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Penn and Teller: Bullshit! “Alternative Medicine”

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Penn & Teller, the famous magical duo-turned-Amazing Randi-esque debunkers, have an ambitious new show airing on Showtime. Penn & Teller: Bullshit! is an excellently conceived program targeted at skewering various forms of anti-intellectual pseudoscience, exposing money-hungry conmen and the ignorant beliefs they feed on.

The first episode, focusing on John Edward, James Van Praagh, and their ilk, who profess to be able to talk to the dead, was excellent. They dummied up their own cold-reading psychic, and had him stage a demonstration reading. At the end, he had the audience (who, like most people, are already more than halfway ready to believe) eating out of the palm of his hand. When he dropped the bomb that it was all a load of hooey, the audience applauded, but was visibly disappointed.

The second episode, I’m sorry to report, was not nearly as good. Penn & Teller bit off way more than they could effectively deal with in a 30 minute show dealing with “alternative medicine.” Yes, everything they covered was in fact bullshit. Reflexology is bullshit. Magnet therapy is bullshit. New Age chiropractic medicine is bullshit (even if the actual practice has been shown to have some benefits…just not for the bullshit reasons they give for it. Same thing with reflexology, actually. I’m sure a nice foot massage would indeed make me feel better, but not because of some malarkey about meridians.)

But what I saw in the show seemed to be this:

1) Show a couple of whack-job quack “doctors.”
2) Show a couple of gullible fools.
3) Show Penn self-righteously abuse 1) and 2).

I want to see detail. History. Science. The evidence for WHY this stuff is bullshit is certainly there. Why not use more of it? The only thing remotely explanatory in the whole show was the scientist saying “we just aren’t made of magnetic stuff,” and another guy saying “reflexology meridians just aren’t there.”

C’mon. Surely they can do better than that.

There’s just too much “alternative medicine” quackery to cover adequately in just one show. Perhaps they should have split it up into two or even three episodes.

See, I know that skeptics are already convinced. By and large, we’ve seen the evidence that it’s all bullshit. And I know that hardcore believers will never be convinced that it doesn’t work. So there you have the two extremes.

Somewhere in the middle, though, are the Undecided Masses…those people who might be persuaded to turn their noses up at this chicanery – but only if they can be reasoned with. Only if they can be shown the evidence. Only if they can be educated.

I have to give episode 2 a C- at best. It was long on the preachiness, long on the abuse, long on the “preaching to the choir” factor, and very, very short on actual analysis.

This critique is also posted at The World Wide Rant, so come see us!

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About Tom Diggs

  • Dr. B

    Traditional AMA pharmaceutical medicine has not found 1 single cure of a chronic disease in 100 years! They and their commercials on bullshit!! The US ranks #2 and cost by the World Health Organization and #72 in total delivery. Overall, United States ranks #37 in the world in health. I dare Penn and Teller to come out publicly and debate this

  • Ashton Brooks

    What I find funnier is the amount cash produced from adverts on this site. But hey, I’m just sayin’

  • Jay Kuo

    This is a pretty late comment, from the time the show was aired, but I think chiropractic practice did help my spine. The reason I went to a doctor was because my spine was in fact misaligned. I hang on a pull-up bar, took a picture of my back, and it was clear as day that it was my spine did have an s-shape curve to it. I also workout religiously, to train like a body builder. Being a body builder is all about being symmetrical, and yes, my whole right side was in fact less massive than my left. I have measured my biceps, calves, and other body parts, and it resulted in it, but the thing is, I’m right side dominated…

    Upon seeing the chiropractor, my spine has been aligned straight. I took an after picture after a month of treatment, and yes, my spine has a vertical stance rather than being S-shaped. Now I just have trouble making right side symmetrical to my left.

    Also, another thing. Before taking treatment, I also did have eczema on my right leg. When the video was commented on it saying it had could heal it, I was actually surprised. I have not changed the lifestyle I have been undergoing for the past couple years, it’s all been the same really. I went to the doctor because it itch a lot, and I kept scratching it. I did not know at the time it was a disease, went to the doctor, and was only prescribed a steroid cream. The cream worked, but only when I used it. It went back to what it was when I didn’t apply it on the skin.

    I laughed out loud after I checked my leg for the patch at where it use to be. Some of it is still there, but yes, it has healed significantly. I don’t know if it was just an allergic reaction to a whey protein shake I was drinking or maybe something in my diet, I never really took note of it. Now that I see in your video that it could possibly heal it, I look down and I laughed at the results I got.

    Chiropractic is the only thing that I will disagree on this episode, I’m not sure of anything else thought.

  • Jonny M

    Nice work guys, I think you re starting to set the record straight to the medical establishment. We won t stand for the Quackery and lies that the conventional sickness industry has to offer.



  • John

    I’m a nurse. I did 3years of training in an internationally accredited university. We learn about physiology, biology, medicines, mental health, the importance of a ‘holistic’ approach to health, and the law. However, the most important thing they teach us is critical thinking, and HOW to learn. How to judge ‘facts’, how to find information from credible sources.

    Furthermore, I am required by law to continually self train. I cannot hope to learn everything I will need in my nursing career in 3years, especially with new science ever coming out. So it’s part of my job (and every nurse’s job) to keep up on new research and use that critical thinking we were taught.

    Now, compare that to a ‘alternative’ health professional. They do a ‘course’ over a time sometimes as small as a weekend, they get taught to ‘do what we tell you’, and are told many times that ‘science is wrong’ or ‘believe this, it’s an anecdotal story therefore it’s true’.

    All alternative medicines are the same. BS. They pray on the needy and take money, sometimes having a placebo effect which keeps those that receive it (the placebo) and the practitioners (who remember the ‘hits’) believing and practicing.

    Of course, all this would be comical if it wasn’t so serious. Here in Australia recently two parents let their child die because rather then take it to real health workers, they took it to a homeopath.

    Yeah, alternative medicines. All fun and games until children die.

