The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘quackery’

Charlatan Kevin Trudeau Goes to Prison

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 22, 2014

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about that most infamous of anti-medical charlatans, Kevin Trudeau, and how he was doing all that he could to dodge both common decency and the law by continuing to push his “Natural Cures” nonsense…

Many times you’ll hear skeptics venting their spleens about this huckster or that charlatan and “How is it possible they’re allowed to get away with this crap?!”  One of the worst such pseudoscientific offenders in recent years has been “natural cures” quack Kevin Trudeau, who has used his infomercial sales pitches to convince countless people that he has a cure for cancer (he doesn’t) and that they shouldn’t trust modern, science-based medicine because “‘They’ don’t want you to know the truth”.  I think it would be reasonable to say that Trudeau has not only bilked people out of millions of dollars with his bogus “cures”, but in addition that his nonsensical anti-scientific conspiracy mongering has even gotten some people who believed him killed. …

… Well, I think this is one case in which the charlatan is getting his just-desserts.  Of course, to Trudeau’s followers, this will likely be interpreted as more evidence of their “Big Pharma/Big Medicine/Big Government” conspiracy theory, and they will paint Trudeau as a martyr for the alt-med cause. Which is fine with me, so long as Trudeau is a martyr in jail. [emphasis added]

Well, today I am happy to report that, while the wheels of justice do indeed grind slowly, Kevin Trudeau has finally gotten what he deserves: a long stay in prison 🙂

TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau gets 10-year sentence

Best-selling author Kevin Trudeau, whose name became synonymous with late-night TV pitches, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for bilking consumers through ubiquitous infomercials for his book, “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About.”

As he imposed the sentence prosecutors had requested, U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman portrayed the 50-year-old Trudeau as a habitual fraudster going back to his early adulthood. So brazen was Trudeau, the judge said, he once even used his own mother’s Social Security number in a scheme.

“Since his 20s, he has steadfastly attempted to cheat others for his own gain,” Guzman said, adding that Trudeau is “deceitful to the very core.” …

I could go on, but suffice it to say that despite Trudeau’s lame attempts to defend himself and his actions, the judge was having none of it.  Too often hucksters and liars like Trudeau play upon the fears and ignorance of science and critical thinking among the general population in order to line their own pockets or push an agenda (other notable examples include the late Sylvia Browne and creationist Ken Ham).

What is so satisfying about this outcome is the fact that, when the chips are down and someone like Trudeau and his ilk wind up in court, what really matters isn’t talking points, it’s all about evidence and logical arguments.  That’s why creationists have consistently lost in the courts, and that’s also why Trudeau is now going to prison… because they have no evidence to back up their baseless claims.

Personally, I’d like to see more of this kind of thing; hopefully, it will send a message to those pseudoscientists who want to play doctor but not actually be responsible for what they say.  But for now, I shall bask in the afterglow of Trudeau’s epic pwning…


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JREF Takes Political Action Against Homeopathic Quackery

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 8, 2011

I found out the James Randi Educational Foundation has started a campaign to get people to put political pressure on the United States Congress in an attempt to get them to reign in medical loopholes pertaining to homeopathy.  If you care at all about science-based medicine, then I encourage you to get involved in this campaign…

Close The Quack Medicine Loophole For Homeopathic Remedies


So-called homeopathic remedies may be the only products given a free pass to say they’re intended to treat disease, without any proof at all that they work. In fact, most homeopathic products are nothing but plain sugar pills with no active ingredients. Manufacturers take millions of dollars a year from unsuspecting customers who often think they’re buying real medicine.

Drugs have to be tested for safety before they can be sold. Nutritional supplements have to carry disclaimers, telling consumers that their claims have not been evaluated by the FDA. Homeopathy is exempt from these requirements because of a law passed more than 70 years ago. It’s time to close this loophole and make manufactures of these quack medications play by the same rules as everyone else.

The facts about homeopathic remedies:

