Tuesday, February 5, 2008

More Evidence Reading, Style Knowledge Not Required

The ability to copy a person's name accurately from story to headline is not a required job skill for Web news editors at The Charlotte Sun. Brittany's father gains financial control until Valentine's Day. The story's first word "Britney." The "editor" manages to introduce three errors -- count 'em -- into a name that has been in the news since the late 20th century. Update: The editor writes me that he's fixed it.

Further, the story uses the appropriate AP style, referring to the entertainer by her last name. The Charlotte Sun "editor" takes it upon himself to infantalize a woman by using her first name in the headline.

"Feeling Fit" Tab Features Dr. Beth Quack:
"Dr. Beth" Claims Acupuncture Works Better Than Diets for Weight Loss

Charlotte Sun tab Editor Dawn Krebs has cultivated a reputation for knowing less than most about general science, general personal health and general critical thinking. So it’s no surprise to find she lets Elizabeth Adams style herself as “Dr.” and “Dr. Beth” in the pages of her publication. She even tucks “Dr. Beth’s” item under the headline: Ask the Experts: Local medical professionals answer health-related questions in last Sunday's edition. If I were a real doctor buying ads in Kreb’s paper, I’d vigorously protest classifying “Dr. Beth” as a medical professional.

Elizabeth “Beth” Adams has a Florida acupuncture license. Not content with a semi-legitimate credential, she claims to be a “doctor of oriental medicine” and a "physician." There’s no national standard, school or certifying agency for what probably amounts to a proprietary review of herbals, aromas and the ground horns of endangered species. This “doctor” is, essentially, prescribing without a license. Here’s her description of weight loss:

“Acupuncture for weight loss is a very different approach from the modern American diet. It is about balancing the body’s energy. A body that is in balance is well and does not crave or store foods it does not need. With acupuncture, the body stops fighting itself, and you will no longer need “will power” to not overeat or eat the wrong foods. Your body simply begins to crave only what is best for you, and only what you need. It becomes very easy not to eat, for example, the chocolate cake if you simply do not want the chocolate cake. Results are slower with acupuncture than with the crash or starvation diets, but the shift in energy is often permanent, so the weight taken off never returns.”

Adams' first, ungrammatical sentence establishes a non-sequitur as her opening pitch. Yes, acupuncture is “different” than the “modern American diet.” One is needles and the other is food. But more critically, what is this “modern American diet?” Surely it’s the one my family (we’re pretty darn modern and 100 percent American) eats: lots of leafy veggies, fruits, nuts and fish. Surely no other civilization in the history of the world has had access to the extensive, fresh, healthy varieties of the modern American diet that are offered in every grocery in every town.

Her second sentence blasts off from the launch pad of illogic into the rarified air of quackery. What kind of body energy requires balancing? Is this electrical, solar or nuclear energy? Perhaps a magnetic force of some kind? How does one balance energy? By standing on one foot or by hovering on a balance scale? The good “doctor” doesn’t say.

What evidence does “Dr. Beth” have for claiming this mysteriously balanced body won’t crave or store foods “it does not need?” Surely “Dr. Beth” and Editor Krebs learned about human metabolism in high school biology, or if not there, surely their grown-up reading and interest in the field would yield some basic, evidence-based understanding of the process. The body, “balanced energy” or not, is quite efficient at storing fats for future use, from everything I’ve read.

So, what is the acupuncture’s mechanism that makes the body “stop fighting” itself? What’s the definition of “fighting itself?” Cause and effect, doctor; show us the cause and effect you claim.

I’m willing to swallow that “results are slower with acupuncture,” because (a) there’s no demonstrable effect from acupuncture at all on anyone’s weight and (b) it will take a long time and many $essions with the Doctor of Oriental Medicine before the na├»ve client figures that out.

Shame on you, Editor Krebs and your tacit endorsement of this phony “acupuncture physician.”

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