About

The Quackometer started as an experiment to see if it is easy to spot quack web sites just from the language they use.

Several people have noted how quack web-sites use similar language and vocabulary and once you can spot the patterns, spotting quackery is easy. Quack words include “energy”, “holistic”, “vibrations”, “magnetic healing”, “quantum” . These words are usually borrowed from physics and used to promote dubious health claims. As such, their use is pseudoscientific and just meant to impress and bamboozle the gullible.

So, is it possible to spot a quack web site just from its use of language? Is is possible to automate the process? The Quackometer intends to find out…

If this works, then all the public need do when faced with suspicious claims, is put the suspect URL into this web site and my little friend, the black duck, will analyse the page and give a verdict.

About Me

My name is Andy Lewis and I am the inventor of the quackometer. I also write the blog.

The Quackometer and blog are experiments in critical thinking. If you read what I am writing, I very rarely venture past using a basic understanding of science. Most of the time, what I am doing is spotting common errors of thinking and argument, such as post hoc thinking, magical thinking, selective thinking and appeals to authority. As such, examining the claims of alleged quacks rarely relies on detailed medical knowledge. As such, being critical of health claims rarely needs detailed medical knowledge and, as I hope this is something we can all take part in and debate.

A common response to my posts has been to question my qualifications for writing. This is known as an ad hominem attack and I will always try not to engage. The truth of whether homeopathy is better than a placebo has nothing to with what exams I have sat, and how many hours I have studied homeopathy texts. Either it works or it doesn’t. Our food today is either OK to eat or worryingly nutrient poor. The certificates on my study wall have nothing to do with this. These days, we all have access to vast amounts of information on the web. I want to debate what is good evidence and what is rubbish. I want to see who is presenting good arguments for their claims and who is talking gobbledegook.
For this reason, I do not want to offer chances for my critics to start fights about my education. I want to stick to the arguments. I am not trying to be anonymous. You can contact me whenever you like and I will gladly engage with you, but lets focus on the arguments rather than personal details.

Oh, and the usual disclaimer. This is a site about critical thinking – it is not giving medical advice. Go and see your doctor if something is worrying you.

Who Funds This Site?

If I had a pound for every quack who has accused me of being in the pay of ‘Big Pharma’ I would be richer than if I was really in their pay.

It looks like accusing someone of just being a shill for evil medical interests is a standard way that quacks avoid answering the criticisms made against them. Its very shallow. An experiment can be good and a scientific conclusion sound even if someone is receiving money from someone you don’t like. I always try to criticise the science first – and then look for potential sources of conflict of interest if the science is found to be wanting. Quacks often do it the other way around. They use potential sources of conflict of interest as excuses for ignoring the evidence. Ignoring the science and just calling ‘shill’ is tantamount to calling someone a fraud – but in a cowards way.

So, for the record. This site costs less than a hundred quid per year to run. I do stuff in my own time and do not rely on contributions. I do not solicit contributions. I will be opening a quackometer shop to sell the odd mug or t-shirt. Hopefully, this will cover my hosting costs. Any excess will be used to buy dodgy quack products or services in order to show how real they are.

What is Quackery?

Definitions are hard. You could argue that one person’s quack is another’s health professional. I do not want to limit the definition to just those people who practice Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Your local GP may, on occaisions, resort to quackery. Also, a CAM practitioner may be very diligent in how they present themselves. I shall take a working definition from the excellent Quackwatch web site. This definition appears to be quite neutral as to what sort of person is the source of the quackery…

Quackery, in the broadest terms, is “anything involving overpromotion in the field of health.”

A quack is “a pretender to medical skill; a charlatan”
and “one who talks pretentiously without sound knowledge of the subject discussed.”
(This is is essential to the Quackometer Project as spotting quackery depends on spotting this pretentious, out-of-context vocabulary.)

Quackery is often, but not always, linked to health fraud where there is “the promotion, for profit, of a medical remedy known to be false or unproven.”

How can you spot Quack? – they nearly always do the following:-

  • Flaunted qualifications and credentials – this is just an ‘appeal to authority’. Quacks often award themselves impressive qualifications or buy them from non-accredited ‘colleges’ usually in he USA.
  • Exagerated and inflated claims – diets, cures or remedies appear to solve a whole host of illnesses and problems, not just one problem – they are non-specific. Foods are not just foods, but ‘superfoods’ etc.
  • More often seen on TV, newspapers, magazines with their ‘latest findings’ than in scientific journals, conferences, text books.
  • Works alone – a sole genius in a world that won’t listen.
  • Use of out-of-context language, e.g. energy, frequencies, vibrations, biomagnetic, quantum, detoxification, organic, holistic… These words are often stolen from other disciplines (usually physics) with the quack having no idea what they mean. Their use in health matters is pseudoscience and meant to sound impressive and to bamboozle the gullible.
  • Lots of impressive testimonials – little or no independent peer-reviewed research, no ballance in reviews of research, i.e. no mention of negative results, untracable privately published ‘research’, lots of ‘happy customers’. Testimonials count for nothing – anyone can get them for anything. People fool themselves over the effectiveness of treatments.
  • Claims to be standing up for ordinary people against the conspiracy of ‘big pharma’, doctors, scientist, the government, multinationals and other great evils (who might disagree with them).
  • Say there is always a need for a personalised questionaire, consultation, membership (with them, not your GP) – just a way to flog more rubbish.

