Journals of Alternative Medicine: insufficient scepticism = Cargo Cult Science

Or: Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose

Starring the “Mellow rats in pyramids”, with walk-ons for the late Jacques Benveniste (boo), Richard Feynman (science guru Nobel prize winner) and James Randi (magic man and debunker). Join Dr Aust on a wander through the wacky world of Journals that look like scientific ones, but aren’t.

 

 

One of the things about “Alternative Medicine” – AltMed for short – that can surprise mainstream scientists is the sheer number of Journals of Alternative Worldview that are listed on Medline / PubMed. PubMed is the listing and indexing service run by the US National Library of Medicine, and being listed on PubMed is pretty much a must for any journal in medicine, or the biosciences, that wants to be taken even slightly seriously.

 

Once you start looking, there are loads and loads of alternative journals, many published by the same large publishing conglomerates that publish mainstream scientific and medical journals, like Elsevier and Blackwells. There’s money in AltMed. There is even one AltMed journal (Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, aka eCAM) published by the normally thoroughly sensible, and impeccably academic, Oxford University Press.

 

Now, some alternative types would have you believe that they are ruthlessly and unfairly excluded from the mainstream, and that that is why they need their own journals. Not so. It is perfectly possible to publish well-constructed research into complementary and alternative therapies in mainstream medical journals. Studies of things like herbal medicines, acupuncture, or even homeopathy, appear regularly in places like the British Medical Journal, The Lancet, the Annals of Internal Medicine, and so on.

 

 

So the dedicated AltMed journals are just taking the “overspill”, right?

 

Well, not quite. There is a noticeable difference between the AltMed journals, and the mainstream journals that publish studies in alternative medicine.

 

Essentially, many of the “dedicated” AltMed journals, and notably their peer reviewers, display an astounding lack of scientific scepticism.

 

In a nutshell, they don’t have any.

 

Reading the AltMed journals one always has a weird sense of entering The Twilight Zone, or some other kind of parallel reality – “It’s science, Jim, but not as we know it”. The reason for this is that the papers are set out exactly like mainstream scientific papers – they look like the real thing.

 

But looks can be deceptive. Because despite the appearance, a critical ingredient of science is lacking – scientific scepticism.. No-one here seems to ever ask; “Am I fooling myself? Is it really clear that this effect occurs by some mysterious energy-force? Have I eliminated all the possible less exciting explanations?”

 

The authors of the paper don’t ask themselves this. And the peer-reviewers, who are probably authors of similar studies themselves, don’t ask the authors either. And the editors – well, see peer reviewers, or authors.

 

A hypothetical example of what most scientists would say ought to be the thought-process would run something like this.

 

“Hmm, before I publish this paper that says that Reiki Healers can make peoples’ painful knees feel better, which would mean the Healers can beam healing invisible energy out of their hands, I should check out exactly how reliable the patients’ own estimates of how much their knees hurt are, especially how much the reported symptoms vary day-to-day…. And I should check how often a painful knee would just start to feel better of its own accord… and perhaps I should see how much “healing effect” the patients report they get if I pay an actor to pretend to be a Reiki Healer.”

 

In other words, before you blithely publish something which requires the wholesale dumping of the known laws of physics, chemistry and biology, you should make absolutely sure that there is not an obvious explanation for what you thought you saw.

 

One of my scientific heroes, Richard Feynman, nailed this more than thirty years ago in a famous speech about what he called “Cargo Cult Science”, given as the Commencement address at Caltech in 1974, and reproduced in the brilliant book “Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman!”.

 

 

Talking about “science that isn’t science”, Feynman said:

 

“I call these things Cargo Cult Science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential…”


“Now it behooves me, of course, to tell you what they’re missing. …there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science. That is… a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty – a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid – not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked – to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated” [1]

 

Let’s apply this kind of logic to a real example from an AltMed journal .

Here is the “Mellow rats in pyramids” study, published earlier this year in eCAM. [2].

 

Housing in Pyramid Counteracts Neuroendocrine and Oxidative Stress Caused by Chronic Restraint in Rats

M.S. Bhat, G. Rao, K.D. Murthy & P.G. Bhat

eCAM 2007 4(1):35-42.

 

The first sentence sets the scene:

 

“Pyramid research to date reveals some evidence that the space within the great pyramid and its smaller replicas enhances, intensifies and/or generates energy of the electromagnetic spectrum and other forms or degrees of the so-called universal energy.”

