Anaximperator blog

Blogging against alternative cancer treatments

Alternative Cancer Treatments: The Deadly Dangers of Magical Thinking

the_lorelei6Magical thinking is the assumption that if I do this, then that will happen. It is an illogical thought pattern that involves linking unrelated actions or events.

Things like emotional stress and events of great personal significance can push us toward magical meaning-making.

Magical thinking is widespread and most of the time it’s harmless, such as the use of mascots in sports. But there is a tipping point, beyond which it can become quite sinister and even deadly.

Magical thinking usually comes in the guise of simple, straightforward solutions for any number of problems. When a really bad thing happens, like being diagnosed with cancer, the lure of magical thinking can become dangerously irresistible.

Magical thinking tells us for example that science has got it wrong and that it is possible to cure cancer without conventional medicine, provided we follow the right diet, take the right supplements, think the right thoughts or have the right attitude.

It sounds absolutely wonderful and it dampens our fears and make us breathe again, now that the threat of surgery, chemo and radiation has gone.

But sadly, none of it is true and just like the singing of the treacherous nymph Lorelei, it is sure to lead us into destruction.

What are they trying to make us believe, these peddlers of magical thinking?

They tell countless different stories – the internet is overflowing with them. But in essence, they all come down to these three:

1. Science is wrong: cancer is not caused by DNA mutations

We are told that scientists are narrow minded people who are incapable of thinking “outside the box.” That is why they can’t see the real cause of cancer, which is always very simple: a common infection, a simple fungus, a parasite, brought about by the wrong lifestyle. And because the cause of cancer is so utterly simple, it is equally simple to cure it, as long as you follow the right alternative treatment.

It would be wonderful if things were really that simple, but sadly they are not, which science has been shown over and over again.

2. The Body can Heal Itself

You only have to support it, by eating the right things, like apricot kernels, or a very special diet, or lots of supplements. This is often called “boosting your immune system.” If you do this the rest of your life, the cancer will go away and never come back.

Our body can indeed heal itself – most of the time, but sometimes it needs special help, when it’s being besieged by a dangerous terrorist like cancer for example.

It would be very unfair and very unwise to expect our body to deal with this lethal and relentless enemy with nothing more than a healthy lifestyle. That is just plain silly and akin to suicide, for there are many more factors that define our immune system than food and exercise. Besides, prevention is not the same thing as cure.

3. There can be no cancer in a healthy body, but for your body to be healthy, your mind must be healthy first

So what you need to do is clean your mind, by solving your inner conflicts, forgiving and receiving forgiveness and always having a positive attitude. Then your body can focus all its energy on staying healthy, at which you can help it by feeding it the right things.

The reality is that cancer cells just don’t give a hoot about our thoughts, our feelings or our attitude. They just continue to do what they do best: divide and grow.

What if the magic doesn’t work?

If the magic doesn’t work – and it never does – there’s only the patient to blame: they weren’t disciplined enough with their diet,  they didn’t solve their inner conflicts, they weren’t forgiving enough, they didn’t take the right supplements, etc, etc.

It is a cruel magic, and the more alluring the story, the more dangerous it is.

26 responses to “Alternative Cancer Treatments: The Deadly Dangers of Magical Thinking

  1. natalie April 5, 2009 at 1:04 am

    The deadly dangers of many things including red meat….

    why isnt stuff like this posted to warn people?? this is a site about warning people about the dangers surrounding cancer right??

  2. beatis April 5, 2009 at 7:25 am

    In the “About” page of this blog, it says this:

    The main purpose of this blog is to warn people against alternative medicine, alternative cancer treatments in particular. By alternative cancer treatments we mean treatments that are used instead of standard cancer therapy and of which there is no reliable indication of their efficacy.