…and much more, Maybe I can add to this list in my blog as time goes by.

Are Quacks Fraudsters?

Not necessarily.

In fact, I would sat that most people I have come across are not dishonest in the sense that they are knowingly ripping people off. Most quacks I discuss here genuinely believe what they are are talking about and think they are helping people. As such they are ‘good’ people.

What most quacks are guilty off, if anything, is a certain carelessness with the truth. They are delusional in that they hold false beliefs. Are they to blame for this? Not necessarily. We all hold delusional beliefs about one thing or another. Where culpability may start to creep in is when obvious canards get repeated in the face of them being shown to be false defenses. Homeopathists appear to be particularly good at this.

However, there are some real thieving gits out there too. People who knowingly are ripping people off. I will try to make this clear when I believe this to be true. However, motives are always are hard thing to fathom.

In he middle, is the quack who does not care about the truth. These are the Quack Bullshitters.

The Philosopher Harry Frankfurt wrote a rather marvelous essay entitled On Bullshit. It is worth quoting him,

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.

The Science of Quackometrics

The quackometer counts words in web pages that quacks tend to use. The more quack words, the more quackery is suspected. That is Quackometrics.

The basic problem is that spotting the suspect words that many sites use, such as ‘vibrations’ or ‘energy’ is just not good enough as ‘good science’ sites are quite at liberty to use them. Even spotting these words in close conjunction with health terms, such as ‘healing’ or ‘nutrients’, is not quite good enough. My own background was research within in nuclear medicine group and the researchers had lots of legitimate reasons to mention ‘magnets’ and ‘health’ in (almost) the same breath.

So – the site uses an algorithm roughly like this:
Keep a number of different dictionaries for use in tallying words in a web site
Load the suspect web page and strip as much out as possible, HTML tags, scripts, punctuation etc.
Count the number of words in each of the following dictionaries:
a) altmed terms: such as ‘homeopathic’, ‘herbal’, ‘naturopath’
b) pseudoscientific: clearly suspect terms that scientists rarely use such as ‘toxins’, ‘superfoods’.
c) domain specific words from biomed, physics or chemistry such as ‘energy’, ‘vibration’, ‘organic’.
d) skeptical words: words that no sincere homeopath would ever use, such as ‘placebo’, ‘flawed’, ‘crank’ or ‘prosecution’.
e) commerce terms that would indicate that something is for sale, such as ‘products’, ‘shipping’, or ‘p&p’.
f) Run a few other checks on pomo terms and religious terms, although not much is done with these.
Compare the ratio of frequency usage of these various types of terms and compare them to preset thresholds. If a threshold is exceeded then append the test’s associate sentence to the response. The tweaking I have been doing to the site has been adding words to dictionaries and varying the thresholds for matches.
This does not always work, Some quacks are very clever and avoid the obvious quack words. Nonetheless they still have completely hatstand ideas.

So, if anyone else has suggestions, then I would be very greatful. Just need to give up my real job to concentrate on this now.

91 comments for “About

  1. parveen smith
    February 13, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    I am not impressed with your way of almost making me feel and giving the public a view that I could be a possible charlatan. I have assisted many people on their individual journeys to seek confidence in who they are.

    Please take my details off your website.

    Thank you

    Parveen

    • Joanna
      August 27, 2015 at 4:28 am

      Should respect his belief and not call people quack. Andy Lewis you are a monster

      • August 27, 2015 at 7:11 pm

        Andy Lewis is a smug, arrogant asshat who thinks he knows far more than he does. He is convinced of his own brilliance to the point of being unable to see the flaws in his own reasoning.

        • August 27, 2015 at 8:55 pm

          Please feel free to point out any of the flaws in Andy’s reasoning you have spotted.

          • August 28, 2015 at 8:21 pm

            Already did. They flew straight over his head.

          • August 28, 2015 at 8:44 pm

            But hey… Don’t let me stop you from worshiping him. 😉

          • Andy Lewis
            August 28, 2015 at 9:26 pm

            I think it is worth pointing out Lottie that your lumpen comments are welcome as they are typical of those that claim to support so-called alternative medicine. You do your cause no good whatsoever.

          • August 28, 2015 at 9:42 pm

            It’s not my cause, Andy. I have no respect for anyone who claims to heal via general woo. It’s irresponsible at best, but your approach is doing nothing to advance your own cause because people tune you our for calling them idiots. I know that you are thoroughly convinced of your own brilliance and superiority, but that is the very thing that will prevent you from every being able to engage in any meaningful way with anyone who doesn’t already see things your way.