 

Hmmm. Incidentally, the reference cited for this “pyramid research to date” is not a scientific study. It is a thirty-year old book extolling the healing powers of pyramids [3].

 

A quick summary of the paper. The authors took rats and placed them in very small cages for 6 hrs a day for 14 days to cause stress. At the end of the 14 days they measured several parameters related to neuroendocrine and oxidative (free radical) stress, including blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Placing the rats in the small cages raised their cortisol levels. But the cortisol level did not rise if the small cages with the rats in were placed inside a large wooden pyramid (picture here). In contrast, placing the small cages inside a large square wooden box gave values similar to when the “stress cages” were left on a lab bench.

 

The authors’ conclusion: being in a wooden pyramid made the rats less stressed.

 

 

So what is wrong with the paper?

 

The problem is that there is not enough information to rule out a whole load of possibly “confounding” explanations.

 

One major possibility is differences in animal handling. Handling lab animals, if they are not accustomed to it, is a major stressor. Being picked up and moved between cages is stressful. Thus any systematic difference in how animals are handled can show up in the results – for instance if the animals going into the pyramid were not handled identically to the others.

 

Time of day is another possibility. Stress hormones like cortisol have diurnal rhythms. The blood samples were all taken at the same time of day (within an hour), but the time of day the stress was applied could make a difference.

 

Next, the surroundings could make a difference. How shielded were all the housings (especially the wooden pyramid and box) from sources of noise?

 

Or – how crowded were the cages are in which the rats were housed when not in the stress cages? Another thing that would make a difference to stress responses. Were all the rats housed in identical-sized groups?

 

And so on.

 

None of the above, NB, implies deliberate “fixing”. It can easily be just a readiness to believe the improbable, and thus to accept said improbable at face value instead of looking for an explanation in terms of the already known. There are lots of ways unconscious biases can creep in. For instance, suppose an animal technician does the rat handling. Suppose one day he notices his bosses are happier with their experimental results when the rats that went into the pyramid were the ones he happened to have handled a bit more than the others, perhaps because these rats had been in his animal house slightly longer. The technician wants his bosses to be happy, so he keeps doing it.

 

To reiterate, the point is that one can think of many other explanations for the “pyramid stress reduction” effect, explanations that are not ruled out by the information given in the paper and do not require one to accept that a wooden pyramid produces a soothing effect that a similarly-sized square-sided wooden box does not.

 

So what should the authors have done? Well, I would argue that they should have told us, in detail, exactly how they made utterly sure there was no possibility of these kinds of effect occurring and “contaminating” the results. See Feynman above.

 

However, no such information appears in the paper. There is no discussion at all of the inherent biological implausibility of the result. There is no explicit discussion of how confounding effects were avoided.

 

Instead the authors quote a number of “studies” reporting on effects of sitting in pyramids in humans (again, not one of these is a study published in an actual scientific journal, even a complementary one) and then comment:

“[Our work] suggests that the shape of the housing has its effects [on stress] and pyramid shape appears to have beneficial effects… Thus, sitting inside a pyramid-shaped structure can be used as an effective technique for stress management and for non-invasive treatment of diseases in which the role of free radicals and ROS has been implicated.”

 

 

Music, I predict, to the ears of pyramid sellers everywhere.

 

Unfortunately, this intrinsic suspension of disbelief is rife among people looking into alternative therapies. They just don’t get it. Instead, what we get is – Cargo Cult City.

 

 

 

Enter M. le Docteur Benveniste

Perhaps the ur-example of recent years of suspending disbelief is the celebrated 1988 Nature paper by the late Jacques Benveniste and his co-workers [4]. This paper purported to provide evidence that homeopathic dilutions of antibodies (i.e. solutions so repeatedly diluted that there was not a single molecule of antibody left in them) could cause activation of mast cells (cells that release histamine and give you allergic reactions). The mast cells are activated by antibody. Except that here there wasn’t any.

 

The measurements in the paper involved an observer counting reddish-coloured cells in among a big mish-mash of cells under a microscope. About one in a hundred cells or less was expected to be red.

 

Applying our rule of scepticism, to make sure you were not fooling yourself in this experiment, you would want to rule out a whole range of possibilities: inconsistent counting, bias in counting (person counting knows in advance what answer they want to get), selective “editing” of results (only keeping results of counts on days when the results went the preferred way) etc etc.