  • No Ingredients: Homeopathic remedies are so extremely dilute that most do not contain a single atom of their claimed active ingredient. The most popular homeopathic remedy, oscillococcinum, is based on a dilution of one part duck liver to 10^400 parts of water. 10^400 is the number 1 with 400 zeroes after it. To make such a dilution, you’d have to mix a single molecule of duck liver with more matter than exists in the entire known universe.
  • No Testing: Homeopathic remedies are exempted from regulations requiring drugs to prove they’re effective and accurately labeled with respect to dosage and potency. What’s more, homeopathic remedies were never even tested by their inventors to make sure they work. Homeopathic remedies are invented by a process homeopaths call “proving”: they give a substance to a healthy person, observe the symptoms it causes, and then take it on faith that homeopathic doses of the same substance will cure those symptoms. For example, coffee causes sleeplessness—that’s all homeopaths need to know in order to prescribe homeopathically-diluted coffee as sleeping pills, called “coffea cruda.” According to homeopathic principles, there’s no need to test whether it actually helps anyone sleep.
  • No Facts: Major pharmacy chains like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid sell useless homeopathic products right alongside real medicine, with no warning to consumers. Manufacturers and retailers profit by denying customers the facts they need to make up their minds. U.S. law exempts homeopathy from certain rules that govern drugs and nutritional supplements, so manufacturers can market homeopathic remedies for the treatment of illnesses despite the fact that reputable studies show homeopathy to work no better than dummy pills made of plain sugar.
Click here to sign the letter and send a message to the U.S. Congress on this issue.  Please act now and take some time to pass this along to your friends & family.

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Randi’s Challenge to Homeopathy Manufacturers and Retail Pharmacies

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 26, 2011

As a follow-up to the successful 10:23 Campaign: “Homeopathy: There’s Nothing In It!”, I wanted to share with you all an excellent video challenge from skeptic James Randi, who is laying down the gauntlet to homeopathy manufacturers and pharmacies that sell this scam “medicine”…


In addition, please consider taking a few minutes to go over to and sign the petition which encourages these manufacturers & pharmacies to come clean to the public about these bogus products…

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The Huffington Post is Boycotted by More and More Science-Based Bloggers

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 21, 2011

Some of you may recall that I wrote a scathing post a couple of years ago, when The Skeptical Teacher was still young (in Internet time), about the progressive online newspaper called The Huffington Post (or, the HuffPo, as I call it).  In it, I essentially accused the HuffPo of becoming a front for left-leaning woo, such as various forms of New Age nonsense, “alternative” medical quackery, and vaccine denial. Well, the good news is it seems that the number of science-oriented bloggers criticizing the HuffPo is growing, as evidenced by this post over at the Red State Progressive blog…

Huffington Post Spreads Misinformation and Pseudoscience

Many progressives get their news, at least in part, from The Huffington Post. I think this is unfortunate, and I side with a growing number of bloggers who will not promote them with links or retweets. As I have explained previously, they promote a dangerous sort of quackery, including creationism, homeopathy, antivaccination propaganda, and pseudoscience. It seems that Ms. Huffington has a soft spot for this sort of drivel, and HuffPo has become notorious for it.

If you are still not convinced, you might consider examining the growing body of evidence:

In keeping with this trend, I encourage you all to NOT promote the HuffPo with links and retweets.  The more people who hold them to account for the dangerous pseudoscience they are spreading, the better.

Posted in media woo, medical woo, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The 10:23 Challenge 2011: Homeopathy, There’s Nothing In It

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 3, 2011

You may recall that about one year ago there was a very widespread and public examination of the pseudoscience of homeopathy in what was billed as the 10:23 Challenge – read more about how homeopathy failed to kill anyone via “suicidal overdose” at that event. In keeping with the spirit of grassroots skeptical activism, the 10:23 Challenge is back for 2011, and it’s taking place this Saturday, Feb. 5th.  Check out the 10:23 website for more information…

The 10:23 Challenge is a follow-up to the ‘overdose’ protest staged by the 10:23 Campaign in 2010. International protesters from more than 10 countries, and more than 23 cities will gather for over the weekend of February 5-6 2011, to make the simple statement: Homeopathy – There’s Nothing In It.

The challenge will culminate on February 6th at the QED conference in Manchester, where 300 protesters will participate the largest ever single demonstration against homeopathy.

**Update: As a follow up message, I’d like to share with you a Youtube video by my skeptical colleague from Down Under, Kylie Sturgess…

Posted in medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

“Natural Cures” Quack Kevin Trudeau in Big Court Trouble

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 13, 2010

Many times you’ll hear skeptics venting their spleens about this huckster or that charlatan and “How is it possible they’re allowed to get away with this crap?!”  One of the worst such pseudoscientific offenders in recent years has been “natural cures” quack Kevin Trudeau, who has used his infomercial sales pitches to convince countless people that he has a cure for cancer (he doesn’t) and that they shouldn’t trust modern, science-based medicine because “‘They’ don’t want you to know the truth”.  I think it would be reasonable to say that Trudeau has not only bilked people out of millions of dollars with his bogus “cures”, but in addition that his nonsensical anti-scientific conspiracy mongering has even gotten some people who believed him killed.