    Also, from the day this blog was launched, there have been two links on it to Cancer Research UK, where there is a lot of information for the general public as well as patients about cancer and possible ways to prevent it. I have linked to this site several times while replying to you.
    (Edit: typos)

  3. beatis April 5, 2009 at 10:14 am

    On open-mindedness:

  4. Rich April 8, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    If something doesn’t feel right, get tested. Alternative treatments involve alot of blind guessing, alot of wasted time, and you can potentially due more harm than good. Sometimes they work, and “can” produce miraculous results, but more often they don’t.

    Tests often fail to find the root cause of problems, though. I found a pretty neat test, though, at metametrix:

    Science for the 21st century. This one uses a computer chip to dna test all of the pathogens in your stool sample. Got staph, it will let you know. Got Heliobacter Pylori? Yersenia Enterocolitis? Maybe an azole resistant strand of Candida? It will let you know what you have and how to kill it. Nice.

    Seems they have an organic acids test to look for vitamin deficiencies as well. This metametrix test seems like a nice test to do if you or your doctor can’t figure out whats wrong.

  5. Deborah Nelson June 7, 2009 at 7:00 pm


    This is a captivating and VERY well written and well thought out article. FABULOUS writing! My thoughts. As well written as it is, this article doesn’t leave room for one thing–the difference between magic and miracles.

    Because the “sound scientific thinking,” which is shown at its best in this article, FRAMES the “disease” in a certain sound/scientific/traditional medical kind of way, there is little to no room for miracles to occur within this scientific venue.

    Therefore for a miracle to flourish, it must to gravitate to another vehicle, another FRAMEWORK, another venue. Venues that can be FRAMED to include miracles are those “alternative treatments,” and by definition, will be those scorned by the traditional scientific community.–and rightly so, from their FRAMEWORK.

    However, this very FRAMEWORK is a framework that only allows the “disease” to behave in a “certain way.” If it behaves otherwise; and responds well to an alternative treatment, it then falls into the category of a miracle, by definition.

    Science makes sense in its the way of looking at the “past numbers,” to deduce a certain conclusion based on certain so called factoids. This framework is governed by past cases, and numbers, and is therefore logical, but doesn’t allow for the unique, the extraordinary, the miracle!

    If a miracle does occur somehow within this framework, this tradition tends to dismisses it as “spontaneous remission.”

    However, if the disease is gone and never comes back, that was a miracle, not just spontaneous remission, and in these cases, only credit can be given to God. And for pure science and for pure medicine described in the article, this particular framework is not considered to be credible; because in a very real sense deep down inside, it seems those practicing traditional medicine assume themselves to be some sort of god or gods, themselves. And that is the ULTIMATE DECEPTION!

  6. beatis June 7, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    it seems those practicing traditional medicine assume themselves to be some sort of god or gods

    This sounds like rather a caricature of sientists. I work at a university and I’ve never encountered a scientist who assumes himself god.

    Why can’t you consider the possibility that science is a wonderful gift from God, enabling us to cure terrible diseases and thus make this world a better place, like he wants us to do?

  7. Deborah Nelson June 7, 2009 at 8:41 pm


    To answer your question: Why Can’t You consider the possibiliity….What makes you think I don’t?

    I DO CONSIDER the possibility that SCIENCE is a wonderful gift from God! I have no problem with that thinking at all…Why would you think that I don’t?

    I simply suggest that its not THE ONLY way, that there are other venues that as well.

    Of course any reasonable scientist would not admit that he assumes himself a god, not literally. I was responding to the tone and caricature of the original article, representing a TRADITIONAL SCIENCE and MEDICAL view while indicating that anything beyond the established credible pattern of healing would be “magic” and deceptive; and that it can’t and won’t heal.

    Please forgive me if you thought I was accusing those scientists that you work with assuming they were gods. The comment was directed (generically) to the person who wrote the original article who represented the scientific community as as the only credible healing venue…that anything else is simply deceptive “magic,” leading people astray. Talk about a caricature….

    I think you missed the whole point of my response! Me thinks you nitpick.. This will be my only response to your comment, this is all I have to say, except I did not mean to offend your particular scientist friends.

