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If you have someone in your life who is thinking like this and you can get them to read it I highly recommend "The Emporer of All Maladies".

It's not a debunking book. It doesn't even address alternative treatments at all. It is a kind of biography of cancer.

I think it can help because it puts faces to some of the people who have developed cancer treatments over the years. And it really demystifies the work pharmaceutical researches have done to develop chemotherapy.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1439170916/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_apa_i_Z...




His second book, The Gene, is excellent too and definitely worth reading if you liked The Emperor of All Maladies.


Will do. Looking forward to it now. Thanks.


I read this book a few weeks ago and can recommend it as well. It's a very good book.


More useful would be actionable advice on deprogramming cult followers, probably tied back to some psychological trauma.

My SIL just died as a consequence of her faith in alternative medicines. Magnetic blankets, some herbs, some homeopathic nonsense, faith healing, etc.

More disturbing to me is that my brother went along with it. Transmuted from aspiring to be the next Jacques Cousteau to full throated fundie (young Earth, creationism, own the libtards, COVID hoax, gold bug, etc). FWIW, we were raised Lutheran.

As kids, my brother held my hand during a bone marrow transplant. At some level, he knows the truth. But he and my SIL simply could not consider rational options. Not for lack of trying. Many, many people in my SIL's social circles and church tried to intervene. She simply ghosted most of them. And threatened to divorce my brother over it.

Being an unwilling participant in their self-destruction (caring for my nephews), seeing them in action on their own turf, I finally realized the root cause is almost certainly unaddressed trauma. My SIL talked about chemotherapy like anorexics talk about food. And I'm fairly clear why my brother is a basket case.

In conclusion, thank you for your suggestion. But ignorance isn't the problem. At least these two people who reject science are motivated by other reasons.


We try too hard to save those who don't want to be saved.


Two friends are lost in the woods. One is experienced in fieldcraft, the other is not. The experienced friend consults a map, a compass, the position of the sun and some known landmarks and says, "we must go this way." The inexperienced friend complies and walks for hours with the experienced friend.

Suddenly the experienced friend stops and takes their map and compass. "No reason to worry just double checking everything, we are getting closer." But the inexperienced friend sees no sign of progress. This cycle repeats several times over. They walk for hours. Stop to check. No sign of progress. Reassurances. Again and again. Finally the inexperienced friend says, "I recognize this place and I think I know the way back. Let's go this way."

The experienced friend knows this is the wrong way and insists they go a different direction. After half an hour of arguing they part ways. In a few more hours the experienced friend finds their way out of the forest while the inexperienced friend remains hopelessly lost. The experienced friend finds a ranger station. A ranger there asks, "were you alone?" The experienced replies that they were not alone but it does not matter as their companion did not want to be saved.


> The experienced friend knows this is the wrong way and insists they go a different direction. After half an hour of arguing they part ways.

In the argument, the experienced outdoorsman explains how the map works, how the sun rises and sets as it does everyday - he explains the compass always points north, and the map is from the national park service.

The other says "no, I'm right, because I feel right. In my heart, I know this is the right way, I KNOW I've seen this tree before."

The outdoorsman was exasperated. He had spent time arguing with a man who knows nothing of being outdoors, insisting that he was correct. When he went back to the ranger and a search party formed, it occurred to him that, no matter how much logic and reason he assaulted his former friend with, nothing would shake his faith and the argument would have gone on until they had both died, or he had run off.

They eventually found the other man - hours later. The other man was rescued and immediately saw how wrong he was, but it took something else to show that to him - true fear and failure.


The point of his analogy was not to create sympathy for the inexperienced friend but rather to demonstrate one can both go wildly off course and simultaneously want to be saved. In fact to so desperately want to be saved that it becomes the very thing which puts one off course.


> The point of his analogy was not to create sympathy for the inexperienced friend but rather to demonstrate one can both go wildly off course and simultaneously want to be saved. In fact to so desperately want to be saved that it becomes the very thing which puts one off course.

The point of "not wanting to be saved" is, no matter how much you try, you can not save them, and you must move on with your life. Perhaps they will learn, perhaps not.

Or simply, stop wasting your time, when you know you can't bring the change they need.


because sometimes these people have children or relatives too. A good friend of my mother also believed in quack medicine and died of breast cancer because she was trying to treat it with some kind of plant extract. She left behind two sons and an alcoholic husband. Needlessly to say they had a difficult upbringing.


I think there is good intention - but what it becomes is people arguing online, saying things "what about their children."

But rarely is action taken. We've convinced ourselves that merely voicing an opinion is a heroic activity - while it remains an important one, it lacks the power of action.


I think this is where we are talking about two different things. Arguing with random people online is unlikely to change their mind, especially when visiting those forums which are frequently in conflict. Everyone has entrenched.

But in my daily life I have encountered people dabbling in conspiracy theories but not fully indoctrinated. Having long term conversations with them has helped in some cases. By long term I do not mean hours long arguments. I mean occasional conversations over the course of months.