Well, now it seems that Trudeau has finally gone too far.  Recently he was in an Illinois federal court as the latest chapter in his long-running battle with the Federal Trade Commission, and he messed up, BIG time when he encouraged his followers to send emails to the judge.  Here’s the Chicago Tribune article on the matter…

Best-selling author and infomercial pitchman Kevin Trudeau was held in criminal contempt Thursday and threatened with jail after he urged visitors to his Web site to unleash a massive barrage of e-mails that crashed a federal judge’s computer in Chicago.

U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman’s computer became hopelessly clogged with e-mails from admirers of Trudeau’s diet book and other volumes, the judge told a hearing. Court technicians had to be called in to make his inbox usable again. Something similar happened to his BlackBerry, Gettleman said.

Gettleman has overseen Trudeau’s long-running legal battle with the Federal Trade Commission, which claims ads for Trudeau’s books offering cures for dozens of ailments — from faltering memory to hair loss — misrepresent the facts.

The judge said Trudeau urging the deluge of e-mails was harassment.

“The penalty I will impose will probably include some custody and a fine,” the calm, soft-spoken Gettleman said after holding Trudeau in direct criminal contempt. He ordered Trudeau to post a $50,000 bond and surrender his passport.

Gettleman said the glut of e-mails delayed court business and will force the U.S. Marshals Service to do a threat assessment.

Trudeau arrived in court voluntarily after Gettleman threatened to send marshals to bring him in. He sat silently through the hearing before being led away for fingerprinting and a mug shot.

Well, I think this is one case in which the charlatan is getting his just-desserts.  Of course, to Trudeau’s followers, this will likely be interpreted as more evidence of their “Big Pharma/Big Medicine/Big Government” conspiracy theory, and they will paint Trudeau as a martyr for the alt-med cause. Which is fine with me, so long as Trudeau is a martyr in jail.

Posted in medical woo, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

Amazing Skeptical Smackdown of Homeopathy!

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 8, 2010

(Hat tip to Phil over at Skeptic Money for passing this little gem along 🙂 )

Below is some footage from a BBC show called Dragon’s Den, where would-be entrepreneurs make a sales pitch to the assembled judges about why their idea is worth funding.  In this case, a homeopathic doofus pitches his “miracle water” to them using the standard alt-med, “natural is good” woo-woo, with disastrous results.  What follows is, to me, an excellent example of in-your-face skepticism in action – with the perfect combination of hard questioning, demands for evidence & research, and moral outrage.  Take a look…

Posted in economics, medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

10:23 “Overdose by Homeopathy” Event a Miserable Failure

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 1, 2010

This is a follow up to my recent “Suicide by Homeopathy?” post – and by calling the event a “miserable failure” I mean that it was the homeopathy that was an epic fail.  Hundreds and hundreds of skeptics attempted to overdose on a variety of homeopathic remedies, and not one person was adversely affected. Which begs a question: why do homeopaths bother mentioning anything at all about dosage on their remedies when it is apparent that dosage doesn’t matter?

Apparently, the press caught wind of this public experiment and thought it was interesting – check out the BBC article on it. In addition, here’s an update on the event from the 10:23 Campaign, along with some neat footage as well…

Posted in medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Suicide by Homeopathy?

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 24, 2010

If you’ve been running around in skeptical circles for any amount of time, then you’ve no doubt heard of the quackery called homeopathy. According to the Skeptic’s Dictionary entry on homeopathy…

Classical homeopathy originated in the 19th century with Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann (1755-1843) as an alternative to the standard medical practices of the day, such as phlebotomy or bloodletting. Opening veins to bleed patients, force disease out of the body, and restore the humors to a proper balance was a popular medical practice until the late19th century (Williams 2000: 265). Hahnemann rejected the notion that disease should be treated by letting out the offensive matter causing the illness. In this, he was right. On the other hand, he argued that disease should be treated by helping the vital force restore the body to harmony and balance. In this, he was wrong. He rejected other common medical practices of his day such as purgatives and emetics “with opium and mercury-based calomel” (ibid.: 145). He was right to do so. Hahnemann’s alternative medicine was more humane and less likely to cause harm than many of the conventional practices of his day. …

Homeopaths refer to “the Law of Infinitesimals” and the “Law of Similars” as grounds for using minute substances and for believing that like heals like, but these are not natural laws of science. If they are laws at all, they are metaphysical laws, i.e., beliefs about the nature of reality that would be impossible to test by empirical means. Hahnemann’s ideas did originate in experience. That he drew metaphysical conclusions from empirical events does not, however, make his ideas empirically testable. The law of infinitesimals seems to have been partly derived from his notion that any remedy would cause the patient to get worse before getting better and that one could minimize this negative effect by significantly reducing the size of the dose. Most critics of homeopathy balk at this “law” because it leads to remedies that have been so diluted as to have nary a single molecule of the substance one starts with.

