Medical question - suggested remedy?

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Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Moo » Wed Jul 07, 2010 9:58 am UTC

Hello, hope someone here with biological and/or medicinal knowledge can help (and that it's not a breach of the board rules to ask).

A friend recently suggested that a drop of 3% H2O2 in each ear every two hours will stop a developing cold or flu in its tracks. I'd like to know,
- is it possible this will work?
- is it likely to be dangerous?

I am shivery and achey and really, really don't want the flu so unless there's a reason not to, I'm considering trying this. I will also have an early night tonight, drink lots of fluids and I've already had an evervescent immune supplement (containing echinacea and many vits and minerals, incl Vit C (1667% RDA), some B vits and Zinc (48% RDA)). If it's not too much zinc, I've heard good things about zinc losenges, too.


Thanks!
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby sgt york » Wed Jul 07, 2010 10:38 am UTC

Every two hours may be a bit excessive. 3% peroxide solutions are commonly used to break up ear wax in the ear canal, and IIRC they suggest not using them more than a few times a week. Putting that much peroxide in your ear will probably stimulate a lot of wax formation, which may cause significant discomfort.

Also, I don't really see how drops of peroxide in your ear would help with a respiratory infection. It may make you feel better as it will remove the wax and generally decrease the discomfort & congested feeling from wax buildup, but I am highly skeptical of it stopping a respiratory virus.

FYI, the vitamin C thing only works if you are somehow immunocompromised or you are an Olympic-level athlete. All the data says that it won't do squat in most people.

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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Moo » Wed Jul 07, 2010 10:44 am UTC

Guess I just want to hedge my bets :)

Thanks for the input! I thought something sounded a little odd about the "cure" (although further data and/or suggestions are welcome)
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Minerva » Wed Jul 07, 2010 11:36 am UTC

I don't think it would be particularly dangerous. (Some quack pseudo-medicine health sites sell 30% H2O2 for a variety of purported beneficial uses, now that's dangerous.)
However, I don't think it will have any efficacy of any kind in terms of cold or 'flu infections.
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Velifer » Wed Jul 07, 2010 12:49 pm UTC

SUGGESTED REMEDY:
DON'T SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE ON THE INTERNET.

It will save you no end of trouble and expense.
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Moo » Wed Jul 07, 2010 1:26 pm UTC

:roll: I'm not seeking medical advice on the internet. I am seeking more info on H2O2 and its reaction in the ear cavity as a starting point so I can make an informed decision.
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby qetzal » Wed Jul 07, 2010 2:10 pm UTC

There is 0% chance that H2O2 in your ear will have any actual effect on a cold or flu. (Not unless magic really works.) Respiratory viruses don't infect your ear, and H2O2 in your ear won't affect your respiratory system.

The literature on echinacea looks mixed. Looking only at randomized double blind studies, it seems some investigators see an effect, while others don't. One problem is that everybody seems to have a different version of echinacea, given at different doses, in combination with different additional things. Even when someone claims an effect, it's relatively small. E.g., some studies suggest it might reduce the duration of a cold by half a day, or it might reduce your chance of getting a cold by about half.

The zinc literature seems to be similarly mixed. Some report a small effect, others don't see any effect. Again, the exact form of zinc varies across studies. Note that I would avoid the zinc nasal sprays and gels. Those have been linked to people losing their sense of smell.

Overall, the chance that your specific combination of echinacea, vitamins, minerals, & zinc will help seems low to me, and even if it does, it's very unlikely to help very much. If I was you, I'd skip all that and save my money.

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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Charlie! » Wed Jul 07, 2010 2:40 pm UTC

My best cold cure ( :) ) is running a damp rag over all the flat surfaces in my room and then getting someone else to vacuum the house. But that's because I have mild dust allergies and cleaning makes both me and my immune system happier.
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Velifer » Wed Jul 07, 2010 5:03 pm UTC

Moo wrote::roll: I'm not seeking medical advice on the internet. I am seeking more info on H2O2 and its reaction in the ear cavity as a starting point so I can make an informed decision.

Moo wrote:A friend recently suggested that a drop of 3% H2O2 in each ear every two hours will stop a developing cold or flu in its tracks. I'd like to know,
- is it possible this will work?
- is it likely to be dangerous?