 

As the subsequent report of Nature’s investigators (Nature editor John Maddox and two others) makes clear [5], the Benveniste lab took no precautions to avoid any of these problems. None. In other words, they totally failed to ask themselves what the ways were that their truly startling “result” (apparent immune reaction-generating activity of solutions with no antibodies left in them) could have been generated by observer bias. And then construct an experiment that systematically eliminated the chance for such bias to shape the results.

 

When the investigators did exactly that, the “startling” result vanished completely.

 

Of course, Benveniste’s paper had in the meantime been seized upon by homeopaths as proof that the water in infinitely-diluted (homeopathic) solutions could “remember” the structure of something that had once been in it. This idea, of course, flies in the face of all of physics and chemistry as we know it. The homeopaths refused to accept Nature’s explanation of why the experiment was totally unreliable, preferring to see conspiracy theory and suppression.

 

Scientists just saw a bunch of credulous and technically naive workers who had mislaid their scepticism – a classic piece of Cargo Cult Science. And when it further emerged that two of the people in the lab had been having their salaries paid by a company – Boiron – that manufactured homeopathic remedies, Benveniste was sunk.

 

Benveniste claimed to his dying day that he had been wronged, and that his failure to get research money from the French Govt afterwards showed that he had been “silenced”.

A less hysterical view would be that once he had been very publically shown to have mislaid his appreciation of basic statistics, or any recognition of the need to eliminate conscious and unconscious biases from his labs’ work, people began to wonder whether you could believe the work they produced on other topics, and effectively figured that putting more money into his lab was a waste of time. After all, if you can’t do an experiment properly, the data you generate cannot be relied on by anyone else. And if your data can’t be relied on, they are useless.

 

 

But…. The Alternativists have a counter-argument.

“That’s NOT FAIR”, they say. “You don’t make the mainstream scientists do all this extra work eliminating every possible source of bias. Why should we do it, when they don’t have to?”

 

This sounds good, but the main answer is actually an obvious one. The wilder and less plausible the statement, or the supposed experimental result, the better quality the evidence for it has to be.

 

And this finally, is where James Randi comes in. Randi was one of the people Nature sent to investigate Benveniste’s lab.

 

At the end of Nature’s report on the affair, the Nature trio describe trying to explain to Benveniste and his team, both why the data were seriously flawed, and also why the data needed to be watertight (which they clearly weren’t) if their “effect of no molecules” were to be believed.

 

““If I told you that I keep a goat in the backyard of my house” Randi said “…and if you happened to have a man nearby, you might ask him to look over my garden fence, when he’d say “That man keeps a goat”. But what would you do if I said “I keep a unicorn in my backyard?”” [5]

 

In essence, would you accept the same level of proof for the second statement as for the first? Of course you wouldn’t. You would want photographs, experts’ reports, forensic horn analysis, x-rays and DNA genetic testing before you would accept that the animal was what it was said to be. And quite right too.

 

Unfortunately, too often AltMed people are like Fox Mulder. They simply “want to believe”.

 

The counter-argument is put most pithily, as usual, by Feynman.

 

“The first principle [of scientific integrity] is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.” [1].

 

Words to live by.

If you stick to that, you are a scientist. If you don’t, you are into Cargo Cult territory. And all the AltMed journals in the world won’t change that.

 

 

1. Feynman RP (1974) reprinted in “Surely you’re joking, Mr Feynman” 1985.

2. Bhat MS, Rao G, Murthy KD, Bhat PG. (2007). Housing in pyramid counteracts neuroendocrine and oxidative stress caused by chronic restraint in rats.Evid Bas Comp Alt Med 4(1):35-42.

3. Schul, B, Pettit, E. (1975). The Secret Power of Pyramids. New York: Fawcett Gold Medal.

4. Davenas EF et al. (1988) “Human basophil degranulation triggered by very dilute antiserum against IgE”, Nature, 333(6176):816-18.

5 Maddox, James Randi and Walter W. Stewart (1988). ““High dilution” experiments a delusion.” Nature 334: 287-290.  Full text online here

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25 Responses to “Journals of Alternative Medicine: insufficient scepticism = Cargo Cult Science”

  1. woodchopper Says:

    An excellent post. Very well written and informative.

  2. jdc Says:

    Great post, Dr Aust – an interesting topic, some really good examples and it’s all topped off with some fine quotes from Feynman.

