It’s never a sign of the strength of your scientific idea when you have to resort to censorship to prevent criticism of it. Which is the first clue that perhaps elderberries do not actually provide any material protection against the H1N1 virus, despite the spurious-sounding claims of a “naturopath” to the contrary. If you want to claim that elderberries are effective against H1N1, great. Go round up some pigs, set up a double-blind test, and publish your results in a medical journal — the way a real scientist would do it.
More importantly, the bigger picture is that these dispensers of so-called “alternative medicine” consume money and resources that could better be spent on actual medicine, grounded in real science, and not inducing a false sense of confidence and well-being that conceals a real problem. As a commenter on P.Z. Myers’ blog inspiring the title of this post points out:
Naturopaths divert people from seeking proper medical attention. If that vague unease and intestinal distress you’re feeling is cancer then the time you wasted taking herbal supplements just might mean your death. The anti-vaccine nonsense has killed or disabled how many children? Naturopaths are no better than homeopaths.
Which is exactly right.
While I hesitated to title the post as I did for fear of defaming this Maine naturopath responsible for that oddly-colored video linked above, in fact the contents of the title suggested by Prof. Myers are true.
Christopher Maloney misused the law to censor someone who had offered legitimate scientific criticism of his proposal, rather than to defend his claim on its merits, which makes him a coward. And hHe sells woo instead of medicine, which makes him a quack. And even if those are not objectively-verifiable facts, they are well within the scope of legitimate expression of opinion. So I think I’m good here. Sue me, dude. I dare you. And remember, you have to come to my forum to do it, so you probably ought to read this before you talk with the clerk of court.
UPDATE (complete with actual science goodness): Maloney responded to Prof. Myers, which response is reprinted in full, here. Most of it is whining, but as to the scientific merits of his claim, he says:
In terms of poor maligned elderberry, the medline citation is “The H1N1 inhibition activities of the elderberry flavonoids compare favorably to the known anti-influenza activities of Oseltamivir (Tamiflu; 0.32 microM) and Amantadine (27 microM). (Phytochemistry. 2009 Jul;70(10):1255-61) While this is a test tube study only, please keep in mind that we had no vaccine and were at the peak of the pandemic here in Maine. I never suggested elderberry as a vaccination but as a possible home treatment for sick children.
Prof. Myers responds by pointing out that a single test-tube study is simply insufficient evidence for prescribing treatment regardless of the level of desparation; at most a single study “shows promise” for future kinds of treatment. But there is some suggestion that a third party from South Carolina, and not Maloney, was the person who got the original critical blog pulled off the internet rather than Maloney himself, so for now, I’m striking out the references to the “cowardly” bit — because it’s not clear whether this person was Maloney himself, an agent or a proxy for Maloney, or was a true officious intermeddler.