  8. beatis June 7, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    As matter of fact, it was me who wrote the article. I’m sorry to have missed your point. Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your dating passport. 🙂

  9. Deborah Nelson June 7, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    OH well, I guess we aren’t communicating! But I thought Your Article was VERY WELL WRITTEN!
    I did enjoy reading it, I guess this is one of those cases where we need to agree to disagree. Great Article though!

  10. evenarsenicisnatural June 8, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Deborah –

    One hell of a scam site you peddle – who are you selling the sucker’s – err, MEMBER’s – personal information to?

    Just a SCAM to harvest personal information, how sweet of you.

    Potential Buyers Beware!!

  11. Bram Hengeveld June 8, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    Deborah said:
    “However, this very FRAMEWORK is a framework that only allows the “disease” to behave in a “certain way.” If it behaves otherwise; and responds well to an alternative treatment, it then falls into the category of a miracle, by definition.”

    No it doesn’t. The alternative treatment would then (if a disease responds to it well) fall into the category of ‘evidence based medicine’.

    That’s the nice thing; IF for instance wackjob Simoncini had proven his therapies really work (and without all the nasty side effects of ‘regular’ medicine), he’d be hauled one of the greatest men ever alive. EVER.

    Whatever framework you put on it; if something works (like for instance improve a five year survival rate) it can be proven.

    Now, perhaps you say: but I’m talking about a one person’s miracle. (quackery is after all very ‘personal’) Don’t worry: there are stockpiles of case studies on alternative therapies. And they usually lack one thing.
    Quality. (except for a few; trouble is they quite often concern damage being done by the therapy)
    So, if it is the case that these miracles occur (but then, it wouldn’t be to often, since it wouldn’t otherwise be miracles) the people ‘responsible’ for them do a very, very poor job of documenting and collecting them. If on the other hand the ‘miracles’ would happen (a bit more) often; we could do research on them; perhaps they aren’t miracles… (return to Simoncini being the greatest man ever alive)

    Either way; evidence based >>> ‘miracles’

    So, instead of saying someone is missing a point, perhaps you should bother to make one. From my point of view miracles are something you can hope for, but they don’t have anything to do with ‘medicine’ in the way I guess you’re pushing them.

    I also don’t see why, if there’s something we can not explain (like the total remission you mention), we can only give credit to god. I’d say it’s way (really WAY) more likely that it’s because of something we don’t know about (yet). Somehow, when I look at the past, I get the feeling asking scientific questions has proven more productive then giving ‘the god answer’.

  12. beatis June 9, 2009 at 5:14 am

    Ms Nelson, I have not accused anyone of anything. However, this blog is not for pitching, so please stop trying to advertise your business here. You can very well take part in our discussions without that.

  13. beatis June 9, 2009 at 5:22 am

    Off-topic comments will be deleted from now on.
    Approval or disapproval of comments is at the discretion of the moderators only. Moderator policy is not subject to discussion.

  14. Henry Scowcroft June 10, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    This is a great post! Nicely argued.

  15. beatis June 10, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    I don’t know what to say, thank you so much.

  16. Bram Hengeveld June 11, 2009 at 12:09 am

    Methinks you do know what to say. So write some more!

  17. beatis June 11, 2009 at 5:03 am

    Thnx… 🙂

  18. anaximperator July 25, 2009 at 9:43 am

    @ Rich // April 8, 2009 at 1:37 pm,

    Tests often fail to find the root cause of problems, though. I found a pretty neat test, though, at metametrix:
    Seems they have an organic acids test to look for vitamin deficiencies as well. This metametrix test seems like a nice test to do if you or your doctor can’t figure out whats wrong.

    Metametrix is quackery. They do non-diagnostic tests, resulting in fake diagnoses, in order to make you believe you have a number of serious afflictions for which alternative treatments are the only option.