    Being an ‘alternative’ medicine practio

  • I think that Reflexology with time will find a place. It’s okay to criticize us therapists – after all there are a lot of things that have been said about Reflexology that are false.

    However there is a lot to be said as positives for Reflexology – not my role to defend it here. For example there are many illnesses that cannot be treated directly by traditional medecine, take back pain for example.
    Reflexology is a complementary medecine and as such is an additional treatment. It helps to alleviate a lot of the body discomforts – and in some cases people really need that.

    Thanks for the chat.

  • Richard

    I studied under Dr. Brinkerhoff, and he is one of the most serious, inquisitive people on the planet. I had not only a LOT of reflexology qualifications going in, but was also a graduate naturopath (Clayton, 1993). Also, I had also worked (courtesy of Uncle Sam) on the traditional medicine side of the house (as an EMT, CNA, and LMT), and while Brinkerhoff didn’t cut me any slack, he understood where I was coming from, and that I needed concrete evidence for the stuff he was teaching me. We wrestled a lot, but I got it.

    I have personally used reflexology to advise others to seek conventional medical guidance, specifically in ovarian cancer and colon cancer cases where their medical doctors told them that if they had waited until symptomatic, they would have died. That’s a win for me in each case.

    Throw off all you want on reflexology, especially Dr. Brinkerhoff’s version, but folks walked around on this earth a lot longer than normally directly because of him. Quit yer bitchin, if ya don’t know what yer talkin’ about.

  • Linda Morgan

    I can testify that Dr. Brinkerhoff’s Technique to save a life when it is near death IS sound and supported if one does know physiology and medicine after whatever school, Western Medicine or Alternative.
    MEDIGERS will include him as only a few who did know exactly what to do and take the time to do it to save a life with total generosity and we hope to return reciprocity at some point in time, though, hopefully, not in the same vein, as we trust he remains in top health!

  • Alissa Morales

    I am a living testimonial of Dr. Zachary Brinkerhoff’s genius and technique of foot reflexology which literally saved my life, and I do medical research, fitness rehabilitation and consultation, as an Occupational Therapist for MEDIGERS, and the accusations that he killed anyone, ever, or is stingy, money grubbing, a ‘quack’ are in gross error. I am privileged to have found him in the nick of time, and will include him in my protocol for recovery from this syndrome. I agree with his commment to go after the major Pharmaceuticals and the “Hop On Pops At The Top” that don’t stop killing everyone and misleading the whole planet as to what cures, versus what only palliates and suppresses symptoms and then kills at a later time. I thank God for both he and his wife, Rachel, and his collegue and the whole reflexology center for allowing me their time and consideration though I was very out of it, poisoned and dying. He utilized other things besides his “kill you or cure you” & that was a joke, own technique. Why don’t you go interview him and do a decent review from the inside out and stop lining up with the powers that be who want to wipe out alternative medicine and wholistic medicine as they did homeopathy and osteopathy for the ‘Amalgamated Murderer’s Associated’ drive since their formation and meetings in the early 1920’s to support iatrogenic illness for the sake of synthetic meds and surgical mutiliation and money making massive over truly curing mankind?

  • You just had to bring up the Toshiba deal didn’t you?

  • Ah, well, Andy, you see, the Navy knows that the net isn’t sufficiently strong to hold the weight of a fully crewed and equipped destroyer, and that the vessel would continue plummeting downwards – and we all know what’s down there. Allowing Satan to come into possession of classified US military technology would be almost, but not quite, as bad as letting the Chinese get hold of it.

  • See, I figured there had to be an end. That’s why the navy never sent me all the way around the world. It is good to know about that net though…thanks Doc!

  • He needn’t have worried, Andy. Everyone knows there’s a safety net round the edge. Gabriel and the other angels have a full-time job scooping up errant fishermen and putting them back on.

  • Yeah – He would have fallen right off the freakin’ planet!

  • …you carry the same mentality as those who believed the world was flat when Columbus said it was round.

    What are you, George Gershwin?

    No-one with any education in the fifteenth century thought the Earth was flat. It had been known since the time of the ancient Greeks that it was a globe and there were some pretty sound (for the time) proofs of its size.

    Where young Chris differed from the received wisdom was that he reckoned the Earth was smaller than everyone said it was, and that it should be possible to fit out an expedition to sail west and reach China. In this he was actually dead wrong, which is why he couldn’t find a financial backer in his native Italy or the biggest world power at the time, Spain.

    Columbus got lucky. If America hadn’t been in the way, he would have quickly run into deep, deep trouble.

  • Think about it…

    Those who don’t believe because there is no current hard evidence randomized double blind clinical trials that prove that it works – you carry the same mentality as those who believed the world was flat when Columbus said it was round.

    Science hasn’t caught up with some therapies yet. YET – we know that it works. To say that “if it hasn’t been proven it’s false” is naive and foolish. What you’re really saying is that the worlds smartest researcher today – to date is so smart, that he can tell us whats true and what’s false right now. Lets ignore what will be proven in the future. If it’s not proven now than it’s False.

    Makes you sound silly doesn’t it?

  • 2006

    Just one question Zachary.

    This patient who came to you dying of cancer, who had “no-where else to go,” did you charge a fee for their treatment? (or the hundreds like them).

    You make reference to Jesus being ridiculed, are you therefore likening yourself or your profession to a 2000 yr old mythological character? I’m sure the messiah’s son would not have charged a fee for making crippled people rise to their feet at walk again.

    Also, I may be wrong about the person reference in the episode, but wasn’t it you who make reference to a woman’s ovaries during your treatment of her feet? “Can you feel them working” or something like that?

    Does rubbing a woman’s foot have a direct link to her ovaries?

    I smell bullshit.

  • Glen

    I’ve got not interest on arguing about the validity of reflexology, everyone already has made up their minds about it. But I’d like to makes some points about some comments that I find absolutely bigot.