  3. Rob Hinkley Says:

    The first thing I thought of after reading the Rats In Pyramids paper was that the sloping walls of the pyramid box would cause air to circulate through it differently than through the cubic box. This difference in ventilation would result in different temperatures and different air quality within the two containers, which might be expected to affect the rats. The absolute minimum required to control for that is to (a) monitor the temperature in the rats’ “stress” cages, and (b) compare their pyramid-housed rats with rats housed in a conical container, and with rats housed in the same pyramid but with a different arrangement of air holes.

  4. Dr* T Says:

    It’s reading great pieces like this that make me embarassed to even have a blog! A worthy spleen-vent.

  5. emily Says:

    I’m sorry but your critique of the rats paper seems the usual ‘I didn’t like the result so you must have done it wrong’ argument raising the usual suspects and doing the magical scientistic debunking dance. No rat science papers, regardless of the independent variables site these effects, or measure them, or in most cases can measure them. And I would argue that woo woo researchers shouldn’t be held to a higher standard than caner or depression researchers.

    Yes, the finding is probably bollocks but the reason is far simpler and it *is* reported in the paper. Rats experiencing stress prefer a degree of visual enclosure and cover (as an anti preditor instinct). this is why most careful researchers doing stressful research give rats nest boxes or have part of their translucent cage covered in paint or duct tape.

    A pyramid that is 30 incles high and 45 inches at the base offers more overhead and lateral cover than a box with the same dimenions. the position of the window means overall light levels probably also differ and maybe heat (as mentioned above) to a small degree. Of course I would have to test this to know for sure but I have done a lot of work with rats and would be pretty confident of the outcome.

  6. apgaylard Says:

    Excellent post. The ‘counting’ experiment of Benveniste has some parallels with Blondlot and his ‘N-Rays’. It’s quite nicely covered by Langmuir in his famous ‘Pathological Science’ talk.

    http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~ken/Langmuir/langB.htm#Nrays

    Shows how easy it is to decieve yourself.

  7. draust Says:

    Hi Emily

    Good to have a proper animal behaviourist’s view. I bow to your far superior knowledge of rats (NB that is not meant as a facetious or snarky comment – from a look at your site you clearly are far more expert in rattery than I am). Anyway, happy to believe that it is a quite probably a question of the environment in the stress chamber, notably cover / light / temperature.

    However, that is surely just reinforcing my general point – namely that the authors did not make a sufficiently serious attempt to exclude perfectly comprehensible “non-mystic” explanations, which I think is typical of AltMed work

    While the rats in pyramids paper authors did physically describe the experimental pyramid and box, they never once suggested that these structures might be having an effect because of variations in things like cover, light, heat and air quality. They did not test these alternatives, or, as Rob said, measure temperature. Nor did they interpret their results in terms of any of these kinds of possible variables. They didn’t even just settle for saying “this particular pyramid appeared to do something the wooden box didn’t, which we can’t explain”. The interpretation of the results was 100% in terms of pyramids producing mysterious “energy fields”, with no meaningful discussion of any non-loopy alternatives.

    “Our observations are similar to the effects of bioresonance therapy that normalized the activities of SOD and GSH-Px in blood lymphocytes of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (52), thus suggesting the presence of a magnetic field in the pyramid, similar to that used in bioresonance therapy, as claimed by pyramidologists (53).”

    Re. it being unreasonable to hold the Alties to a higher standard of proof, I don’t agree with you there. It depends what they are claiming to be showing. Extraordinary claims (like wooden pyramids having undetectable energy fields) require first-rate evidence, because the experiment cannot be presented and interpreted in a vacuum. The data has to be read in terms of the prevailing state of knowledge on the subject, and thus of the strong evidence for all the other things that are already known to effect similar measurements – e.g. here the things you and Rob have described, or perhaps some of the things I have listed.

    I would agree that not all mainstream scientists do all the controls they could usefully do, but then they are not usually asking you to believe that the moon is made of green cheese. And work in the mainstram usually gets repeated, at least as carefully, by other people, so mistakes get re-explored / corrected.

    Your comments also highlight, at least to me, the flaws in the referee-ing process in places like eCAM. Given what you have said, I cannot believe that anyone with an expert knowledge of rats and/or stress studies can have refereed the paper, otherwise the possible confounding effects would have been pointed out and the authors would have had to address them. But if an expert reviewer didn’t review it, what is their peer review process worth? I guess one could say this just tells us that eCAM is a poor quality journal, and that it certainly appears to be. But I stick to my view that this piss-poor reviewing, and level of credulity, is typical of AltMed journals in general.

  8. David Colquhoun Says:

    A really good bit of analysis. Great stuff.