            But of course you’re going to lump we in with anyone else who isn’t one of your sycophants. Yet another way you prove my point about how self-important and self-absorbed you are.

          • Andy Lewis
            August 28, 2015 at 9:59 pm

            I do find it ironic that I am being given advice on my relationships with people I might disagree with from someone who came windmilling into this site calling people ‘asshats’.

          • August 28, 2015 at 10:24 pm

            Uh huh. And the point of doing so — to demonstrate how it does absolutely nothing to further the discussion — flew straight over your brilliant head. OK, I know you’ll lose sleep tonight if you don’t get the last word, so it’s all yours now. I swear. :p

        • Andy Lewis
          August 27, 2015 at 9:45 pm

          I await your critique of my reasoning to show me where I am wrong.

          • August 28, 2015 at 8:23 pm

            You already got it, Andy. Your inability to comprehend it is not my problem. But carry on being a complete douche since that’s really your area of expertise.

      • Andy Lewis
        August 27, 2015 at 9:45 pm

        Can you explain why I should respect people’s beiefs on health matters? If they cannot evidence what they claim and are charging money, they could be doing harm and/or ripping people off. Wy I should I respect that?

        • August 28, 2015 at 8:39 pm

          I actually agree with you on this. Completely and utterly. That doesn’t make you any less obnoxious or arrogant, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you arrived at your conclusions through flawless logic and reason, as you would have readers believe. The very people who you are trying to inform and educate are the ones you actually alienate by being a douche. That’s why I believe that your goal is not to inform and educate, but rather to belittle and humiliate people for the sole purpose of stroking your own ego and feeling superior. If you really want to get the word out, try exercising a little humility and stop talking down to people. Otherwise, you’re just another jerk on the internet seeking attention for yourself (not your alleged cause) and validation from like-minded people in your very own echo chamber. Your cause is worthwhile in every way, but you should be keeping the conversation flowing, not stopping it in its tracks by basically telling people who disagree with you how stupid they are.

          • Andy Lewis
            August 28, 2015 at 9:35 pm

            When you start pointing out any flaws you think are there and stop the crude insults then your own views may be respected.

          • August 28, 2015 at 9:45 pm

            Like I said, I already did. Your inability to comprehend it is not my problem. But I suppose the irony of you calling out someone else for being insulting flew straight over your head as well.

          • August 28, 2015 at 9:56 pm

            I’m sure the fact that my harsh approach served only to stop any meaningful dialogue in its tracks — and how that directly relates to your own crude approach — has totally escaped you as well. So much intelligence, but so little self-awareness. Shame, really.

          • Andy Lewis
            August 28, 2015 at 10:00 pm

            Have you been drinking?

    • August 27, 2015 at 7:14 pm

      I can hardly wait for the day that Andy Lewis gets smacked with a libel suit.

      • Andy Lewis
        August 27, 2015 at 9:47 pm

        Please try to keep up Lottie.

        • August 28, 2015 at 8:20 pm

          Oh! You’ve already been sued? Great! Sorry, but you’re just not interesting enough for me follow you that closely.

          • Andy Lewis
            August 28, 2015 at 9:23 pm

            But obviousy interesting enough to come back night after night with numerous witless posts,

          • August 28, 2015 at 9:30 pm

            Read much? I said YOU are not interesting enough for me to find out if you’ve ever been sued. Context matters. Calling out bullshit, on the other hand, does interest me. Big difference. Get over yourself.

          • August 28, 2015 at 9:34 pm

            Re: “witless posts”

            Yet another example of why you shouldn’t be taken seriously as someone who wants to inform and educate. You’re a self-important douchebag who appeals only to other self-important douchebags and your narcissism is glaring.

          • Andy Lewis
            August 28, 2015 at 9:37 pm

            And still you come back.

          • August 28, 2015 at 9:59 pm

            Oh, I see. You’re one of those people who needs to get the last word to feel like he’s “won”. Well, since my self worth isn’t tied up in anything so childish and petty, and yours obviously is, I’ll let you have the last word so that you don’t lose any sleep tonight. Cheers! :)

          • August 29, 2015 at 8:27 pm

            Oh! She’s still here.

          • August 29, 2015 at 8:35 pm

            Yet another genius who doesn’t understand context. But thanks for demonstrating the sub par level of discourse people can expect from this blog. :)

  2. Antares
    February 16, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Are you the Parveen Smith who offers “Angelic Reiki Healing”? Wow. It burns.

