Quack quack quack.
July 30, 2007 5:58 AM   Subscribe

Have any of you had any experience with biorhythm readings, or any other such quackery where you were hooked up to a "computer" and completely diagnosed?

My wife's family is big into alternative medicine. About two years ago they jumped onto the Nikken bandwagon, and now someone in the family has obtained a "biorhythm computer" (thats supposedly illegal in the US) that can tell you everything about yourself, from depression, "allergic to dairy", stress, and cancer. Being a man of science, this bothers me, because every argument I put to it, my wife waves off as "So if you don't believe in it, it can't possible work", or "So if it doesn't come from a Dr. in a office, it can't possibly work".
I will admit, some of the stuff that they have told her, or her family is kind of weird. She knew that my wife had a iron deficiency, but they also told her alot of generic stuff like she has a "stress problem" and hasn't been sleeping properly. Shes a stay at home mom, of course she has stress. They also told her that she could not get cancer, because cancer is a acid and her system is very basey. That last claim is what really upset me.

Should I just let her keep believing this quackery?
posted by JonnyRotten to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm going to use my psychic powers here... oh, yes, it's coming to me:

Your wife is a libra. She takes echinacea and vitamin C daily to ward off colds. She used to think she was a spring, but now it seems she is a summer. Her entron levels are through the roof. She once won $400 playing the lottery. She wears a St. Christopher's around her neck. She found a nickel using a divining rod.

Really, none of these may be true, but you can clearly see that quackery can lead to a loss of money. That is just the beginning though. The "biorhythm" machine is harmless until your wife uses it to actually base medical decisions on its "readings." If she fails to get a mammogram or pap smear because she's convinced that she's immune to cancer, then you need to get worried.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:13 AM on July 30, 2007

Absolutely not. May I recommend John Diamond's Snake Oil as a scathing attack on alternative "medicine"? The author later died of the cancer he wrote about, but firmly resisted the approaches of quacks (however well-intentioned) until the very end.
posted by gene_machine at 6:14 AM on July 30, 2007

Most altie woo is pretty harmless nonsense. My dad & his wife (she works for a "supplement" company) are into a combo of sound dietary practices and quacky nonsensical junk science. Since it's not doing them any harm, and since a healthy amount of attention to one's health is, well, healthy, I try to keep my mouth mostly shut. My threshold for disabusing them is pretty simple, and a modification of the Hippocratic Oath: First, (let them) do no harm (to themselves).

To your point about "generic stuff"-- one in five women are at least slightly anemic, so yeah: not a bad guess. Even if it's galling, just keep your mouth shut so long as she isn't endangering her health.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:16 AM on July 30, 2007

If you want to prove your wife's family wrong, find somebody with a set of known conditions, hook 'em up to the illegal biorhythm computer (heehee), and watch as the machine fails to diagnose them.

If you'd like to have a happy relationship, I think it's important to pick your battles.

(When I was a kid, in, say, the mid-'80s, the local Chuck E. Cheese had a biorhythm machine. If I recall correctly, you'd drop in a token, put your thumb on a metal pad, hear some clanking and whirring, and finally be presented with a dot-matrix printout which heavily featured a bunch of curves. Oh, and it was right next to a fortune-telling machine. Wow--I must be at the peak of my reminiscing cycle.)
posted by box at 6:22 AM on July 30, 2007

If you want to prove your wife's family wrong, find somebody with a set of known conditions, hook 'em up to the illegal biorhythm computer (heehee), and watch as the machine fails to diagnose them.

Won't work. the response will be something like: "Those doctors were lying to you! You're problem isn't psoriasis, it's that you're allergic to the color red, which our machine correctly diagnosed. It just looks like psoriasis!"
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:57 AM on July 30, 2007

Re: Your wife's family: Grit your teeth, change the conversation. Don't argue.

Re: Your wife: "Honey, you know I'm skeptical, but I want to respect your beliefs. For my peace of mind, can we make a deal that you keep seeing your doctor and listening to what they say, in addition to everything that your family believes in, and otherwise we let the matter rest?"
posted by anaelith at 8:22 AM on July 30, 2007

You might point out that traditional medicine does not depend on the placebo effect in order to work ("So if you don't believe in it, it can't possibly work"). So, for instance, antibiotics will cure strep throat even if you don't believe in them. Belief in a given treatment system may confer a psychological benefit, but traditional treatments are largely effective without requiring the patient to have faith.
posted by Miko at 10:00 AM on July 30, 2007

Oh, yeah, my gramma's old 386 had a program that did these. Illegal? According to whom? That'd be my first line of attack, then I'd go for making specific claims (the "rhythms" of my gramma's machine showed ascendent and descendent health curves, as well as intelligence curves. It was easy to take a similar test, like crosswords or number puzzles, on different days and chart the speed results against the curves and see that they were independent), then debunking them.
posted by klangklangston at 10:24 AM on July 30, 2007

Should I just let her keep believing this quackery?

Why not? Placebo is strong medicine. If you're going to go so far as to marry someone like this, why would you then even think of depriving them of their cherished irrational beliefs?
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:47 AM on July 30, 2007

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