You're looking for a proposal on an appropriate course of action relating to the practice of the art and science of healing. Perhaps I'm missing something. Try this. Or this.
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby JBJ » Wed Jul 07, 2010 5:30 pm UTC

It doesn't specifically address the drops in ear for cold relief, but as usual, Snopes provides some info. External use of H2O2 is mostly harmless, including applications in the ear for removal of wax, but should never be taken internally. There's nothing to suggest that H2O2 does anything to fight or prevent colds or flu (aside from disinfecting surfaces you may touch). To be honest, every site that touted the application of peroxide in the ears to fight a cold smelled of quackery to me.
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby fooliam » Wed Jul 07, 2010 8:28 pm UTC

The only thing I could think of is if your cold/flu is leading to sinus congestion, then the H2O2 might open up the ear and then allow the eustachian tubes to clear? I don't know if that would actually happen though. If it did, it would just be symptom relief anyway, and not a cure to the actual illness
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby sgt york » Thu Jul 08, 2010 3:13 pm UTC

qetzal wrote:There is 0% chance that H2O2 in your ear will have any actual effect on a cold or flu. (Not unless magic really works.)


I stopped saying things like this (i.e., 0% chance) years ago when I took a stance on trans vs cis unsaturated fats. My stance was "How the hell could flipping a bond around be dangerous? Hydrogenation is just fine. There's no way it can be harmful." Oops.....

As I said above, I am highly skeptical. I doubt it would work. I personally wouldn't waste even a trivial amount of time or money doing it. I can't think of any way that it could work. But as it has never been really tested and there is an anecdotal claim, I also wouldn't say there's a zero percent chance.

And before you say, "But this is sooooo much more obvious than cis vs trans desaturation!" please consider the possibility of hindsight bias.

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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby BlackSails » Thu Jul 08, 2010 4:48 pm UTC

sgt york wrote:
qetzal wrote:There is 0% chance that H2O2 in your ear will have any actual effect on a cold or flu. (Not unless magic really works.)


I stopped saying things like this (i.e., 0% chance) years ago when I took a stance on trans vs cis unsaturated fats. My stance was "How the hell could flipping a bond around be dangerous? Hydrogenation is just fine. There's no way it can be harmful." Oops.....

As I said above, I am highly skeptical. I doubt it would work. I personally wouldn't waste even a trivial amount of time or money doing it. I can't think of any way that it could work. But as it has never been really tested and there is an anecdotal claim, I also wouldn't say there's a zero percent chance.

And before you say, "But this is sooooo much more obvious than cis vs trans desaturation!" please consider the possibility of hindsight bias.


Flipping a bond could have very serious effects. (say, thalidomide(R) vs thalidomide(S) - one helps with morning sickness, the other turns your kid into aquaman) Flipping a bond makes things hugely different, particularly with respect to enzymes, and it should be obvious that it can change how it reacts biochemically.

Putting dilute h2o2 into your ear? Its not even near the infection, its incredibly unlikely that it would do anything.

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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jul 08, 2010 5:12 pm UTC

Yeah, not thinking that flipping a bond can be harmful just proves how little you know about chemistry, not that you were arguing without the hindsight we have today.
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby sgt york » Thu Jul 08, 2010 9:27 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Yeah, not thinking that flipping a bond can be harmful just proves how little you know about chemistry


Ha, you're right, actually. On that first part, at least. Just in the past tense.

I said that back when the debate was still going on, a few years after the first real data started coming out. I had just gotten into the swing of "getting it" in college organic chem and thought that made me teh most smartest chemist in the world. Of course, it didn't help much that my prof was in the "it's harmless" camp. So heck, I even had mechanism to back it up! (unfortunately, it was a BS mechanism).

But I still say it's arrogant to dismiss (or accept) something in the absence of data and then proclaim it as a fact that all should accept on your say-so.

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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby qetzal » Thu Jul 08, 2010 9:41 pm UTC

sgt york wrote:But I still say it's arrogant to dismiss (or accept) something in the absence of data and then proclaim it as a fact that all should accept on your say-so.


I'm in complete agreement, but this isn't even remotely a case of arguing in the absence of data. We know tons about how rhinoviruses and influenza cause disease, what parts of the body they infect, how the body responds, etc. We also know tons about what H2O2 can do. I submit that I'm on very firm ground when I say there's 0% chance of benefit.