    In that case I suggest you read some more around this blog and find out why the Quackometer would rate you a possible charlatan…

    Greetings from Oslo,
    Daniel

  3. April 27, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Dear Mr Lewis, An earlier email from me may have just gone off to you unfinished due to my keyboard clumsiness. In brief I have received a “sore” of 6 canards from your Quackometer and wonder why when my site is also very critical of unsafe and unscientific methods in nutrition and the use of nutritional supplements. Is you assessment method perhaps just picking up on the fact that I am mentioning some of your undesirable key words? I would appreciate you comments. As you can see I have gone to a lot of trouble to reference my site so that it is acceptable to the students to whom I lecture and to my medical colleagues.

    • Dr Bob Qango PhD
      May 1, 2010 at 8:59 am

      Only six?

      By your own admission you specialise in homoeopathy (sic).

      Simply put, if water has been diluted to such a degree that it no longer contains any active ingredient, why not just drink water in the first place…

      Hey that is a great idea for my new my new pyramid scam…. 😀

      Thank you Dr Stewart.

      Best wishes,

      Dr Bob Qango PhD (PiL, HoCUS, Deconstructal-post-structuralist)

      • Mike O'Vacid
        May 5, 2010 at 4:37 pm

        Dear Bob Quango,

        I think Alan is sore that he only got 6 canards, other homoeopaths get much higher rating. Maybe he has been washed out and shaken too much by life’s experiences.

        Mike.

        • Phil Robinson
          April 29, 2013 at 8:03 pm

          Perhaps you have to spell the critical words – like ‘homeopath’ – correctly for them to register

  4. Kevin Cleary
    May 29, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    “Works alone – a sole genius in a world that won’t listen.”

    Hmmm . . . . now who does that remind me of?

    • Louken Foumorns
      November 6, 2010 at 6:13 pm

      “Works alone – a sole genius in a world that won’t listen.” – Andy Lewis (creator of the Quackometer)

  5. Jane
    September 15, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Great web site – commendable! Thanks for setting it up. However, after looking at the comments you have received, I wonder if you shouldn’t call it “The Quack Magnet” since you seem to attract the interest of so many ‘quacks’. :)

    Also, the “About me” section has about 3 – 4 paragraphs that a repeated.

    regards, Jane

  6. Lindsay Parkhurst
    October 24, 2010 at 1:37 am

    So how about the quack words “mind-body connection”, “stress-related symptoms”, Such is the garbage that flows through a website owned by Lynne Boutross, “a spiritual teacher and advisor born with the gift of clairvoyance” which she will gladly share with you at the rate of $200 per hour. Cash and checks only please. No insurance or credit cards. Not licensed professionally anywhere…she has been plying the internet wave for quite sometime now ever since she received her “masters” and “doctorate” in metaphysics from the American Institute of Holistic Therapy in 1998. Total time spent in earning these illustrious degrees was one year. Investigated by the State of Washington in 2009 for providing services which, under Washington law required a state license. No problem…let’s close up shop and move back to California where she has bombarded the internet with marketing trash designed to lure you in with promises of clarity and crystal clear guidance……careful folks, I’d watch my wallet if I were you

  7. Bill McAvoy
    October 24, 2010 at 1:39 am

    So how about the quack words “mind-body connection”, “stress-related symptoms”, Such is the garbage that flows through a website owned by Lynne Boutross, “a spiritual teacher and advisor born with the gift of clairvoyance” which she will gladly share with you at the rate of $200 per hour. Cash and checks only please. No insurance or credit cards. Not licensed professionally anywhere…she has been plying the internet wave for quite sometime now ever since she received her “masters” and “doctorate” in metaphysics from the American Institute of Holistic Therapy in 1998. Total time spent in earning these illustrious degrees was one year. Investigated by the State of Washington in 2009 for providing services which, under Washington law required a state license. No problem…let’s close up shop and move back to California where she has bombarded the internet with marketing trash designed to lure you in with promises of clarity and crystal clear guidance……careful folks, I’d watch my wallet if I were you

    • August 28, 2015 at 11:59 pm

      Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins also address stress symptoms. Are they all a bunch of quacks too?

      Indeed, stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. — Mayo Clinic

      Uh oh! Mayo Clinic said “stress symptoms” and used the words “thoughts and feelings” in the same sentence. Must be quacks!

      Stress management tactics such as deep breathing, meditation, exercise and healthy eating, are sometimes considered a better way to deal with stress than medication. — Johns Hopkins

      Holy cow! Johns Hopkins said “stress management” and then “deep breathing” and “meditation”. Quacks, the lot of them.

      I never would have pegged these guys as quacks. Thanks to Andy and his Quackometer, now I know not to trust either of these organizations high-ranking organizations.

      • August 29, 2015 at 12:46 am

        Aw, how cute. My comment is awaiting moderation. Must have hit a nerve today. I guess Andy really can’t sleep without getting the last word. 😉

      • Andy Lewis
        August 29, 2015 at 8:25 am

        What are you on about? WHy aon earth are you bringing these things up? What has stress management got to do with the price of fish?