The problem is that reading an entire book takes effort, and the whole reason why these quack treatments thrive is because people can't be bothered to do effort (and if they did they would have a very high likelihood of disproving the quack just based on reading existing medical literature) and want a quick and easy solution.


I'm "quick to anger" when quackery is involved, but I don't think this is correct. Often the conspiracy people think they're well informed. And they are, but only informed by misinformation.


No. I have to agree with the person who says they want a quick and easy solution. I am in a totally different area where I think people are mistaken, but if I suggest let's do the math or let's do some experiments to see the results the excuses start thick and thin.

The fact is these people are too busy doing "magical thinking" when they know they are smarter than the average person and know something that the general "sheep" do not know.

But the one thing they refuse to do is test their beliefs in such a manner that if they are wrong that they will be proved wrong. When they do show effort it is more do only the things that can prove them right, failure is not an option for them.


I will disagree with everyone. The "fact" is that none of you know what other people are thinking. It certainly seems like you do, but that is an illusion.

Inferring the beliefs of others from a tiny amount of (questionable) data is yet another kind of magical thinking. To start to get a more accurate estimate of what other people (conspiracy theorists in this case) are actually thinking requires one to exert the necessary effort in particular actions, the end result hopefully being the ability to more accurately glean what they are thinking from the words they actually write. But it seems no one is willing to put in that effort, perhaps because they want a quick and easy solution.

> When they do show effort it is more do only the things that can prove them right, failure is not an option for them.

Indeed. Such is the nature of the human mind, as well as networked collections of them. This very thread, like many others, is chock full of similar thinking, but the nature of the mind seems to render people unable to realize it.


So you're saying that conspiracy theorists don't obsessively research? That's kinda their thing.. I would definitely say that they think they're well informed


They "research" for anything that will support their belief, while discounting or ignoring anything that disproves it.

This can be seen very clearly on that flat earther documentary. When experiment results don't show what they want, they ignore them or explain them away and are off to find the next experiment that will "prove" their theory. There is no result that can cause them to question their theory.


The power of propaganda is that it's easily digestible. Spending 8 hours reading propaganda requires far less effort than the 1 hour to read something informative or challenging.


“Research” is much easier when there’s no accountability mechanism for the claims you’re encountering. People may spend a lot of time watching YouTube videos, but that’s closer to binging a TV show than actually researching treatments.


you're missing the point altogether. i said "they think they're well informed". read it again please


You said they obsessively research. I said that what the might call “research” is not really the way other people use the term.


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Because it's a lot of wild claims without a single link to a reputable reference.

Anyone can say anything on the internet, what reason do you have to trust anything they said is remotely true? Because it sounds science-y and you don't yet understand it? I mean, how do you even know of not just someone literally making all this up on the spot for a laugh? Why are anonymous strangers more trustworthy than anyone else?

It's all just appeals to the idea that there's some powerful, shadowy entity that doesn't want you to know this stuff, but they know the truth and you can be special too if you just listen to them. There's zero actual substance, just lots of unverifiable claims. Maybe the real conspiracy is that big pharma's medicine does work but people want to still you stuff that didn't work just to make money? Isn't simple greed a simpler explanation than some grand conspiracy?

If I told you broccoli cured my cancer, would you believe me?


> It's all just appeals to the idea that there's some powerful, shadowy entity that doesn't want you to know this stuff

That might be a good refutation if such a thing never happened, if pharmaceutical companies didn't lobby, if companies had never spread misleading information downplaying the harm of their products, or covered up problems, or had reputations for being honest and trustworthy earned by actually being honest and trustworthy.

> There's zero actual substance, just lots of unverifiable claims.

Are they? "Many of these cancers release a substance called Negalese" sounds verifiable. Is there such a substance? Are some cancers proven to release it? "Dr. Bradstreets clinics were raided" that should be a verifiable fact, no? "Apricot seeds contain high concentrations of B17 compared to other seeds". "the FDA itself did a story on the B17 substance in the 1970s". Even "these things cure cancer" should be verifiable by trying it.

Is it any less verifiable claims than "depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain"? That sounds verifiable, except people can't seem to verify which chemicals are imbalanced and how that's measured, or why a measured imbalance isn't the diagnostic criteria for depression in the first place.

You're throwing around "unverifiable" and "no substance" as insults rather than honest descriptions.

> Maybe the real conspiracy is that big pharma's medicine does work but people want to still you stuff that didn't work just to make money? Isn't simple greed a simpler explanation than some grand conspiracy?

If I told you that greed is the grand conspiracy, would you


You picked the technical details that might be verifiable and goose over the grander claims:

> The results were startling and tens thousands were treated successfully and reversed their cancer.

If someone can verify this I'll eat my hat. Surely something as startling and revolutionary as that would have been well documented and explained being any shred of doubt. Of course, it would also be hard to market your ineffective treatment to desperate people by doing that, so I won't hold my breath. Better to play the victim of big pharma. Some individual details might be verifiable, but it's the brooder claims themselves that I am dubious about.