However, please note that I only quoted one significant figure. Obviously, that means I'm still right as long as the true chance is less than 0.5%! :wink:

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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby BlackSails » Thu Jul 08, 2010 9:45 pm UTC

sgt york wrote:But I still say it's arrogant to dismiss (or accept) something in the absence of data and then proclaim it as a fact that all should accept on your say-so.


There is no data on invisible pink dragons. Should you accept the fact that they do not exist?

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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Telchar » Thu Jul 08, 2010 10:22 pm UTC

Schro(umlaut intended)dingers invisible pink dragons?
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Moo » Fri Jul 09, 2010 7:04 am UTC

Velifer wrote:You're looking for a proposal on an appropriate course of action relating to the practice of the art and science of healing. Perhaps I'm missing something.
First off, you are missing something, that I want data and not advice. Secondly you're assuming something, and erroneously. Namely, that I'm somehow going to take the posts in this thread as anything other than an indication of whether this warrants further investigation on my part. You also assume, it seems, that I don't have a doctor...?

Based on that, let me ask you a question: how many doctors do you know that are going to advocate a course of action not medically recognized? Like echinacea, or zinc, or H2O2? So that would be really, really helpful. And before you say "then you shouldn't try them" I direct you to qetzal post with helpful information that some of these things might work and are probably harmless to try (hence my asking about likely harmlessness as well).

If I was that easily convinced why would I question my friend's advice? Also, quit being an ass.
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Charlie! » Fri Jul 09, 2010 9:11 am UTC

Moo wrote:how many doctors do you know that are going to advocate a course of action not medically recognized? Like echinacea, or zinc, or H2O2? So that would be really, really helpful. And before you say "then you shouldn't try them" I direct you to qetzal post with helpful information that some of these things might work and are probably harmless to try (hence my asking about likely harmlessness as well)..

I see quetzal's post as a vindication of doctors, whose job it is to look over studies and find what works. When there's a publication bias in favor of positive results, when poorly designed studies are biased because of the placebo effect, and when the treatment is something that might have inherent blinding problems, like fizzy stuff, "might work" is not a good enough result at all. I mean, feel free to prescribe yourself a placebo, but I feel a little uncomfortable with people making money off of marketing placebos.
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby mr-mitch » Fri Jul 09, 2010 10:45 am UTC

BlackSails wrote:
sgt york wrote:But I still say it's arrogant to dismiss (or accept) something in the absence of data and then proclaim it as a fact that all should accept on your say-so.


There is no data on invisible pink dragons. Should you accept the fact that they do not exist?


How is something invisible and pink? But I heard about those things, they're dangerous. They'll fall out of a tree and squash you. Especially if you're on a horse, riding it backwards while eating a piece of chocolate cake and strawberry icecream.


On-topic: The best thing for colds and flu's I believe is to let your body do its work. If your diet doesn't supply the vitamins and minerals you need, then of course you should readjust your diet or if you're lazy take supplements. But if you're healthy there probably isn't a point to that either. Everyone is different.
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby qetzal » Fri Jul 09, 2010 11:42 am UTC

BlackSails wrote:There is no data on invisible pink dragons.


Obviously this is in jest, but I want to point out that there IS data on invisible pink dragons. Aside from the fact that invisible and pink are logically contradictory, there's data that says that, to the best of our knowledge, it's impossible for any animal to be truly invisible. There's also data that says that, to the best of our knowledge, there are no dragons, invisible or otherwise. Not on Earth anyway.

So there are entirely rational, data-based justifications not to believe in invisible dragons.

The larger point is that when people object that something is being "dismissed in the absence of data," they're usually wrong. Even if there are no studies specifically on invisible dragons (or on treating colds by putting H2O2 in your ears), we still have relevant data that we can use to judge the likely truth of those claims.

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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Velifer » Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:20 pm UTC

Moo wrote:Also, quit being an ass.

No. In this case, skepticism is best delivered with a bit of venom. Though I admit, I did miss that you were looking for data, not advice, and I did assume you were doing it on the cheap without access to a doctor. Sorry about that.

I've checked for literature, and all I can find is a handful of quack websites with copies of the same paragraph about a Dr. Simmons who in 1928 believed that cold viruses entered the body through the ear canal, and then something about German researchers with peroxide cures who were silenced by the medical community and Big Pharma. This hits all the wooism buttons with a big motherfucking sledgehammer.