        • August 29, 2015 at 8:00 pm

          I was responding directly the above comment which suggested that terms like “stress related symptoms” are “garbage that flows through a website owned by Lynne Boutross”, a spiritual teacher and advisor [sic]. I was merely pointing out that such terms are not exclusive to quacks and are, in fact, acknowledged by high-ranking medical researcher facilities such as Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins.

          For all your superior critical thinking skills you certainly do struggle with context. But keep it coming, because you undermine your own credibility with just about every comment you post here.

          Let me know if you need anymore help. :)

  8. February 9, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Congratulations on putting Albert Schweitzer in the Top 10 of greatest Quacks! 😛

    http://www.stenoomen.com/images/AlbertSchweitzer.jpg

    • February 3, 2012 at 10:31 am

      Jealous? You shouldn’t be. It seems you are considered a crank. That’s a nice title too, is it not?

  9. James Allen
    February 13, 2011 at 3:25 am

    Hey Andy

    Just a thought.How many of these so-called quack devices and medicines have you personally investigated?By that i mean ingested, attached or inserted into or onto your body,and god(oophs sorry)knows what else these therapies sometimes expect you to do?

  10. Mike B
    February 26, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    What a nice surprise to find you this morning!

    What’s a lay person to do? All these claims, counterclaims…

    Thank goodness for sciencebasedmedicine, quackwatch, and now quackometer.

    Mike, teacher of English and Critical Thinking

  11. Sheila
    May 31, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    I absolutly AGREE with what you are saying. I recently seen a homeopath Elaine Cairney in whom I was recommended and her treatment didn’t do a thing. It was a waste of money and time on my part and I ended up at the GP’s at a later date to get a treatment that actually worked. She claimed that the treatment worked on the root of the problem and cured the whole body through energy. I am no scientist, but to me that is very far fetched. I believe that she is scamming the naive public out of money for nothing but placebo medication but believes in it herself. A problem arrising is that her website claims to be a professional doctor of homeothapy but when you look at the qualifications, they are nothing more than a college diploma, if that. I feel that such people like Elaine Cairney should not be able to scam the public and call themselves doctors when truthfully they don’t have a clue what they are doing or what they are selling. It is all bullshit and she was also very rude. When I typed her name into google, this is the 1st page that appeared along with 10 quackometres. Im not the only one of this opinion.

  12. Daniel Øyan
    June 19, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Seems like there is a hole in the system. Tried some anti-vaccine sites, http://www.safeminds.org and ageofautism.com, and the passed. No red flags or canards for Andrew Wakefield either.
    http://www.naturalnews.com/ gets only one canard

  13. Jim
    February 7, 2012 at 2:56 am

    Try as I might, I can’t find the FAQ!

  14. richard
    February 29, 2012 at 9:33 am

    I think it could further science if we could take 10 people with common ailments such as insomnia,constipation, headaches,sinusitis,backpain etc and have them treated by convential doctors and then by an acupuncturist or shiatsu therapist and see who gets the better results.Anyway something along these lines that we could measure and compare.My money would be on the acupuncturist or shiatsu therapist, but if this proved to be so, you would probably say ‘WELL PLACEBO EFFECT IS VERY POWERFUL YOU KNOW’ and continue on your merry way happy that you once again have slain an ignorant pseudo quack dragon

  15. Miro
    March 1, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Alternative medicine has been tested and it failed against placebo. Since it can’t beat placebo, there is no way it can beat conventional medicine.

    Placebo is used as an explanation for various anecdotes. People outside of controlled experiments are more susceptible to placebo because of many reasons.

  16. Sarita
    March 10, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    I think you are so unhappy and trying something to blame.
    Look around what are allopathic medicines doing to people even without experiments, i.e. off label etc.

    Why don’t you try crochet? Can be very helpful when you don’t have anything to do

  17. April 25, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Thanks again Mark for your comments, however i would like to point out that Philip Day is a collator of data regarding health issues, and works on evidence not hearsay. I rank him alongside nutritionist Andrew Saul in the states.
    let us consider the Himalayans, they have to counter the laxative effects of all the fibre ingested in the Fruit Kernel flesh from the cyanide Kernels consumed. they are Cancer free!. Have you looked at the Okinawan diet?…..they are cancer free. Other lifestyle factors implicated i have no doubt, and thats the point to be looking at isnt it. Incidentally, the body does regulate its own P.H true, but it is diet/nutrition which regulates the state of the body in that process. just cite the case of the highest consumer of Dairy/Meat product in the world; the States, and you see the highest proliferation of osteoporosis from Calcium depletion in the bones. Yes! the body regulating its P.H balance desperately. Moderation & attunement to the needs of the individual again. I go for health,health,health every time thanks. give the Medical ‘professionals’ a wide birth when it comes to Disease avoidance or treatment. Lastly, i suggest you visit a Philip Day convention. You can address your concerns personally. Cheers…..