    R.Pulver I don’t care to question your experiences, I’m sorry if you were screwed. Having said that I found your whole arguement pointless and downright rude. First of all the discussion is about the validity of sciences, not the character of the people who practices them, that’s has nothing to do with it.

    Second I’d like to remind you that not all doctors work at a fancy hospital in a first world country. I live in Mexico and have a friend who studies medicine, he once took me with him to a far of village. This people living there live in the worst conditions, no running water, no electricty, no gas, almost no hygine, but they have a doctor. This guy is paid by the government, which around here means less than the american minimun wage. His living conditions are not much better than those of the villagers. It’s not a life that I would consider godly. This man could easily come to the city and earn a much better living, but he decides to stay there because the people around him need him. If that’s not love for fellow mankind I don’t know what is. Gee… and it took me much less than one generation. I’m sure this is not only seen in my country but all over the world.

    I’ve also have a bone to pick with people who say medical science kills more people than it saves. That’s… one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. Our life expectancy has doubled in the last 200 years because of medical science, many things that could easily kills us before now pose no threat, thanks to medical science.

    Now medical science is in no way perfect. The human body is not like a machine. If something is wrong with a machine you turn it off, fix what’s wrong and then turn it back on. You can’t turn off the human body. Imagine how many machines would be unrepairable if you couldn’t turn them off to fix them and to make it worse you don’t have the blueprints to tell you how it works. Medical science has to work in these conditions.

    Now when something is wrong with a human body a doctor usualy needs to upset the balance of how your body works to counterattack the illness, sometimes the unbalance can be just as bad or worse than the illness itself. The more serious the illness the riskier it gets to handle this balance, which can make things go really wrong really fast. Add to this human error, human negligance, and the huge list of things we still don’t understand about the body and you can stack a huge amount of horror stories. It’s an inheret flaw in medicine, but an unavoidable one.

    I really don’t care if you believe in reflexology; but don’t piss on the work of thousands of people who have worked all their lives to make our’s better. Take as an example the success of penicillin, sure you can argue about its side effects, but NOBODY can argue that it does SOMETHING.

  • R. Pulver

    kenny, the more jackasses like you hee, the more you haw.

  • kenny

    And thank you R. Pulver for demonstrating Mike’s fact #1 so clearly.

  • Kenny

    Bravo Mike! Bravo!

  • R. Pulver

    Bwahahahahaha, you all ought to know some honest doctors or at the least lawyers who get their malpractice cases as I do, and how VERY OFTEN you run across complete BS in the medical field, from constant and consistent misdiagnosis and mis-prescription of drugs even killing some. Add to that surgeons who must have passed their exams by paying someone else to take them and who butcher people (2 of whom I know that have died from such quack butchery, all while making the Dr. some big bucks). I have been associated with doctors most of my life and now working in several law firms, and I can’t tell you how often Dr’s suits expose how they don’t have a clue what they’re doing, but Hell it’s your life not theirs, so they treat you with BS maybe make you sick or kill you, or just misdiagnose you until you’re dead like the guy I knew with “ulcers” that was really liver cancer. The god-doctors finally got it right…when he had now only 3 weeks to live.

    I have zero respect for the medical field. Zero. Why? Because they think they are gods, and Hell if you get sick or die, it wasn’t their fault, they’re gods.

    I’ve known Zachary Brinkerhoff nearly all my life. I have never known him to defraud anyone at any time. EVER. I have known him to be overly generous even to the point of letting others abuse his generosity. I have never known a better person or a more giving or caring person. He’s someone who will stop for you in the middle of the night in a snowstorm and help you change a tire or give you a lift. I wonder how many Mercedes driving Doctors could be bothered to help anyone–unless they’re getting paid for it.

    You can tell I don’t think much of doctors, not just because of people I know personally who have died at the hands of these gods, and not because I have seen a superabundance of people over the years misdiagnosed and mistreated, but because they misdiagnosed me personally for 30 years, when I told them from day one what my problem was (an infection) and all they needed to do was find the source and treat it. Their reaction: I am a hypochrondiac. So my infection grew and grew until it became systemic and even life threatening, and still these gods could not cure it. I am sick every day of my life because these self-appointed gods couldn’t believe Joe Schmoe who did not go to medical school couldn’t possibly know what was wrong with himself, while they-the self appointed gods–could NEVER be wrong.

    Screw the medical profession. They are the whores to the Pharmaceutical companies and to the big paychecks, and they don’t give a damn about people, except in what money they can extract from them, often in the form of unnecesary procedures. Yes there are good doctors out there. They’re not all self-serving, money-grubbing assholes, but they are rare.

    I can tell you one thing: I doubt Penn or Teller could EVER match Zachary Brinkerhoff’s level of integrity, and the medical profession could NEVER do it. It’d take too big a cut in their bottome line. You don’t think that’s true? Then show me the doctor who will work for free, like Zach will. Show me the doctor who will after giving free treatments, give you a ride home, or some money if you’re hungry? You and 10 generations of people could grow old and die before you’d see that. As for the doctors who do measure up to that, you probably find them out in 3rd world countries giving their services. To them, I have all the respect in the world. But to the AMA, they are shameless whores living off the misery of humanity. They can all go to Hell.

