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damn those control groups, damn them all

This made me laugh out loud when I saw it on Bad Science. It’s the abstract of a peer-reviewed paper (Bengston and Moga, 2007) from The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, which appears to be about as respectable as a journal in that field gets (though I could be wrong on this, I’m just going by hits on Google).

Classical experimental design presupposes that subjects, randomly separated into experimental and control groups, are independent and distinct. … In four previously reported experiments on anomalous healing using “healing with intent” on mice injected with lethal doses of mammary adenocarcinoma (source, The Jackson Laboratories, Bar Harbor, ME; code, H2712; host strain, C3H/HeJ), a high percentage of both experimental and control mice exhibited an anomalous healing pattern, most often passing through stages of tumor ulceration to full life-span cure. … In order to explain tumor regression of control animals, I posit the formation of “resonant bonds,” which can link spatially separate groups. Healing given to the experimental animals can result in an unintended treatment to the control animals, producing anomalous healing akin to placebo effects.

To sum up: the authors poisoned a bunch of mice and waved crystals over one group and didn’t over another. But similar number of mice in both groups got better. The researchers conclude that the the “resonance” of the crystal power is magically healing the mice in the control, and in fact, that the whole scientific principle of using controls in medicine is wrong. Because there’s couldn’t possibly be anything amiss in healing mice by waving crystals over them.

The abstract concludes: “[r]esearchers are invited to reanalyze past data in light of resonance theory.” Gosh, thanks. Think I’ll pass.

Also, how do these experiments get ethics approval? I need to spend weeks filling out forms and justifying my work before I can let a few people to click buttons on a computer screen. These guys are killing 200+ mice for this paper.


  1. Judith wrote:

    Hey, not crystals. Hands. Get with the program. They injected the mice with a cancer that is normally fatal to ALL mice within 30 days. No treatment has EVER caused a mouse to survive with this cancer for longer than 30 days. THIS treatment caused 87.9% of the mice to recover and live their full life spans in the first four experiments alone, and when they were reinjected with the cancer they did not develop it again, having developed immunity. The experiments have been repeated 10 times to date and recoveries are now close to 100 per cent. THE EXPERIMENTS WERE DONE AT BONA FIDE SCIENTIFIC LABORATORIES AT MEDICAL SCHOOLS IN THE U.S. (Colorado, Arizona, Connecticut). They were set up by scientists and one of the researchers was a medical school professor of cell biology. The results speak for themselves.

    Friday, July 6, 2007 at 2:29 pm | Permalink
  2. Thank-you, I will get with the program. I agree: the results speak for themselves. The treated mice get better. The control mice get better. Either the “healing with intent” treatment doesn’t actually do anything, or all of biology and statistics is wrong. I’ve picked my side, and so, apparently, have you. I guess we’ll have to wait and see which one history favours.

    Also, you might want to actually take it up with Bad Science. All you’re gonna get from me is sarcasm.

    Friday, July 6, 2007 at 5:58 pm | Permalink
  3. Judith wrote:

    Which part of full life-span recoveries did you not understand? 🙂

    The point is ALL THE MICE SHOULD HAVE DIED. And it’s not that the cancer didn’t take, because all the mice had gross physical effects, the ones that died large tumours, the ones that survived, large tumours and ulcerations that then proceeded to heal to full cure. To date this experiment has been repeated 10 times at 5 different institutions, with the same results.

    Are all the scientists involved in these experiments incompetents and morons?

    Have you read the full article or just the abstract? Because if you have just read the abstract, and not looked at the data showing spleen weights and haemoglobin counts, you are not in the least qualified to speak to this. Your sarcasm is merely a knee jerk reaction proceeding from ignorance 🙂

    And if you know the history of science and medicine, you will know what kind of ridicule attended the discovery of vaccines, electricity, penicillin, and even hygenic practices.

    Tuesday, September 11, 2007 at 3:27 pm | Permalink
  4. Sooo… in 10 experiments, similar numbers of the study group and control group both got better? My bad. That pretty much proves it.

    But in any case, that info was overkill: your logic alone defeated me. Electricity (apparently) was ridiculed. Magic mouse control group healing was ridiculed. THEREFORE magic mouse healing has the scientific validity of electricity. Sorry for being so obtuse. Thank God you know the history of science and medicine so well! I can now look forward to a future where cancer will be cured by someone using “healing with intent” on some dude in the next room.

    Tuesday, September 11, 2007 at 6:19 pm | Permalink
  5. Judith wrote:

    In some of the experiments they had two control groups, one on site, one off site. The on-site control group recovered, the off-site control group died on schedule. You still haven’t read the article, have you? Essentially, all you are doing is exhibiting prejudice and ignorance. Read the article with scientific disinterest, then reply.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2007 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  6. I am truly humbled. Not only do you defeat me with your logic (requiring *only* that the scientific principal of using controls be invalid: deliciously elegant!), but you are gracious enough in victory to be deeply concerned with how I appear to the scientific community. I honestly don’t know how I’ll show my face once all 10 of those independent “resonance bond”-supporting experiments are published in respectable peer-reviewed journals. Or are they already? Please don’t tell me they are already — I just want to live with my prejudice and ignorance a little while longer.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2007 at 2:23 pm | Permalink
  7. Judith wrote:

    Okay, enjoy your ignorance. And it’s “principle”, not “principal”.

    Friday, September 14, 2007 at 2:27 pm | Permalink
  8. Oh, snap!

    Friday, September 14, 2007 at 2:30 pm | Permalink
  9. Judith wrote:

    Actually, meeee-ow 🙂

    Friday, October 5, 2007 at 4:12 pm | Permalink