  18. May 1, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Dear Andy,
    I find myself with mixed feelings about your Quackometer, an experience that I often have when presented with the cheery enthusiasm of the scientist (or any other professional for that matter) for a tool with narrow parameters and high risk of error that can be used to make broad statements on the value and appropriateness of the work of another person.
    I know that the Quackometer is presented in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner. However, it is important not to underestimate the risk of abusing the power of this simple and (I know that you will agree!) relatively untested tool in order to make statements about the value, or otherwise, of the work of other people.
    Despite having a website with a good deal of content and with the word “healing” in the title (and this meant in a rather metaphysical sense) I was relieved to be “awarded” only three of your ‘Canards’. However, my private practice website, based on these same principles, has somehow contrived to be awarded five. This may be because, being relatively new, there are no published scientific papers on my work, and because I have made available a good number of testimonials because I hope that they will convey to people what it is that I have to offer. In addition, I state on the website that my work is based on well researched and highly effective principles, but I do not present the research on this simple website any more than a practicing medical doctor would on his. Instead I advise those interested in further information to visit my other website. Also, it may be that your tool has scanned the links that I have provided on my website, some dubious, in order to “optimise” the site for search engines. I have seen websites of many well-known and mainstream medical clinics that have used similar methods, and these do not imply the endorsement of the linked sites.
    I am well aware of the value of the scientific method and of its enormous achievements. It has helped our civilization to overcome much of the superstition of the past and provided a sound way of increasing our knowledge of what really does work and what does not. However, I think that there is a risk of it being understood in such a way so as to attribute to human experience little meaning unless it can somehow be verified in a blinded study and published in a peer-reviewed journal.
    The scientific method is a tool, albeit a remarkable and powerful tool. But there are tools that can sometimes more appropriately be applied to the challenges of life, most especially when considering the health of a person in the broader sense of the word. This was the point that the great Psychologist Abraham Maslow was making in his famous address at Brandeis in 1965 (http://www.ahpweb.org/articles/brandeis_talk.html). To deny this is to be a fanatic, closed to other views and sources of information.
    I have written a brief article to this point here (http://blochhealing.co.uk/the-rational-person) that explores the concept of “rationality” and suggests a broader meaning for the term than your Quackometer, for all it’s interesting possibilities and entertainment value, would suggest.
    It is my hope that you can seek to convey a little more gentle uncertainty into the language that you use to present your otherwise very interesting and, I think, useful work.
    With best wishes,
    Peter Bloch

    • April 17, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      The lecture by Abraham Maslow that I mention in the comment above is not longer available at the web address specified. However, it is still available in pdf format at this address: http://www.manasjournal.org/pdf_library/VolumeXVIII_1965/XVIII-30.pdf

      • May 3, 2013 at 3:45 pm

        Dear Andy,
        Over the last year, with very little change to my two websites, I have gone from 5 and 3 ‘canards’ to just 1 for each. Naturally, I think that that your algorithm is improving!
        However, I repeat my old complaint: that although I do not really agree with the criticism that accompanies the remaining ‘canard’, it is the harshness of the language used to express it that I think would be better softened. I could help you with that, if you like.
        Peter

        • John H
          May 3, 2013 at 3:57 pm

          Peter

          Having read the contents of your website I am surprised you only get 1 canard.

          I can only ascribe such a poor score to the vapidity of language used on the site.

          Having read it I think a 5 Canard score is more appropriate.

          I never realised it was possible to make a living out of groping people. (Well I did really but thought it was called something other than holistic healing). Do you advertise in telephone boxes?

        • August 28, 2015 at 8:59 pm

          it is the harshness of the language used to express it that I think would be better softened. I could help you with that, if you like.

          This has been my point as well. I used harsher-than-neccessary language to make the point that such an approach is a conversation stopper. I’m glad to see someone else making the same point with softer language. This is a topic worthy of discussion, but basically telling people who disagree with him how stupid they are is a sure way to end the conversation when Andy should really want to keep it flowing. When you go around calling people idiots and the like, they tend to instinctively tune you out.

  19. Alichia Olivier
    May 28, 2012 at 11:46 am

    I’ve been approached by Edge2Edge Global Investments with regards to a distributorship for the Imunity Nutiritional pack ( ISCP). According to your article dated 11/03/2011 the above mentioned company was under investigation by SARS. What is the truth behind this or should I rather walk away?
    Regards

  20. Mindanoiha
    June 8, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Am confused about the Quack definition. Are the thousands of people who have been helped by alternative medicine cured by “Quacks”?
    What about the thousands of doctors who are paid by the pharmaceutical industry and who ruin the lives of thousands of people every day? Are they also “quacks”?

    • Andy Lewis
      June 8, 2012 at 1:34 pm

      Can you point to good evidence that thousands of people have been cured by alternative medicine?

      Where are these doctors too that are paid by pharmaceutical companies to ruin people’s lives?