  • Mike Wilson

    I am offering a service to all of humanity. It’s called non-harmonic anexperienced vocalist audio-response therapy and excercises all aspects of personal health. I discovered through my nomrmal technological research that i could use this method to relieve stress in the workplace, but have since conducted extensive research through funding by public peer-grants and have developed it into a treatment, the primary purpose of which, is the treatment of HIV. Cancer patients can also be treated, and there are secondary benefits for victims of other ailments. It’s quite simple really, and of the subjects I have treated in my research, every single one has reported remarkably positive experiences as a result. Patients still take all of their standard treatments and medications, and this procedure harmonizes the body and sould through it’s non-harmonic attributes. because opposites attract in science, the negative harmonic energy is attracted to the body, which then responds with positive energy, cleansing the body and soul. I would be happy to give a demonstration treatment to anyone who is a skeptic. First, you will have to fill out a questionaire of 103 questions about your personal life and daily experiences. this information is fed into a proprietary algorithm that i have developed and used to select the correct vocalization technicians to perform the treatment. the brain is electro-luminescently stimulated with differing wavelenths of light, shone into the eye from a proprietary microprocessor controlled emitter. One of the questions in the questionaire is what is your favorite most loved song of all time. this information is given to the scientifically selected vocalists who will perform the procedure. the 2 or 3 of them will sing this song to you, and do so by rapidly shifting from a high key to a low key, purposely cracking their voices and otherwise generating a very unpleasant butchering of your charished pleasures and memories. This chaotic symbiosis is the non-harmonic element of the treatment. Because the brain is exposed to the horible rendition of your favorite song it excites the positive and negative energy within your body, but because opposites attract, the positive energy is brought forth to overwhelm your body in the presence of external negative energy, while the internal negative energy melts away. Now here’s the secret that i am only going to post once, because you wont find it in any textbooks or other scientific research. This procedure works on a special body-internal system known as LATTITUDES. Imagine yourself standing in a dark room and circles of light are projected around your body. each circle forms a different size and shape when wrapped around your body. now, when unpleasent audio information is presented to the brain, the differing currents of electricity that are sent throughout your nerves excite the lattitudes that these light circles represent. special computer instrumentation and algorithms that i have developed detect this and use this feedback information to alter the electro luminescent stimulation fed through the eye. this is so that the brain couple the visual stimulation with the aural stimulation to convert the non-harmonic energy into resonance energy within the body. resonance has been long known for centuries to have great powerful effects. There is as of yet now scientific proof of WHY this procedure is so effective against HIV, cancer, and other terminal ilnesses, but in essence the horible performance of the subjects most loved and cherished song essentially scares away the disease.

    it is absolutely imperative to continue your normal medical treatment of your ailment during the procedure. patients who have discontinued it have reported that the procedure as failed. this is because of the subconcious desires of the patient. one who discontinues their normal medical treatment subconciously does not want to be healed, and the subconcious mind must be in absolue harmony with the concious mind during my treatment.

    all of my program code, instrument schematics and research is available to scholars in written form in my new book “how to make a living selling books about curing humanity’s ailments” for only 89.95 hardback.

    the treatment is so good, it’s absolutely free. i could never charge anyone for it. why would i make it free if it wasnt so good?

    patients are required to pay a $99 processing fee to cover my expensives before the absolutely FREE treatment can be administered. Also patients must sign a simple non-disclosure which simply states that you will not tell anyone about the sequence of events that transpire during your treatment. if they want to know they can just come do it for themselves since its so FREE.

    I so love it when i see people using science that i have spent 20 years studying and researching to ramrod the unknowning into thinking that their methods are so scientifically accurate, when the things they say are in reality completely senseless to those who actually understand the science. They say there is no reason to target believers, and the pure skeptics will never change their minds, ,so they are going after the undecided. this is pure predatory underhandedness and they’re telling you they’re doing it. if their methods were for real they’d go after the skeptics, prove their right, and convert them, then there would be huge frenzys about how it works so well. but no, instead they go after the people who dont know any better. this is because the people who do understand science fall into the category of skeptics who wont change their mind. so all of the undecided people are a bunch of people who dont understand the science but the reason they haven’t been reeled in yet is cause they at least have the intellectual aptitude to question something so rediculous. the practitioners use their non-sensical scientific terms to convice the unknown non scientific people that their methods are real, and turn them into believers, philisophically, before they learn enough science to realize that they were simply reeled in initially.

    FACT#1: the world is FULL of stupid people.

    FACT#2: no one will deny that foot massages FEEL GOOD

    FACT#3: you can make ANYONE in fact #1 believe ANYTHING if you make them FEEL GOOD about it and themselves while you are doing it, ESPECIALLY if they are grasping for threads of hope from their helpless states.

    FACT#4: people who feel they have been done a good service are usually willing to part with lots of money in return, since that is how our society has operated for so long.


    NO ONE can deny that any of the 4 facts above are ABSOLUTE FACTS. Even if my joke therapy at the beginning is completely stupid, or you dont believe anything else i say, consider these 4 facts.

    Now, all you have to do is use a little common sense. No matter what anyone says about their practice, simply test if these 4 facts can be applied.

    that is my universal formula for detecting science vs paid-for feel-good services.

    Mike Wilson
    Orion Universal Technologies
    Improving today with tomorrow’s technology

  • HW Saxton Jr.

    I basically agree with you TD,that this episode could have had more substance to it. However when considering the brevity of this show and the complexity of the subject at hand, I feel that P&T put their point across fairly well. P&T have got the most finely tuned bullshit detectors around.

    Even the best of comedians aren’t ‘On’ all of the time and IMHO I think these guys are still the
    funniest muthaf$%kers on TV right now.

  • Greetings To All Commentators:

    Since posting my original comments as the reflexologist featured on Penn and Teller I returned to find others (Greg, Tom-WWR, C. Bentakur, Al Bargar, Eric Olsen) had made observations that deserve further response on my part. Though I am a little tardy (and thus you all may never see this additional effort to respond) I take great pleasure in sharing with you in greater detail… detail which will address all the questions asked if honestly considered.

    Tom: I was told previous to filming that the 2-Day shoot in Denver would be used to make a documentary on reflexology, so I made the extra effort only 12 days before a major Charcot-Sacrum-Pelvic-Spinal surgery to do the shoot. I did the shoot under duress of internal bleeding from the grinding away of the fragmented bones, but I did it to educate the citizens of this country about the benefits of reflexology. I thought the “cut and paste” would be in the favor of reflexology … so I went into great detail to explain the scientific basis for Reflexology. Here it is … again … for public consumption.

