-centered universe did not accord with astronomical evidence”

        The various links and references therein directly contradict that statement. Since Aristotle existed long before Galileo and disagreed with Galileo, we have one data point that validates my disagreement with the post. Hence the statement that the thinkers “long before Galileo” did disagree with Galileo.

        • lilin

          Ah, okay, you’re wrong. It was the church that backed Aristotelian knowledge. (Odd that they took their cues from a pagan, but to their credit, church fathers had great respect for classical knowledge.)

          The major scientific consensus during Galileo’s time was going towards heliocentrism–or as they knew it at the time Copernicanism. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), who lived and died before Galileo was born, was a hugely influential astronomer and mathematician who was among the first to formulate the idea that the earth goes around the sun. In fact, Galileo is known as the “father of observational astronomy” because through observation, he provided a lot of data that showed Copernicanism was the right model for the universe.

          So it is pretty much just what Dr. Amy said. Although there were scientists who disagreed, as there always are, heliocentrism was a well-respected model well before Galileo lived. He did not come up with the theory, so much as provide a great deal of convincing data for an existing theory.

          • attitude devant

            Oddly, he seems to think the fact that Galileo was not exactly politically astute, and acted in ways that antagonized the church, supports his thesis. Still, he stood trial. Still, he recanted. To quote Galileo, “Still it moves.”

          • lilin

            Honestly I don’t know what point he’s even attempting to prove. Using Aristotle to show what the scientific consensus was like in Galileo’s time is like using some 11th century natural philosopher’s theory about evil humours to prove that today medical science doesn’t “agree” about whether or not bacteria exist. It’s one data point and its a data point from a thousand years before the era we’re discussing.

          • Sean Jungian

            He’s trying to prove that Dr. Amy is full of crap and woefully outside her area of expertise because she didn’t write a full doctoral thesis with references and footnotes on the History of Scientific Heresy in the Roman Catholic Church circa 1200 – 2000 CE

          • lilin

            Well he appears to have stopped, thank goodness.

    • attitude devant

      Darwin not considered a heretic? Ever heard of the Scopes Trial? What country do YOU live in?

      • Sean Jungian

        Plenty of Young Earth Creationists consider Darwin to be akin to Satan himself.

      • gtjarruda

        You can read, correct? I said “by any major religious body”. The state of Tennessee is not a major religious body.

        The idea that local religious leaders saying they don’t like something isn’t a good historical basis for declaring that someone was considered a heretic in any general sense.

        • attitude devant

          The Southern Baptist Church is a major religious body, and as recently as my childhood they were preaching against evolution. And your own citation in the New Scientist notes that the C of E has also backed down from anti-Darwin actions.

        • Sean Jungian

          You are getting all wound up in the strictly religious definition of “heresy” when it’s obvious to anyone reading this essay that the intent is for the generalized, “a person holding an opinion at odds with what is generally accepted” definition of heretic.

        • moto_librarian

          I’ve lived in Tennessee for 11 years. Many of our elected officials still behave as though they are running an evangelical Christian state.

        • Irène Delse

          Many religious leaders of Darwin’s time condemned his theory, including the Roman Catholic Church (to their credit, they did accept it a century later, something many Evangelicals have yet to do) and the Church of England, the state-sponsored church in England, where Darwin lived. So yes, he was considered a heretic for saying that you didn’t need God to explain nature, and especially to explain the human brain.

    • Irène Delse

      You know, it’s embarrassing that you blast Dr. Amy for, allegedly, being weak on facts, when you yourself confidently assert a number of false or exaggerated notions, propped up with links to articles popularisation – which, as we all know, are not always reliable.

      “Aristotle (not a religious person)”
      What a misconception! Aristotle wasn’t a Christian, if that’s what you mean, but he did move in a religious paradigm: the ancient Greek religion of his time. Even more to the point, it’s important to remember that ancient philosophers were not just proto-scientists and observers of nature, but that they were proponents of one or more school of ethics and metaphysics very similar, for all purposes, to what we call religion. A philosophical school was also called a sect: Pythagorean, Platonist, Stoic, Aristotelian… Aristotle’s philosophy was not materialistic, contrary to that of the Epicureans, for instance. And he was keen to make a synthesis of natural philosophy with metaphysics. To think that he rejected heliocentrism only because of a lack of good observations is, at best, naïve.