  9. At the risk of repeating myself: more on AltMed journals « Dr Aust’s Spleen Says:

    [...] Dr Aust’s Spleen A grumpy scientist writes « Journals of Alternative Medicine: insufficient scepticism = Cargo Cult Science [...]

  10. Sili Says:

    What I’d love to see, is the animal ‘rights’ people’s reaction to this kind of experimentation.

    I’d wager that there’s a significant overlap between those two groups of woowoos. (And I’d love to see the infighting – let’s be honest.)

    Even simpler difference in set-up: They claim that these pyramids must be built as scalemodels of the Kheops/Khufu pyramid. Then why not use three or four pyramids of various slopes. That way it would almost be possible to blind the experiment relative to the investigators too.

  11. Mrs Trellis Says:

    I very much liked this article, as always. However, after listening to last night’s File on Four regarding use of possibly contaminated cell lines in cancer research, I began idly wondering where these alt-med researchers get their funding.

    Is it mostly donations from private indivduals, charity grants or some other funding source?

    Any information you could give would be received with great interest.

  12. draust Says:

    Good question, Mrs T.

    I don’t know any info or survey about funding for research into AltMed. Some funding will no doubt be from companies that make CAM remedies (like Boiron, or Lichtwehr, although I don’t think they fund much in the UK), some will be from private donors, and some wll be Govt-derived (NHS, MRC, etc in the UK, NIH in the US)

    David Colquhoun has been arguing recently that the Govt shouldn’t spend money on this, and that if it does it should not let the AltMed types have a hand in deciding how to dish the cash out unless they can admit (i) that good evidence of lack of efficacy trumps bad evidence of efficacy (for CAM therapies), and (ii) that definitive evidence for efficacy (or lack of it) should be actively sought.

    Colquhoun argues that historically the AltMed advocate types have tried to steer funding for CAM research away from people – like Professor Edzard Ernst – who are really committed to working out if CAM things works or not. The US National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), which is part of the NIH, has been heavily criticised on similar grounds. Sceptics and scientists say NCCAM has spent close to a billion US taxpayer dollars so far and has not got anywhere closer to working out if the therapies are effective, largely because they have not funded projects to look.

    I must say that from reading CAM research, unless it is in a non-CAM specialist (i.e. mainstream) journal I am highly suspicious of it. As this post and the subsequent one indicate, you can have “peer review” without anyone asking relevant tough questions, and it seem to me that this scepticism-free attitude is rife at AltMed journals.

    One can make the same argument for the funding of AltMed projects. If you fill a funding panel with committed AltMed “integrative therapy” types, the danger is that they will suggest more of the same people to review proposals by yet more of the same people. In essence, what you get is a circle of friends, and scepticism and “does it work” won’t get a look in. In this sort of system you will end up funding lots of “here’s a new type of CAM investigation, aura photography, let’s run a badly-designed trial on it” rather than “let’s run a well-designed trial to say once and for all if Valerian works as a sleep remedy”.

  13. Muscleman Says:

    it seems to me that a much better control for pyramid effects than a box is a cone. It is as close to a pyramid as you can get in terms of height, tapering etc. If I can think of this in 5 minutes reading this then surely it should have occurred to the researchers? After all in good science sometimes designing the right control is the hardest part of experimental design. The number of experiments I could have done if only I could have controlled them. Oh to be a CAM researcher…

  14. emily Says:

    Certainly if they would like their ratwoo papers refereed I would be happy to do as as I (and others) do for other rigorously peer review journals–the ‘peers’ chosen should be rats scientists after all if the study is on (and thus unavoidably about) rats.

    I would say in response to coments that animal rights is not innately ‘woo’ at all–nor indeed is animal psychic research or any philosophy if actually subjected to falsifiable testing. It may be a little anti-Occam but then so is a lot of respectable theory at the outset. The proof is in the procedure and even a rampant reductionalist like myself will take an experiment on its merits. I can’t say I have found a good paper to make me rethink my behaviorist stance yet but as a good scientist I also have to be ready to change my position based on valid evidence.

    Personally I still would not hold wooscience to a higher standard. There is indeed a lot of cancerwoo, anorexiawoo and other ratwoo out there that shouldn’t get a free pass either (and is). Otherwise what we end up with is the insidious confirmatory bias.

    p.s. the idea of a cone control is nicely elegant. It does indeed control for air mass, overhead and lateral cover and could be equalised for light and temperature with little effort! I am sure the authors would be delighted to hear the idea (or perhaps not) LOL

  15. draust Says:

    Yes, the cone is a neat control – I guess the only difficulty would be fabricating one out of the same material as the pyramid and box (wood, which I would guess would be sheet plywood). Not easy to bend plywood, although it can be done, as a lot of expensive architectural furniture demonstrates.