    Reflexology utilizes the same meridians known to acupuncture. The meridian points have been located with an electronic monitoring device in research done by Dr. Robert O. Becker, MD, as described in his 2 books THE BODY ELECTRIC and CROSS-CURRENTS. Becker postulated that these acupuncture points tied in with the perineural sheath of the central nervous system which operates on Direct Current Electricity flowing to and from the brain carrying the negative DC of injury up thru the sheath of the sensory nerve and returning to close the circuit loop thru the perineural sheath of the motor nerve. At that time he had measured the electrical flow into the brain and the discharge of the negative DC of regeneration flowing out of the brain.

    Modern Institute of Reflexology works with the origins and terminations of the twelve major meridians which are all located at the corner of the nail beds of both the feet and the hands. (Also included in our treatment protocol is stimulation of the SOURCE point of which there are 12 also … all located on either the feet or the hands.) Since the 12 major meridians are duplicated on the opposite side of the body we actually have 24 of them. These all have an output and an input which ties each meridian to the next … each in proper order … the last tieing back into the first. This allows a reflexologist to create an electrical cascade effect by working the solitary meridian point which originates on the bottom of the foot … the Kidney One Meridian (K-1). As the brain is signaled by the negative DC of injury it discharges the negative DC of regeneration … thru the perineural sheath of the motor nerve … down into the Reflex Zone or Kidney Meridian. Dynamic stimulus with Dr. Riley’s Massager … an instrument used by Dr. Joseph Shelby Riley, MD, DC, ND, in the 1920’s for spinal concussion … will continue to bring in the electrical current until the overflow surges through all the meridians to bring electrobiophysiomodulation or equalibrium or homeostasis to the whole body. Yes,by working just one single point.

    The mechanism of action is the dynamic of the negative DC of regeneration upon the congealed blood plasma proteins lodged in the interstitial space (between the cells) that is blocking micronutrient access to the cell membrane and entrance into the cell. Electrical charges break the sodium-protein bond and allows the mucus particals to breakup and to flow into the lymphatic system for purification in the nodes and return to the blood stream for either recycling or elimination from the body through the skin, kidneys, lungs, hair, sinuses and rectum. The excess water held in the interstitial space by its attraction to the protein matter likewise begins to go with the flow since its bond with toxic chemicals accumulated during the stagnation/fermentation period is likewise broken by the electrical charge. Now oxygen can gain access to the cells with the return of the interstitial space to its normal vacuum or dry state. The return of oxygen and nutrients interfer with the anaerobic state of the cell and anaerobic diseases can be corrected if they haven’t degenerated into a debilitating Chronic condition (cancer and gange green).

    The action of electrical charges upon the congealed blood plasma proteins has been known in Europe and silenced in the USA for years. Dr. Samuel West offers a $10,000 dollar award to anyone who can prove otherwise on his website.

    A Randomized Control Study of PMS Using Foot, Hand and Ear Reflexology was published in Obstetrics and Gynecology Magazine in December ’93. We have a free reprint to anyone who is interested in these dramatic results. Further analysis of data following publication showed many symptoms relieved up to 95%.

    The Chinese Ministry of Health declared Foot Reflex Massage as a preventive and curative of over 30 diseases. In our course we have a study conducted by the Chinese for effectiveness in treatment of 36 diseases which shows a 95% effectiveness. Just 5% showed no effect at all.

    Tom, who are you anyway? What is WWR? What is your connection with Penn and Teller? Are you Penn? His right hand man? Identify yourself! I am out there for the world to judge … how about you? Regardless of who you are I want to give you a demonstration treatment at our clinic, but not until I complete my 6 1/2 months of convalescense from my back surgery.

    You see, Tom, I went to the doctors and I got a surgery. I was sent to the best orthopedic back specialist in the Rocky Mountain Region by the Radiologist who interpreted my MRI, Catscan and X-Rays. I made my own appointment for the pictures after suffering misdiagnosis by two Medical Quacks at Craig Rehabilitation Center in Denver when I desperatel went to them for help after suffering an injury on an osteopathic McMannus traction table ten days previously at the hands of a chiropractor (I didn’t sue him because I am a disciple of Jesus and He prohibits that type of conduct).

    You see, Tom, I am for integrated medicine … the best of all offerings … whatever is best for a given situation. I have sent many patients in for MRI’s when they kept regressing from positive effects of treatment.

    My toughest case … tougher than breast cancer .. was Sgt. Miller. I almost refused to treat him he was so bad. Back. Pain radiating down his legs. World War II, Korea and Vietnam … all three. A gungho army sergeant. But I had mercy. Three treatments a week at $15.00 each. I taught him self help at home using a TS-930 electric foot roller. Got him down to once a week. Then ever two weeks. He worked on himself every day. After 6 months he was 95% recovered. After that I never saw him again. He is on his own. Happy living with his faithful wife. Now enjoying his retirement. Tom, believe me, you don’t serve a career army sergeant bullsit. Not a man that has been in three wars. Not a man who has a nice wife like he has. They don’t take BULLSHIT off anyone … they dish it out. This old man learned to respect me when I would’t let him blame me for his occasional setbacks; which after intensive investigation on my part were admitted to be due to his own carelessness working in the yard, on the roof or trimming the tree. Yes, he learned to respect me because I didn’t let him deal me any BULLSHIT.

    Lets face it Tom … many people who come to me for reflexology treatment do so because they are tired of the mainstream medical bullshit that has left them broke, sick and tired. What do some of them have to pay me with? So I work on them for nothing, Tom. That is why my school and practice have been operating in the red for 12 years. I have even given away $2400 courses to destitute mom’s with kids and house payments so they can funnel all their money into keeping afloat.