      • Iqbal
        June 9, 2012 at 3:32 am

        Andy:

        …..Where are these doctors too that are paid by pharmaceutical companies to ruin people’s lives?…

        This is nothing: Look at this: It starts right from the time a doctor is born—

        Medical education seems to be run mainly with the money from drug companies and technology manufacturers.
        Editorial. Drug-Company influence on medical education in USA. Lancet 2000; 356: 781
        Marcia Angell. Is Academic Medicine for Sale? N Engl J Med 2000; 342: 1516-1518

        AND:

        After the data gets collected researchers dredge around the data to get what they want to get, shown elegantly in an article, “Seeing What You Want to See” in Research, by McCullough and Greenhalgh in the June 2000 issue of the British Medical Journal. Should they fail even there they club many studies, good, bad, and the ugly together and analyse them as a single study-the metanalysis. These thought leaders did not even raise a finger when a drug company bought four of their urological colleagues to manufacture a hitherto unknown new disease, “the female impotence”, to sell their wares! The beneficiaries were the four urologists, the drug company, of course, and the Cape Cod Hotel, where they were parked for this exercise. They have now planted these pure science studies in leading journals to show that there are four classes of female impotence needing urgent preventive treatment with sildenophil hydrochloride from menarche to menopause, a great business indeed. I did not see a whimper of protest from any quarters except an angry item in the British Medical Journal. The new disease has even been numbered and would appear in the medical texts soon.

        ALSO:

        In January 2009, Eli Lilly paid $1.4 bn to settle charges that it had persuaded doctors to prescribe a schizophrenia and bipolar disorder drug to children and the elderly even though it was known to be risky. The drug was called Zyprexa.
        With many more such cases, the pharmaceutical industry is now being called the biggest defrauder of the US government. A quick analysis of the penalties the industry has paid under the False Claims Act (FCA) reveals that it has overtaken even the defence industry. This is extraordinary because the arms sector had long been at the top of the list of defrauders.
        ” In 2008, Dr. Joseph Biderman a renowned child psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, was discovered to have received $1.4 million from drug companies — in return for helping Johnson and Johnson generate and disseminate data that would support the use of an anti-psychotic drug in children. The drug was Risperdal.
        In 2001, Dr Joseph Spinella and four other American doctors pleaded guilty to receiving money in exchange for writing prescriptions for Lupron, which is used to treat prostate cancer. Its manufacturer, Takeda Abbott, paid $875 million to settle.

        WHAT MORE ARE YOU LOOKING AT?

  21. Berrie
    April 19, 2013 at 11:35 am

    70% of all illnesses are caused by stress. stress can be greatly relieved by holistic therapies. Holistic means a balance in mind, body and spirit . It’s what we are, you seem to have lost touch. I understand there are many scam artists out there , as there are in many fields of interest. the introductory statement you make about the words energy, holistic ect , being the that of quacks. What is it that makes you , one man , so sure that millions of people world wide using ancient traditions of healing are wrong? It’s known that a healthy diet of unprocessed organic foods is essential to a healthy body, with that so is proper breathing. But look at the world, most food is processed, full of pesticides, flouride in the water. A massive pharmaceutical industry that does more harm than good. And where exactly do you think your pharmaceuticals are derived from? 80% derived from plants in the rainforest . So if the use of herbs and energy and caring for your mind body and spirit is being a quack, a proud quak I certainly am. I’m sorry you have so much negativity .

    • Andy Lewis
      April 19, 2013 at 11:49 am

      Wow. Do you get up early to practice being wrong about absolutely everything?

      • Badly Shaved Monkey
        April 19, 2013 at 2:57 pm

        It probably helps if you go to bed at night being wrong as well.

        By the way, Andy, what’s happened to the look of Quackometer? Not great on my Mac and awful on iPhone.

        • Andy Lewis
          April 19, 2013 at 3:25 pm

          I have an issue that need sorting out. Need a few hours of time to do this.

          A

      • August 28, 2015 at 8:18 pm

        Another case in point regarding your true desire to belittle and humiliate rather than inform and educate.

    • John H
      April 19, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      Berrie

      Millions of people joined the Nazi party in 30’s Germany. A lot of them pursued a career in industrialised genocide. Hardly means they were right.

      There is not always safety in numbers. Millions of people are fecking eejits.

      Andy

      To be fair you were not 100% correct in your evaluation of Berrie. He was not wrong when he admiited being a quack.

      I agree with the shabby simian. The new look is a bit duff. Looks dire on an iPlod.

      I was momentarily distraught as I thought you and BSM had shuffled off this mortal coil as the thick black lines around your box look like a death notification letter (Pinot Noir onslaught prevents me from remembering what they are called). Something mori perhaps.

      However, as an expert logician/rationalist I realised you could hardly have typed the entry if you had pegged out – no flies on me!.