    The idea of who / how one picks to referee a paper comes back to the role of journal editors. A few years back I interviewed for a job as a “manuscript handler” (person who “triages” submissions, decides what gets referee-d and who to send things to) at a well-known general science journal. One of the Qs I got asked was: “for these three papers we have given you, what sorts of referees (i.e. in what sort of specialist field) would you send them to?”.

    Clearly a paper on stress effects in rats should go to at least one referee expert in stress studies in lab animals, and probably an animal behaviourist too if the stress study expert is not a behaviour person. At a mainstream journal I would expect that to be who they would get. But at an AltMed journal…?

    The trouble with the existence of all the Woo-journals running scepticism-free “apparent peer-review” is that these studies are then quoted by Woo-fans as “real scientific evidence from real scientists for the effect of whatever Energy-woo” (or similar). See the subsequent post on this topic for an example.

    The message, of course, being that there is expert peer review, and then there is “expert peer review”. And it is the standing of the journal (and I don’t just mean the Impact Factor) that really tells you how expert / rigorous the reviewing will have been.

    One eminent scientist who I was talking to recently about the Woo-journals said: “Well it really is genuine “peer” review, isn’t it? Their peers are all the other people who believe in magic, and that’s who reviews the stuff”.

  16. emily Says:

    I guess it is peer review to that extent ;). But boy would my life be easier if I could specify that my papers were reviewed only by behaviorists rather than experts in the content from any philosophy…. not ‘better’ mind you, just easier.

  17. Joe Says:

    Concerning “cargo cult science,” I don’t have “Surely You’re Joking …” at hand; but my copy of “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out” (Perseus, 1999) is in front of me, and the “cargo” speech is Chapter 10 in that book.

    As for peer-review in CAM magazines, if one is a quack one’s peers are quacks. I adopted a rule that I do not bother looking at articles in CAM journals.

    Even in good journals, peer review can be inadequate (Dr. Aust knows that- this is for non-scientists); so publication is really just the first step in scientific acceptance. A few years ago, homeopaths were raving over a small (ca. 20 subjects) study showing the utility of one of their preps. A more careful analysis showed that the placebo group was significantly sicker than the treated group. This happens quite often (as does the opposite) in such small studies, despite true random assignment of subjects.

  18. Tsu Dho Nimh Says:

    “The authors’ conclusion: being in a wooden pyramid made the rats less stressed.”

    DUH! The authors didn’t make the shapes of the same volume. Rats do NOT like being in exposed areas … and looking at the wooden pyramid and box, they got lower average ceilings in the pyramid, hence less stress from a feeling of being exposed.

  19. draust Says:

    Yes, that’s just what Emily, our animal scientist / rat behaviourist commentator, said, Tso – see her comment from Nov 16th.

    It is a classic example of both the Feynman point – in real science you have to work hard to eliminate confounding effects, and if you don’t it’s not real science – and the credulity of the authors AND the referee-ing in AltMed journals.

    And not just the authors and referees – the whole ethos of the AltMed journals is credulous, from the editors on down.

  20. The twelve days of (alternative) Christmas « Dr Aust’s Spleen Says:

    [...] Nine worthless journals [...]

  21. simone Says:

    how about that :

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=94019645

    and that:

    http://www.physorg.com/news73996014.html

  22. Chris Says:

    Simone, you don’t seem to get the point, do you? Homeopaths like yourself seem to lack reading comprehension skills. Another reason to avoid you all like the plague.

  23. Conventional And Alternative Journals « Stuff And Nonsense Says:

    [...] Aust, meanwhile, has been quite outspoken on the trouble with CAM journals: here, and in a follow-up post. The follow-up post contains a summary of what Dr Aust perceives as being [...]

  24. Chiropractic For Autism « Stuff And Nonsense Says:

    [...] Aust has also been quite outspoken on the trouble with CAM journals: here, and in a follow-up post. The follow-up post contains a summary of what Dr Aust perceives as being [...]

  25. Psorinum therapy – homeopathy for cancer? « Anomalous Distraction Says:

    [...] reviewers not ask themselves where the controls in this study where? However, this was published in eCAM and this is clearly labelled as a prospective study – maybe I am being too [...]

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