    Tom, I have had people come to me in desperation who were dying with cancer. The doctors tell me at that point, “Anything they do is right. They are going to die. Nothing you do at this point can be considered wrong.” (If it isn’t wrong when they are dying … why is it wrong when they still have hope?) I have seen cancer recovery, but I have also seen people die. That is why I turned to Dr. Lorraine Day, MD, to provide her video tape, CANCER DOESN’T SCARE ME ANYMORE. Here she lays out her nutritional program for recovery from any kind of cancer. I don’t agree 100% with all her program, I just don’t think she goes far enough. But it is an alternative to Chemotherapy and Radiation and surgery. And she has helped a lot of people. Our objective MIR Research & Development Clinic is to make people responsible for themselves … to prevent disease rather than wait and try to cure it later.

    I also want to extend a demonstration treatment to Greg Klebanoff. I hope you read this overview and then come in for further experience. What I am talking about here is FULL SPECTRUM REFLEXOLOGY which is defined on our website.

    Greg, I know who I am. I know the therapy I administer. I know what it can accomplish … that is why I never turn anybody away anymore. And Greg … if people are not happy with my service … I give them their money back. And Greg … before I work on them they have to read, understand and sign a full disclosure document. Because of this document I have had 8 people walk out on me … only eight people in 36 years of practice. Now that is not bad. Hence, I cannot be accused of obscuring the side-effects and dangers of treatment like they did the Chiropractor on Penn & Teller. And Greg … I can’t Bullsit people that reflexology will cure everything because I am a paraplegic sitting in a wheelchair. I am a testimony that it is not a cure-all. But then again … the Physicians couldn’t heal me either. Oh, they tried. An old country doctor back in 1959 gave me a lamenectomy … exploratory surgery … took a look. The doctor said, “Zachary, I have done all I can do … God will have to do the rest.”

    Greg, modern day medicine is not all science. In truth it is an art when practiced with the right motive. In spite of failure … I learned to respect Dr. Lipscombe. He recognized his limitation. I recognize mine too. Do you, Greg, recognize the limitation of Medicine? Do you live under the illusion that if you get cancer … they can cure you? Dr. Day says the true cure rate … when you cut out the BULLSHIT of statistical manipulation … is only 4%. Greg, that is nothing. That is sick. That is pathethic. I get better than 4% on cancer at our clinic. Without treatment more than 4% will get well with spontaneous remission. Greg, that means with a 4% cure rate, Cancer treatment is killing people that might have lived? Greg, when doctors went on strike in LA and another time in Israel … the death rate went down in the hospitals. I say that alternative therapies save people by diverting them from medical deathing thru pharmacy type and even over the counter drugs. At least if they die it will be of their disease and not the treatment. And Greg, we all have to die sometime, right? In a hospice here in Denver the night nurse, who trained in our school, will administer reflexology to dying residents who just can’t let go. “If I feel them relax while treating them … I know they will be gone the next morning,” she told me. Since they wouldn’t let me come in to try to bring a deathbed cure with our advanced techniques … she uses the old hand treatment … very gentle style of touch.

    Greg, the more experience I gain … the more sincere my motivation becomes in my work. Sceptics don’t scare me … they are fun. It is the people who are indifferent that I find unreachable.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Zachary Brinkerhoff III, DR
    [personal contact info deleted]

  • Greg Klebanoff

    Dr. Brinkerhoffl’s comments were interesting and reflect a degree of sincerity that I cannot help but respect. Quacks and charlatans are not limited to so-called “alternative medicine.” Mainstream health care has its share too, and Brinkerhoffl is right to point this out, but his defense of reflexology is nothing short of absurd. Here I am reminded of an episode of Quincy in which a Native American witch doctor disparages modern medicine on the grounds that, after all, “their patients die too.” Mainstream medicine is not without its flaws–no human endeavor is–but at least there is some legitimate science behind it. Reflexology, on the other hand, has none, nothing. As Penn and Teller pointed out, the supposed energy pathways reflexology postulates simply do not exist. A foot massage may feel good and may even relieve stress, but to claim anything more is intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible. One is certainly not “taking life too seriously” by exposing those who give bogus treatments to those with bona fide ailments.

    I also found it deeply disturbing that anyone calling himself a doctor would appeal to the trucker’s supposed endorsement of the practice in its defense. If science has shown anything it is that anecdotal evidence has no scientific merit whatsoever, and nowhere is this more true than in medicine where the placebo effect is often at work.

    Greg Klebanoff Ph.D.
    Philosophy Instructor
    [personal contact info deleted]

  • Did you people miss the part where P&T SPECIFICALLY said that chiropractic manipulation has been found effective in easing lower-back pain? Most of the rest of the stuff claimed for it (that all diseases are caused by “subluxations” of the spine) are, in fact, bullshit. See also, Germ Theory.

    Also, what makes you think that by pointing out the flaws of modern medicine, you are in any way proving that “alternative medicine” is any better? That’s a logical fallacy.

  • CR Betancur, D.C.

    It’s a shame that the hundreds of thousands of people that die every year due to medical malpractice, routine (not mistaken) prescriptions, unnecessary surgeries, etc etc are overlooked. The “medical” establishment is controlled through the pharmaceutical companies, who in turn can easily manipulate legislature and the media through their vast coffers, it’s called special interests. Tell me how many people have been killed by chiropractors? Can you back that up with research? I’m still waiting… Now look up how many people are killed PER YEAR by medicine, now compare that to how many peoples lives are actually saved. The number killed per year is astronomically larger than the number saved.

    If you want to relegate chiropractic to simple low back and neck doctors, hey sign me up. If my first line of treatment for my low back pain is a MD who has very very little muskuloskeletal training and who would only prescribe symptom covering medication, or who would ultimately refer me to a surgeon who would perform an operation which would make me worse (do a search for success results of lumbar fusions) so they can buy their own “porsche”, if this is my first line then I think the world is in trouble.

    Do I think their are chiropractic “quacks” out there? Certainly there are tons of them. But for the chiropractors out there who base their treatments on science and results, and who see thru the eco-political veil of the medical establishment, we know the benefit we provide.