  19. Pingback: Alternative Medicine: Does Belief Exonerate? Philosophy of Science for Beginners « Anaximperator blog

  20. Dana August 22, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Alternative and integrated medical modalities have NOT hurt me; however, conventional medicine has and I am speaking from years of xperience. When conventional medicine professionals (who do not have an ego problem) acknowledge patient success with the “outside,” it’s always with the statement “keep doing what you are doing” because the conventional medicine people do not know or understand. It is a patient’s responsibility to be proactive with their health management and investigate ANY and ALL health providers! You are doing a disservice in badmouthing all complementary modalities and practitioners.

  21. beatis August 22, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Our beef is not with complementary treatments, but with alternative medicine.

  22. Morgan Giddings October 22, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Good one here. But wrong.

    In 1984, when Barry Marshall proposed that H pylori causes stomach ulcers, he was accused of many things, because it was “known” by the “medical establishment” that ulcers were caused by stress and stomach acid. Except that they weren’t. It was only because of Dr. Marshall’s tremendous persistence that ultimately he overcame the “skeptics” to demonstrate his theory was correct (much later winning the Nobel Prize in Medicine for it).

    New ideas – especially in the health arena – usually meet skepticism at best and outright hostility at worst. Marshall and many others met with hostility for their ideas – much like the hostility shown in your article.

    And here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter whether those ideas are a complete fantasy (which many are), or whether they in fact have some basis in reality (which some do).

    They all get lumped in together by posts like yours that propose this axiom to us: If it is not “mainstream” and therefore approved by doctors today, it is therefore “magical thinking.” Are doctors and scientists today “All knowing?” Being a practicing scientist myself, methinks not.

    That Youtube video posted above refers to the “unexplained”.

    Here’s the problem: cancer IS unexplained. Yes, we know there are mutations in cancer suppressor genes like p53 that are usually associated with cancer, but they are not causative.

    Furthermore, cancer is not actually one disease, it is a spectrum. There are multiple strains of each cancer – e.g. multiple strains of breast cancer, which give entirely different prognoses and require different treatments (one of my colleagues Charles Perrou showed this).

    And, even once we do fully elucidate the “cause” of cancer, it does not tell us another important thing – the status of the functioning of the individual human system in which the cancer has occurred.

    That means that the current “conventional treatments” sometimes work – and sometimes don’t.

    As well, certain alternative treatments may sometimes work.

    Here’s the crux. There’s such a strong anti-alternative bias in the mainstream (as exemplified by this closed-minded article) that most alternatives never undergo rigorous clinical testing.

    The lack of rigorous testing can’t be confused with the lack of function.

    I had one relative who had years of heart troubles that over 10 different specialists could not solve. I solved it by suggesting more magnesium in her diet. When this “miraculous” cure (which is not so miraculous after all) actually worked, one of her doctors used it on his wife, who was suffering from the same problems as my relative. She was “miraculously cured” also. Given that Mg serves as a cofactor with around 300 enzymes in the body, it’s no wonder that a deficiency would lead to troubles. However, again, the “mainstream” is totally ignorant of this. When I told my doctor about it, she was skeptical at best – despite all the evidence. She was skeptical because her other doctor friends, and the drug companies, do not ever talk about it. Nobody would make any money.

    Articles like this fall prey to the very same magical thinking that they accuse others of. It’s the “magical thinking” that “we know it all” and that our treatments are perfect.

    But, our treatments are not perfect – my father died from cancer because they are not (yes, he went with “conventional” treatment, and it didn’t work).

    You do not know it all. I don’t. Nobody does.

    Yes, we should use “evidence based” medicine wherever and whenever possible. But the reality is that often, the “evidence” is lacking – on both the conventional and alternative side. That leaves patients vulnerable and scrambling for solutions – ANY solution. This leads them to be more likely to fall prey to real snake oil salesmen who are trying to scam them.

    If, instead, “conventional medicine” acknowledged its own limitations, and didn’t have such an “anti alternative” stance, we could actually start collecting data about which alternatives actually have some effect, and more importantly, why they have an effect. This would actually benefit “conventional medicine” in the sense of providing enhanced treatment based on what we discover from alternatives (have you ever asked yourself: where did aspirin come from? Tamoxifen? etc..)