I'm on my phone so it's a pain to reference the original post while writing this one.

Here's my theory, no conspiracy necessary: Greedy pharmaceutical companies have developed cancer treatments that are moderately effective on most cancers. Cancer being what it is, however, there are many people for whom those treatments are not effective. Facing the prospect of a terminal illness, they seek alternative treatments, lest they do nothing at all. Greedy quacks develop their own "treatments", which conveniently, for one reason or another, they can never prove the effectiveness of. They always have an excuse, never the possibility that it just doesn't work.

So yes, you're correct, the grand conspiracy is greed. The pharma companies are greedy and use underhanded tactics to sell the treatments they hold the patents for, and the con artists selling bleach to cancer patients are also greedy and blame the former for why they can't demonstrate their "treatments" are effective.

I think for lots of people it's more comforting to imagine that there's some big conspiracy out there trying to keep effective care from them than the idea that there's just nothing that will save them from their terminal illness.


> Surely something as startling and revolutionary as that would have been well documented and explained being any shred of doubt

Against the claim of thousands of people documented as cured, you argue that such a documentary can't exist because if it existed there would be documentation?

I'm not asking you to believe onion juice cures cancer based on an unverified claim that it does, but what you're doing is pre-deciding that it can't and then refuting the claim that thousands of people were cured because if they were, there would be thousands of cured people. Your logic is bad, and unscientific.

But even then - would it be? You'd think if the Catholic Church was systematically abusing children on a massive scale, it would be well documented and chased by the police. But they were, and they were covering it up on a massive scale too. What about the tobacco companies misleading people on the harms of tobacco so badly they agreed to indefinite $10Bn/year payouts, or the 1971 Ford Pinto with a fire risk where Ford calculated that paying out for burns victim lawsuits would save them $70M over fixing the cars and then buried that in mountains of Department of Transport paperwork ... surely that can't be happening, if it was there would be evidence - and there was. The VW emissions scandal? Coverups do happen.

"It's not happening" until it is happening, then "of course it was happening, everyone knew it".

> Greedy quacks develop their own "treatments", which conveniently, for one reason or another, they can never prove the effectiveness of. They always have an excuse, never the possibility that it just doesn't work.

That ineffective quack treatments exist is not evidence that all treatment claims are ineffective quack treatments.

> I think for lots of people it's more comforting to imagine that there's some big conspiracy out there trying to keep effective care from them than the idea that there's just nothing that will save them from their terminal illness.

It's plausible that America's largest killer - heart disease - is preventable with dietary and lifestyle changes, and maybe curable/reversible[1]. A test for non-invasively measuring calcium buildup in the heart as a proxy for atheroscletoric plaque and diet and lifestyle changes which improve that value. Claims that the mainstream medical view is that it can't be done. Maybe he's wrong, maybe he's right, but if you decide that he's wrong because if he was right it would be mainstream, there's no way for your reasoning to allow any change.

[1] https://www.wheatbellyblog.com/2017/11/reduce-heart-scan-sco...


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"how do you know he's wrong?"

In short; we don't. Science is not about who's right and who's wrong. Science is about carefully formulating plausible theories, and then proving or disproving those through rigorous research, experimental results, referencing previous verifiable research work, and thorough peer review. Even then not a single research paper will claim to be absolute truth; there is always room for doubt, criticism and altering views based on followup research. It's a slow learning process based on a lot of trial and error.

What was posted above were a lot of wild claims flying directly in the face of broadly accepted knowledge accumulated by decades of diligent cancer research. The lack of any reliable sources to back up those claims makes it more than likely to be just misinformation and not to be taken seriously. Besides, the way the post read and how quickly such a long epistle was posted felt more like it was simply copy-pasted from some conspiracy theorist's manifest, rather than written by someone genuinely interested in taking part in the discussion.


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Such perceptions are notoriously unreliable. Please follow https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html when posting here:

"Please don't post insinuations about astroturfing, shilling, brigading, foreign agents and the like. It degrades discussion and is usually mistaken. If you're worried about abuse, email hn@ycombinator.com and we'll look at the data."


I'm fond of the phrase "confirmation shopping." People can do a lot of "research" and consider themselves very well-informed, but they don't know how to discern good information from bad. At least on that topic.


They think they're well informed... by YouTube videos. They won't read a book. (broadly speaking, obviously, I'm sure some will)


Yeah, I'm picturing the only situation where this might work is one where you're dealing with someone you have a really good relationship with, who is genuinely curious and who you can influence over a long period of time. But I've grown pretty skeptical of my own powers of persuasion and tend to think this is the only kind of situation I can change anyone's mind in.

This certainly isn't the cure-all for conspiracy beliefs but if you know someone reasonable who is just on the edge I think it could really help.


Should I read physics textbooks and existing aerodynamics literature before boarding a plane too?


The problem is, Hacker News is silencing dissent. I posted a fact based rebuttal showing three alternative cancer cures and HN flagged it within 5 minutes.

Look: https://twitter.com/perpetualmaniac/status/12845536772361297...




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