    To sum up, here is a letter to Showtime from the ACA. Ignorance is no excuse for stupidity…

    Setting the Record Straight

    Letter to Showtime Networks
    February 10, 2003

    Matthew Blank
    CEO & Chairman
    Showtime Networks
    1633 Broadway
    17th Floor
    New York, NY 10019-6708

    Jerry Offsay
    Programming President
    Showtime Networks
    10880 Wilshire Blvd. Suites 1500 & 1600
    Los Angeles, CA 90024

    Mr. Blank and Mr. Offsay:

    Your January 31, 2003, edition of Penn & Teller’s “Bullshit” certainly lived up to the title of the show. As President of the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), I am outraged that you would allow such misinformation to hit your airwaves, particularly when dealing with a subject as critical as the public’s health.

    The program conveniently swept under the rug the voluminous research that supports the safety and efficacy of chiropractic care, while instead employing gags, jokes and scare tactics to discredit the chiropractic profession. And calling chiropractic a “made-up science” as you did demonstrates a shameful ignorance of the scientific basis for the profession.

    For example, in 1994, the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR), a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommended spinal manipulation as an initial form of therapy for low back sufferers, finding it both “safe and effective.” The statement by AHCPR was based on its scientific review of all the accumulated evidence on spinal manipulation. Spinal manipulation is the primary form of treatment performed by doctors of chiropractic. In fact, doctors of chiropractic perform 94 percent of all spinal manipulative therapy in the United States.

    More recently, a study released in 2001 by the Center for Clinical Health Policy Research at Duke University concluded that spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for cervicogenic headaches, or those that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief of tension-type headache than a commonly prescribed medication. Other positive studies include a 1993 report prepared for the Ontario Ministry of Health that found that chiropractic care is “the most effective treatment” for low back pain and that it “should be fully integrated in the government’s health care system,” and a study published in the 1995 British Medical Journal found that for long-term low back pain, “Improvement in all patients at three years was about 29% more in those treated by chiropractors than in those treated by the hospitals.” The study continued, “The beneficial effect of chiropractic on pain was particularly clear.”

    Not bad for a “made-up science.” In contrast, a 2002 study published in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery found that 78% of medical doctors failed to demonstrate basic competency in musculoskeletal medicine. The study stated that, “It is therefore reasonable to conclude that medical school preparation in musculoskeletal medicine is inadequate.” Knowing this, it might be safe to reason that the only “Bullsh**” would be to visit a medical doctor first when your back hurts.

    But your program did not stop at downplaying the effectiveness of chiropractic care. It also exaggerated its risks, which, when compared to the risks of common medical interventions, are infinitesimal.

    A study by the Rand Corporation found that a serious adverse reaction from cervical (neck) manipulation may occur less than once in 1 million treatments. Studies have also shown that these rare adverse reactions more frequently occur after visits to health care professionals who are inexperienced or inadequately trained in spinal manipulation, rather than to licensed doctors of chiropractic. A more recent article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found only a 1-in-5.85-million risk that a chiropractic adjustment of the neck may result in vertebral artery dissection.

    To put these remote risks into perspective, a study published in the April 15, 1998 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that more than 2 million Americans become seriously ill every year from reactions to drugs that were correctly prescribed and taken; 106,000 Americans die annually from those side effects. Additionally, complications from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — a group that includes prescription and non-prescription pain medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen — are responsible for 16,500 deaths each year, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

    Far too many patients — young and old — have their pain treated with medication that may have side effects that do not correct the underlying source of their problem.

    Your program defiantly closed by saying that as science moves forward, these “doctors” will have to find real jobs. Having said that, you must find it very interesting that as science moves forward, chiropractic care is actually achieving more and more integration into today’s health care system.

    For example, the prestigious Texas Back Institute (TBI), the largest freestanding spine specialty clinic in the United States of America, at one time included only surgeons and other medical doctors. Then, nearly 15 years ago, when TBI’s medical doctors discovered chiropractic’s success with low back pain, they hired their first doctor of chiropractic. Now, according to published articles, about 50 percent of the Institute’s patients see a chiropractor first when beginning their treatment. Additionally, we now have two doctors of chiropractic practicing in the attending physician’s office and treating members of Congress on Capitol Hill. Other recent advances include the new chiropractic internship program at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, and the successful Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Center at the National Institutes of Health.

    In closing, I wish to inform you that the ACA is advising its doctors to talk with their patients on whether or not they wish to continue to expend money on a channel that provides such misinformation. In order to rectify your error in judgment in broadcasting this program, I invite you to contact ACA’s media relations department to arrange a meeting between Showtime and ACA officials. I am confident that through this meeting an equitable solution to this issue can be reached.


    Daryl D. Wills, DC

    cc: Penn & Teller
    Learly Productions

  • Ah, Al. I’m skeptical of your objectivity. You upbraid me for shaky argumentation, then you weigh in with “…I’m not personally knowledgeable enough to render much judgement, but the energy meridians of reflexology I’m guessing are the same basic construct as the energy meridians underlying numerous types of treatment…” A mere disclaimer of yourpersonal qualifications does not excuse your baseless opinion of a parallel between the “basic constructs” of reflexology and acupuncture. In other words, skip the anecdotes and show me.

    Also, you draw an unjustified parallel between “alternative medicine” and “mainstream medicine when you say, “Now, it’s reasonable to be skeptical of alternative medicine – much as it is reasonable to be skeptical of much “mainstream” medical practice.” No, it is not reasonable to be as skeptical of mainstream medical practice (and the as was implied by the parallel construction) because “alternative medicine has no methodology to show its effectiveness.

    In other words, your condescending analysis of my “sophistication” doesn’t mean a whole lot when it boils down to “give this stuff a chance”…especially when I explicitly said I’d give it a chance – if and when someone can show me rigorously that it’s effective.

    Give me reputable peer-reviewed double-blind studies.

  • Tom, may I suggest in the gentlest manner possible that your comments above seem to indicate a position of clear chauvinistic emotional prejudice. For example, you’re really sending up ridiculous strawmen. I’ve never heard that reflexology touted as a treatment for broken bones or the bubonic plague.