      • April 20, 2013 at 2:22 pm

        And here I was thinking the black box around one of my comments meant Andy wanted to highlight it… 😀

        • John H
          April 20, 2013 at 8:56 pm

          Pete K

          No.

          It means you have not died of measles (or indeed from anything else).

          Like me you are apparently still alive.

          RIP LCN/BSM. It was fun knowing you. No more rational thought or logical fallacyism.

          Andy (If you are still alive)

          The “Leave A Reply” boxes do not seem to retain name/email address/website information.

  22. John H
    May 2, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    LCN

    Well done on getting the correct formatting back. Looks good again.

    Pedant moment: You have two “About” sections at the top of this page.

  23. John H
    May 2, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Pedantry Corner – Part Two

    The “Leave A Reply” boxes do not retain name/email address/website like they used to.

  24. John H
    May 2, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Pedantry Corner – Part Three

    Nope. No good. Lost it all again.

    Gone back to the naff version.

  25. John H
    June 15, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Not exactly a useful set of contributions. Even more pointless than mine. Did you fall asleep on your keyboard or have you been overdoing the electric soup?

    I wonder who the Andy Lewis who got a mention in Simon Hoggarts Week in today’s Grauniad might be?

    • Andy Lewis
      June 15, 2013 at 3:35 pm

      It was not me! Another A Lewis

      Anyway, deleted nonsense posts – link spam.

      • John H
        June 15, 2013 at 7:37 pm

        I thought it might be you as it referenced an item in the Skeptical Inquirer – so the association would hardly stretch credibility.

        Plus you are the only Andy Lewis I know!

  26. John H
    June 22, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Le Canard

    Not sure where to post this so “About” seems vaguely appropriate.

    I just read the “quack-word-37” post from a few years back. Not surprisingly I fully concur with your analysis.

    So that I can get a holistic view of quack words 1-36 and 38+ can you tell me where I can find them. The search facility is about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

    • John H
      June 22, 2013 at 9:12 pm

      Synchronicity – I just read the “Myovision” post referenced above and you also used the phrase “about as much use as a chocolate teapot”. I hereby absolve you of all IPR theft and indemnify you from damages regarding your unlicenced use of “sugarpillery”. J.H Neologisms Inc will therefore refrain from issuing a C&D order.

  27. September 18, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Hi,

    looks like http://http://www.wimbledonclinic.co.uk/primary-practitioner broke the Quakometer. No response after minutes!

    fordie

  28. james
    February 22, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    given the fact that you so many times use the words that your quackometer picks up so readily, I guess this means your own site falls into its category of quackery according to your terms

  29. December 15, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    “A common response to my posts has been to question my qualifications for writing. This is known as an ad hominem attack and I will always try not to engage.”

    Um, not it’s not. Questioning a person’s credentials (or anything else) is not an ad hominem. But it’s ironic that someone who claims it is and that it invalidates any criticism (“I will always try not to engage”) has made a mission of questioning other people’s qualifications. So, by your own statement, your entire blog is a massive logical fallacy that should be disregarded by anyone who stumbles across it.

    But what seems closer to the truth is that you don’t engage with anyone who exposes the logical flaws in your so-called “experiment in critical thinking” which you state was the original purpose of this blog. A bit like the blind leading the blind, really.

    P.S. You would be doing yourself a huge favor to chuck your little check list of logical fallacies with one-line definitions and do some actual research to better understand the “fallacies” you bandy about like some kind of expert, which you clearly are not.

    The irony is just mouthwatering.

    • Andy Lewis
      December 15, 2014 at 6:20 pm

      When people use credentials to support their arguments, then it is indeed valid to examine their credentials. When I use evidence and reason to criticise claims, then it is not a valid excuse to question any credentials I may have.

      Please let me know if you need any more help.

      • August 27, 2015 at 7:07 pm

        You might have a point if your logic and reasoning weren’t so flawed.

      • August 27, 2015 at 7:09 pm

        Oh, and this: “Please let me know if you need any more help.”

        As if you have helped at all. You know where you can shove smug arrogance, right?

        • Andy Lewis
          August 27, 2015 at 9:43 pm

          My apologies if I did not make it clear enough for you to understand.

          • August 28, 2015 at 8:15 pm

            No problem. I know you did the best you could.

            BTW, this is exactly this kind of thing I’m talking about when I call you an arrogant, obnoxious asshat. You don’t want to inform and educate. You just want to belittle people who don’t see things your way.

          • Andy Lewis
            August 28, 2015 at 9:21 pm

            Of course, it is noted who is going around calling others ‘asshats’ or whatever witless and unimaginative insult you come up with.

          • August 28, 2015 at 10:12 pm

            Uh huh. And the point of doing so — to demonstrate how it does absolutely nothing to further the discussion — flew straight over your brilliant head. OK, I know you’ll lose sleep tonight if you don’t get the last word, so it’s all yours now. I swear. 😉

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