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Health Robbers: a Close Look at Quackery in America

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Health Robbers Quackery in America

Health Robbers: a Close Look at Quackery in America

Today, modern medical science has more to offer to people in terms of treatments and cures than ever before, and the situation is improving every year. So why is it that so many people keep turning to treatments like herbs and acupuncture which have not been scientifically demonstrated to offer any help whatsoever?


Title: The Health Robbers: a Close Look at Quackery in America
Author: edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D. and William T. Jarvis, Ph.D.
Publisher: Prometheus Books
ISBN: 0879758554

•  Essays from more than 28 respected authorities
•  Wide variety of common alternative treatments critiqued •  History and basis for beliefs also examined

•  Disconcerting, if you use alternative medical treatments

•  Essays from more than 28 respected authorities
•  Efficacy and saftey of common alternative treatments examined
•  Nature of beliefs in alternative treatments examined


Book Review

With essays from more than twenty-eight highly respected authorities, the book The Health Robbers tries to answer that question, explaining the very real dangers of quack medicine, “alternative” cancer remedies, health fads, and “miracle diets.” Among the specific questions addressed are: Are ‘organic’ foods worth the extra cost? Can acupuncture cure anything? Can diet cure arthritis? Will spinal adjustments help my health? Where can reliable information be obtained? And, most importantly, what’s the best way to get good medical care?

For some, the answers to such questions will be obvious — but why aren’t they obvious to everyone else? Quite a few factors come in to influence people to fall for the claims of alternative health practicioners. Most Americans simply aren’t very well informed about the nature of science, how it is practiced, and why it is so important that empirical claims — especially those regarding medicine — be tested and verified scientifically.

Combined with this ignorance is the very nature of people who are seeking medical care: they are sick, in pain, and very often desperate. Desperate people are rarely very skeptical, because they are anxious for anything that promises to help them. Quacks have always preyed on those who are desperate and in need, selling snake oil or some other equivalent, and their claims are easier to understand than the complicated and all-too-often provisional nature of scientific investigation.

Unfortunately, most people aren’t willing to accept the inevitable grey areas of science, and instead are more readily drawn to the dramatic claims and generalizations of today’s alternative treatments. You can see this in the many negative reviews and comments which are made about critical books like this one.

Health Robbers Quackery in America

Health Robbers: a Close Look at Quackery in America

Most of those, I have found, really cannot be taken too seriously. Very often it does not appear that the writer even really read the book — I’ve seen one person complain about Ann Landers being a credible author of such a book, when she only write the preface. Commonly, critics complain loudly about the “author,” Stephen Barrett — as if they didn’t notice that he simply edited the volume. But if they can’t criticize the arguments or qualifications of the actual authors of the essays, all they have left is the editor who stands out in front, I guess.

There are only a few books available which take a systematic, critical look at the alternative medicine industry and the various ‘cures’ it tries to sell people. This is one of the best, providing a wider variety of essays on more topics than most which are available.

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