    I do know that manipulations of the foot don’t “draw electricity down from the brain” via some theoretically shaky “meridians.”

    How do you “know” that? Did the AMA tell you? Is a treatment legitimate if and only if this specific professional organization says so? Are they your clergy? I’m skeptical of your skepticism.

    You claim that there are no “reflexological meridians.” I’m not personally knowledgeable enough to render much judgement, but the energy meridians of reflexology I’m guessing are the same basic construct as the energy meridians underlying numerous types of treatment that have been reported beneficial by millions of individuals for thousands of years. Accupuncture, for example, has many centuries of relief, and Thought Field Therapy in the modern age has produced great benefits for many people.

    Accupuncture or TFT don’t require patent medicines, leaving Lilly and Pfizer no reason to spend a bazillion dollars jumping through hoops at the FDA to be declared officially to have been proven effective. That doesn’t mean they don’t work.

    Now, it’s reasonable to be skeptical of alternative medicine – much as it is reasonable to be skeptical of much “mainstream” medical practice. That does not, however, mean that dismissing all treatments that you don’t understand as fraudulent.

    Automatic naysaying of anything new to you does not constitute the height of sophistication. Those heights can only be achieved by a clear and unbiased examination and evaluation

  • Thank you for the reply. You will notice, however, that I specifically mentioned that reflexology might very well have benefits for some people. Now whether those benefits come from having a nice foot massage (which I very much enjoy) or from the placebo effect, I don’t know. I do know that manipulations of the foot don’t “draw electricity down from the brain” via some theoretically shaky “meridians.” The doctor on the show said it well. We know what structures are in the body. Blood vessels, lymph vessels, nerves, muscle fibers, organs, etc. But no reflexological meridians.

    As for your allegations of malpractice in mainstream medical fields…so what? What does that have to do with whether reflexology is based on bogus pseudoscience? Sure, some doctors are dishonest. Some medicines are dangerous. They still cure more diseases than pseudoscientific claptrap. Has reflexology EVER cured a case of smallpox? Bubonic plague? Stomach cancer? Ever set a broken bone? Ever replaced an ailing heart? Bone marrow? If you say yes, can you prove that it was, in fact, the reflexology, and not something else? Got any reputable double-blind studies?

    Show me.

  • Eric Olsen

    Thank you very much Dr. Z, and best ofluck in the future – there is always a place for anything that works, the benefits of physical manipulation are well-known.

  • I was the reflexologist on Penn and Tellers program: Alternative Medicine. My wife and I watched it together. We thought they utilized our reflexology material with ingenious, humorous puns. I am capable of being the butt of a joke. Promenient politicians get ridiculed and spoofed all the time… it is part of being in the public eye. I did a show for Fox Family Theater: “Discovering the Unknown” and they likewise tried to set me up to diagnose a medical condition. I refused on both interviews and said, “Medical doctors with all their equipment have trouble diagnosing disease … I don’t choose to compete with them … I’ll leave diagnosing up to them.” They had William Jarvis of the NCAHF (National Counsel Against Health Fraud) trying to debunk us …. but he has since left his organization to others and now his former baby is being debunked.

    We teach Modern Institute of Reflexology’s state approved and regulated course of training all around the world thru home study. We have never had a complaint filed by a student in 10 years at the Colorado Department of Higher Education, Division of Private Occupational Schools. I have never shown a profit for my clinic or school in the last 14 years. The state requires that we be bonded. My motive is not money in this endeavour of reflexology which began in 1967. I consider it a ministry. Students “earn as they learn” by accepting donations from friends and relatives as payment in advance for future treatments. This is a legitimate procedure for Massage Therapists as well as reflexologists: Donations. You earn every penny of that donation. I have one student who is so good she is making $1000 a week and her original investment was only $2400 dollars. MIR graduate Stephanie Fimrite is making $500 a week working 20 hours a week in the northern town of Thief Rivers Falls, MN. She is a mother of two and has a husband who backed her effort to get started. Her words to me: “I want to thank you Dr. Zachary for sharing your wisdom with me and helping me to fulfill my dream of having my own business.”

    One of the truck drivers featured in the Penn & Teller show Bullshit who claimed to feel dramatically better from Muscular Dystrophy in both his feet and hands after a 5 minute treatment, came back to state on tape (which got cut): “Any doctor who says reflexology doesn’t work is full of BullShit and needs to go back to medical school.”

    Remember, Penn and Teller is a comedy team. They couldn’t put the trucker’s dramatic statement into the program or it would have ruined their theme. I took my spoof with a smile. I got a good laugh. My own mother lovingly called me the ‘quack’ from 1967 till her death 6 years ago … she would have gotton a good laugh as have all of my family from both programs in which I was featured.

    Even Jesus was ridiculed by the hierarchy of his day … the religious leaders. The modern day religius fundamentalists have ridiculed me on radio for years. I am used to it. I pray for them. But Penn and Teller? I can have a degree of respect for them. They have a job to do and they do it well. I think you at Blogcritics.org need to loosen up and enjoy a little humor … at my expense. Don’t take life too seriously.

    I think Penn & Teller should make a program on Modern Day Medicine and show them to be the quacks fronting for Pharmeceutical Companies that they are …. killing hundreds of thousands of people a year from misapplication of these powerful chemicals. The FDA after approving certain drugs in the past has had to pull some of them from the market subsequent to issue because they were killing or crippling gullible people. I have had MD friends expain how they have compromised their integrity in wrongly treating patients: “We know that antibiotics won’t cure a virus, but we give the patient the antibiotic he demands because these are the people that pay our overhead. We know they will be back in three months.”

    Ask me how many people I have killed in 36 years of service to humanity? Well, I can’t afford to make such a mistake … I can’t bury mine. So loosen up folks. I have.

    Zachary K. Brinkerhoffl, III, DR
    Modern Institute of Reflexology
    Denver, CO 80214
    [personal contact info deleted]