      Or maybe you are trying to get the Roman Catholic Church off the hook from the (historical) accusations of rejecting Galilee? Because that’s the slant of your comments here: everything but saying the Church was wrong. And if there was an ancient philosopher who was embraced by the RCC, it was Aristotle! So you try to shift the blame onto him and to deny any serious scientist entertained the heliocentric model before Galilee…

      Which is demonstrably false. Funny thing you don’t mention Copernicus, the first modern astronomer to study heliocentrism! A century before Galilee, he posited that the sun was at the centre of the universe and not the earth, following the model proposed by Aristarchus of Samos around 280 BCE. But Copernicus never published during his life, being more cautious than Galilee…

      Something of Copernicus’ caution may be due to the fact that the previous thinker to endorse publicly heliocentrism was Giordano Bruno, burnt at the stake for various heretical ideas, including saying that not only the earth revolved around the sun, but the sun was not at the centre of the universe !

      So, yes, religious heresy was the problem, or at least the vested interests of religious institutions (which included universities in the Middle Ages and Renaissance times).

    • Lion

      Darwin is still condemned as a heretic by evangelical Christians today.

  • Clorinda

    #3 is what I was thinking about before I reached that part of the post. Sometimes the changes don’t come quickly because of the “traditional” views of the established doctors or scientists. However, the change does come. If you look at the holistic health/naturopathic, etc. industry, those “changes” they claim should be coming any time soon when the “traditionalists” die out should have happened decades ago. Homeopathy started 200 years ago. If it was effective, then the “traditionalists” should have embraced it about 150 years ago. Chiropractic subluxation should have become mainstream around 1940. Vaccines should have been abandoned around 1830.

    • Sean Jungian

      Those ideas are SO revolutionary and ahead of their time that it is taking extra time for the traditionalists to catch up.

      • attitude devant

        Only the select few have woken.

        • Sean Jungian

          Yes, for the low low price of $39.99 per month for my supplements while supplies last! Or get our Supreme Package for only $10,000 with exclusive cures for cancer, asthma, autism, fibromyalgia, ill humors, constipation, resting bitchface, and hammer toes that the medical establishment doesn’t want you to know!

          • attitude devant

            Can it core a apple, oh Chef of the Future?

          • MaineJen

            But can it get rid of belly fat using this one weird old trick?

          • Mishimoo

            You forgot Crohn’s Disease, body worms, and systemic candida; or are those extra?

          • BeatriceC

            Chronic Lime must be in the expanded services package.

          • Sean Jungian

            No problem! Just buy my book and the Gold Level Package priced economically at $15,000! Really, isn’t your health worth it?

          • Mishimoo

            Oooh is that the package with the detox supplement that causes a metallic taste in one’s mouth, where the worse the taste is, the better it’s working?

          • Sean Jungian

            Yes, and you may notice that you feel worse after beginning my treatments – don’t worry that’s just the toxins leaving your body!

          • Mishimoo

            The real question here is: do you throw the magic cure-all lollies in for free if I sign up now?

          • Steph858

            Ah, the joys of detoxing. I don’t understand how any product which doesn’t contain Buprenorphine can claim to be a detoxing supplement.

            There’s a campaign to discourage people from calling 999 for non-life-threatening situations which involves ambulances being painted with a photo of some poor soul on a stretcher wired up to all sorts of tubes with the tagline “THIS is an emergency.” I’ve often wished that pseudoscientific detox products had to come with a photo of a recovering junkie in the throes of withdrawal along with the tagline “THIS is a detox.” on the packaging.

    • Sue

      Spot-on, Clorinda!

      Ironically, the innovators of the pre-technological era – including Aristotle and even Hahnemann- were trying to stretch knowledge, not going back to the ways of the past.

      I suspect that, if any of these people came back today and saw people ignoring modern evidence and clinging to ancient ways, they would be appalled.

      • Roadstergal

        Even Hahnemann was trying to move past the then-prevalent pseudoscience of ‘heroic medicine.’ He just moved in the wrong direction.