    That is, after all, what science is all about is having an open mind, testing ideas about what might work and collecting evidence that either falsifies it or doesn’t.

  23. beatis October 24, 2010 at 9:24 am

    @ Morgan Giddings

    It seems you have missed the point of this post.

    First of all, nowhere in this post – or on this entire blog for that matter – do we claim that conventional medicine for cancer is perfect.

    What we do claim – and which is what the article is about – is that it is dangerous for cancer patients to forgo all conventional treatments and rely on alternative treatments only to treat their cancer.

    The point that many alternative therapies are making is that conventional cancer medicine is useless – either because it is nothing but a big money scam of the pharmaceutical industry and all the doctors who are in cahoots with them to make as much money as possible, or because scientists as a class are by definition incapable of “thinking outside the box” and therefore can’t see the answers that lie right in front of their noses. Consequently, so they say, the best thing a cancer patient can do if he wants to survive is to rely on alternative treatments only and to stay away from conventional cancer medicine as far as possible.

    A quick search on the internet will show you just how many times this kind of dangerous “advice” is given. When you’re desperate and scared, it is very easy to believe the stories saying you don’t need a mastectomy, or chemotherapy, or radiation or any other of the conventional cancer treatments that scare you so much.

    So people fall for them and in the worst case they pay with their life, for it often takes just a short time for cancer to go form curable to incurable.

  24. mindy November 23, 2010 at 1:15 am

    Modern Medicine is great usually if there is a clear cut answer. Here is the situation. Dr’s are in a rush and don’t always take the time to figure out what is really wrong with you, they are so over worked and limited by the insurance companies, i get that. Do your job though. If there is not a clear and definite answers as to what is wrong with you right off the bat, you are shuffled and shuffled and shuffled from one appointment to another in 15 minute intervals, to doctor after doctor, who is expecting you to ask for certain tests, then they can run them (if you know what tests to ask for). If not, you have had your 15 minutes, it is on to the next patient. A year and a half later you are worse then you started, you are on 15 medications that make no sense and each Dr. can’t figure out why the other DR. put you on THAT medication and you end up sitting in front of the DR. you started with who hasn’t read or kept very good notes and wants to try the same thing he suggested the first time you were in, and they still can’t tell you what is wrong. Their is a breakdown in communication between Dr. to Dr. and Dr to patient. Plus the Dr. ‘s really aren’t telling you what medications are for, what the theory is behind using the medication, and what common signs, positive or negative, to look for in that specific medication, and what might be going wrong in your body. Feel like less than a number yet? So people are down and out and looking for Hope. Where do they turn? Alternative Medicine. The alternatives take 1 and 1/2 more hours with you and charge a pretty penny, not covered by insurance, put you on some kind of stringent nutritional diet, tell you to use a certain lab not covered by insurance-that you are stuck trying to decipher, charge you again to give you the results of the lab tests and give you some theories that seem logic based and then only call you back if it looks like you might still have some money left over. Talk about a catch 22. With all the data out there about you, you could clone yourself. The answers to what is wrong is staring both industries right in the face but no one takes the time to read the other guys notes.

  25. Ikaruga November 29, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Well, I’d like to resent your dislike of magical practices.

    Some people go clubbing, others do drugs, others actually practice sports, I summon things, and sometimes it actually works.

    Besides, most of the crew here, they’re all alchemists in disguise, I know for a fact that most of them use their secret recipes, mixing carefully the ingredients in a mystical way, then they heat the stuff, real hot.

    Then they eat the cake, thus, making it invisible to the naked eye.

  26. beatis November 29, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Then they eat the cake, thus, making it invisible to the naked eye.

    Isn’t that always the case with cake once it’s been eaten?

    I summon things, and sometimes it actually works.

    As a matter of fact, I summoned you this morning, and here you are!

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