And this is the real rub with a notion as loony as homeopathy.  We already know from modern science-based medicine that, in the case of drugs, there must be a certain amount of active ingredient in the drug in order for it to have the desired effect.  Of course, there are dangers from using medical drugs: one of the most common is that of over-dosing.  If someone takes too much of a certain active ingredient, it can be harmful or – in the worst case – fatal.  For example, we all know about stories of people committing suicide by over-dosing on sleeping pills.

However, with homeopathy, this is all turned completely on its head.  Homeopaths, invoking their magical “law of infinitesimals”, insist that by diluting the active ingredient to the most ludicrous extreme (i.e., imagine diluting a solution so much that only one molecule of active ingredient remains in it) this will somehow transfer the healing power of the ingredient to the patient and actually make the solution more potent.

A classic example of debunking this particular woo-woo claim has been performed numerous times by James Randi as he lectures on the topic of homeopathy & other quackery.  As he lectures, usually for roughly an hour, Randi will consume an entire bottle of homeopathic sleeping pills that he’d purchased earlier from a nearby pharmacy.  Needless to say, despite performing this feat numerous times, James Randi has yet to die from such an “over-dose”.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Boycott the Huffington Post: They’ve Tumbled Down the Rabbit Hole of Anti-Science

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 8, 2009

Many months back, I made a post concerning the anti-scientific quackery being dished out over at the Huffington Post website. At the time, it seems that the HuffPo was receiving a storm of criticism from bloggers for their irresponsible promotion of various forms of alt-med woo & quackery, ranging from touchy-feely “energy healing” nonsense to outright dangerous anti-vaccination rants.

And, for a brief period of time, it seemed as if the folks over at HuffPo were backing away from the rabbit hole.  Sadly, the turn towards sanity& rationality didn’t last long, as outlined in a variety of blogs recently…

Science-Based Medicine: The Huffington Post is at it again

As many of our readers know, there are plenty of websites devoted entirely to fake medicine. Sites such as and NatrualNews are repositories of paranoid, unscientific thinking and promotion of dangerous health practices. Thankfully, they are rather fringe (but not fringe enough). More mainstream outlets print some pretty bad stuff, but it’s usually just lazy reporting and not a concerted, organized effort to promote implausible medical claims. As many of us have written, both hear and at our other blogs, the Huffington Post is the exception. It actively and in an organized way promotes dangerous, implausible pseudo-medicine.

NeuroLogica Blog: Science Bloggers Pigpile on HuffPo

And with good reason.

I am a bit late to the latest round of this party, but as I have previously pointed out, The Huffington Post has been since its inception a bastion of pseudoscience, especially in the medical field. Like distressingly many news outlets, it has decided to abandon all pretense of being “fair and balanced” in its actual content when it comes to its ideological stance.

Arianna Huffington clearly is enamored of anti-scientific pseudomedical nonsense. Earlier in her career she wrote for and frequently appeared on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher – another quack-friendly media personality.

The Bad Astronomy Blog: HuffPo still pushing antivax nonsense

I used to write for the Huffington Post, an online news and blog collective. It was started by Arianna Huffington during the Bush Era as a response to all the far-right online media. I didn’t agree with a lot of what was on there — I am more centrist — but at the time I thought it was necessary.

Then they started to promote far-left New Age nonsense, and when it came to vaccinations, HuffPo started posting all kinds of opinions that amounted to nothing more than out-and-out health threats. While they do sometimes post a counter-argument, it’s still almost all alt-med, all the time.

Here’s the latest: a doctor named Frank Lipman is telling people not to get vaccinated against Swine Flu. Instead he says you should wash your hands a lot, eat well, and take homeopathic medicine.

It indeed seems that the misguided & ideologically-driven folks over at HuffPo have tumbled uncontrollably down the rabbit hole, as attested to these scathing reviews.  But perhaps the most interesting, direct, and pithy post I’ve seen on this most recent expression of anti-science from HuffPo is from blogger PZ Myers…

Pharyngula: Die, HuffPo, DIE!

The HuffPo is once again a source of gross misinformation. Don’t worry about swine flu — it’s benign. If you really must protect yourself, take vitamins, eat garlic, get herbal supplements, and trust in homeopathy.

It’s patent quackery.

Really, people: boycott the HuffPo. I never read that slurry of watery dog crap anymore unless you cruel readers send me a link — it’s not worth it.

I couldn’t agree with PZ more.  Despite my admittedly left-of-center political leanings, I’ll not be visiting them any longer.  We should all just boycott HuffPo, folks… just don’t go there anymore, for anything.

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