As for doctors that advocate actions not medically recognized: doctors are technicians. A M.D. is a masters level degree. In the US, they also get paid by insurance companies based on performing recognized procedures. Professionally, they have a duty to uphold practice standards set by their specialty organizations and medical boards (possibly with legal implications for not doing so). This:
Ohio Revised Code 4731.22(B)(2) wrote:Failure to maintain minimal standards applicable to the selection or administration of drugs, or failure to employ acceptable scientific methods in the selection of drugs or other modalities for treatment of disease;
Can get a doctor's license revoked. So you won't see many prescriptions for colloidal silver or echinacea or drinking the blood of invisible pink dragons.

That does bring up a big issue in medicine right now. Professional organizations, governments, and insurance companies are coming up with these practice standards, (the current term is "evidence based practices") and doctors squeal about "cookie-cutter medicine." The need for balance there was addressed in Smith and Pell, 2003. Some things that seem to be working have never really been tested. Do we stop these interventions until we can do the proper studies? How do we balance evidence based medicine with doctors' judgment in individual cases?

One thing we shouldn't do: waste time and money researching wooist tripe. Skip the peroxide, at least try something novel.
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby BlackSails » Fri Jul 09, 2010 1:08 pm UTC

qetzal wrote:
BlackSails wrote:There is no data on invisible pink dragons.


Obviously this is in jest, but I want to point out that there IS data on invisible pink dragons. Aside from the fact that invisible and pink are logically contradictory, there's data that says that, to the best of our knowledge, it's impossible for any animal to be truly invisible. There's also data that says that, to the best of our knowledge, there are no dragons, invisible or otherwise. Not on Earth anyway.


Why should data on visible, brown cows have any bearing on invisible, pink unicorns?

(And invisible and pink are not necessarily contradictory, depending on how it is invisible)

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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby qetzal » Fri Jul 09, 2010 2:58 pm UTC

BlackSails wrote:Why should data on visible, brown cows have any bearing on invisible, pink unicorns?


Are you being serious? I honestly can't tell. (No offense intended, mind you.)

It's not about cows or any other specific animal. It's about animals and visibility in general.

We know what makes something visible. Either it emits its own light, or it blocks, refracts, or reflects light emitted by something else. The only way we know of that something can be invisible is for it to be essentially transparent to visible light (e.g. many gasses), or to be submicroscopic (e.g. elementary particles).

A unicorn (or a dragon) is supposedly an animal, and we know what's involved in being an animal. An animal cannot be gaseous, pretty much by definition. Nor can it be submicrosopic. It's composed of proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids, water, etc. All of those block, refract, and/or reflect light. Ergo, if a unicorn is an animal, it should be visible.

One might argue, "Yes, but a unicorn could be some very different kind of animal that really could be an invisible gas, or submicroscopic, or something else that makes it invisible. Or it could just be magic, and can make itself magically invisible."

That would lead us into a discussion of all the data that suggests that even a very different kind of animal (from some other planet, perhaps), should still be visible, and/or a discussion of all the data that suggests magic invisibility doesn't exist.

One might then argue, "Yes, but it's still possible!"

To which I would respond, I agree! I'm not arguing they're impossible. I'm arguing they're unlikely. And I'm doing so based on data. Not in the absence of data.

(And invisible and pink are not necessarily contradictory, depending on how it is invisible)


OK, I'll concede that one. :)

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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby fooliam » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:29 pm UTC

Moo wrote:
Velifer wrote:You're looking for a proposal on an appropriate course of action relating to the practice of the art and science of healing. Perhaps I'm missing something.
First off, you are missing something, that I want data and not advice. Secondly you're assuming something, and erroneously. Namely, that I'm somehow going to take the posts in this thread as anything other than an indication of whether this warrants further investigation on my part. You also assume, it seems, that I don't have a doctor...?

Based on that, let me ask you a question: how many doctors do you know that are going to advocate a course of action not medically recognized? Like echinacea, or zinc, or H2O2? So that would be really, really helpful. And before you say "then you shouldn't try them" I direct you to qetzal post with helpful information that some of these things might work and are probably harmless to try (hence my asking about likely harmlessness as well).

If I was that easily convinced why would I question my friend's advice? Also, quit being an ass.



Well damn, if you're looking for something that has not rational basis for working, has little to no likely negative consequences and "could" (as in, nothing is impossible, just infinitely improbable) work, just go to a naturopath and get yourself some homeopathic flu medicine.
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby BlackSails » Fri Jul 09, 2010 5:15 pm UTC

qetzal wrote:
BlackSails wrote:Why should data on visible, brown cows have any bearing on invisible, pink unicorns?


Are you being serious? I honestly can't tell. (No offense intended, mind you.)


Partially. I agree that having lots of visible animals and no invisible ones makes it unlikely that there are invisible ones that we dont know about, but that doesnt seem to have any logical rigor to it. Its some sort of wierd bayesian thing.

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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Vaniver » Sun Jul 11, 2010 7:33 pm UTC

qetzal wrote:There is 0% chance that H2O2 in your ear will have any actual effect on a cold or flu. (Not unless magic really works.)
But magic does really work.
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby qetzal » Sun Jul 11, 2010 8:33 pm UTC

Except I wouldn't call that kind of 'magic' an "actual effect on a cold or a flu." Only an effect on the subject's perception of their cold or flu.

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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Carnildo » Sun Jul 11, 2010 9:49 pm UTC

You might want to read up on the placebo effect. It's not just mental -- there are actual physiological changes that take place.

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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Velifer » Sun Jul 11, 2010 10:58 pm UTC

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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby qetzal » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:28 am UTC

Carnildo wrote:You might want to read up on the placebo effect. It's not just mental -- there are actual physiological changes that take place.


I have read a bit, and there's considerable disagreement about the extent to which placebos can have significant physiological effects. For example, this recent meta-analysis of placebo effects concluded:

We did not find that placebo interventions have important clinical effects in general. However, in certain settings placebo interventions can influence patient-reported outcomes, especially pain and nausea, though it is difficult to distinguish patient-reported effects of placebo from biased reporting. The effect on pain varied, even among trials with low risk of bias, from negligible to clinically important. Variations in the effect of placebo were partly explained by variations in how trials were conducted and how patients were informed.


See also here for further discussion.

That said, I have no doubt there are some physiological effects. Even if a placebo only alters a patient's perception of certain symptoms (pain being the one that seems most susceptible), that altered perception will at least have physiological effects in the brain. I have also heard it claimed that if a patient expects reduced pain, that can lead to measurable changes in endorphin levels, pain receptor activity, and the like - though I haven't seen the actual data for these claims.

If you have a good links to more interesting physiological responses to placebo, I'd enjoy reading them. If this is getting to off topic, feel free to PM them to me.

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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Bruenor » Mon Jul 12, 2010 8:12 am UTC

Have a look at this study. It show that by giving patients an opioid receptor antagonists, the placebo effect could be negated. Therefore endogenous opioids (endorphins) must play a large role.

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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Velifer » Mon Jul 12, 2010 12:58 pm UTC

Bruenor wrote:must

May.
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Telchar » Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:49 pm UTC

Velifer wrote:
Bruenor wrote:must

May.

Very likely. In fact, I think "do" is more appropriate.

@the study: The Parkinson's study in particular is fascinating being that a difference in response is seen within minutes.
Zamfir wrote:Yeah, that's a good point. Everyone is all about presumption of innocence in rape threads. But when Mexican drug lords build APCs to carry their henchmen around, we immediately jump to criminal conclusions without hard evidence.

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Vaniver
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Vaniver » Tue Jul 13, 2010 12:38 am UTC

Velifer wrote:May.
I think we should interpret that correction as a troll, because it's wrong in the exact way the person in the comic is wrong.
I mostly post over at LessWrong now.

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Velifer
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Velifer » Tue Jul 13, 2010 12:57 pm UTC

It's wrong to the same degree but opposite direction as the original. :twisted: The link was to a nice lit review, but taking one paper with small sample size, a PMCC of .4, and selective reporting "for space reasons" as sufficient evidence for "must" is a bit strong. Can we agree on "likely?"
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Re: Medical question - suggested remedy?

Postby Vaniver » Sun Jul 18, 2010 6:15 pm UTC

Velifer wrote:taking one paper with small sample size, a PMCC of .4, and selective reporting "for space reasons" as sufficient evidence for "must" is a bit strong. Can we agree on "likely?"
Sure; I didn't read the paper. Regardless of the study's merits, that comic is the wrong justification for doubting it; doubting the paper because it's unsure science is one thing, doubting that a time-lapsed correlation is causation because of a single statistics course is another.
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