Tuesday, February 5, 2013

#408: Andrew Weil

One of the Four Horsemen of the Woo-pocalypse, Andrew Weil is a certified medical doctor and one of the most influential promoters of woo in the States (partially since he has an actual medical background). Being a medical doctor does not entail that you know how science works, however, a point that Weil demonstrates to brilliant effect. Upon discovering evidence-based medicine, Weil immediately decided in advance that if a study doesn’t give him the results he wants, then it must be flawed, thus flaunting his conviction that motivated reasoning is a truth-preserving inference rule. It isn’t.

Weil’s most notably achievement was – in addition to the popularization of the term “integrative medicine” – the founding of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine (of which he is also the director). ACIM is an institution promoting traditional medicinal cures alongside homeopathic remedies, and was (and is) central to making the New Age movement and alternative medicine popular in the latter part of the 20th century. The people at ACIM, such as Iris Bell, works tirelessly to promote and cherry-pick evidence in favor of a large range of unsupportable medical treatments, and seem to have achieved notable success among those who downplay the significance of truth and reality.

Weil’s website is also among the most popular alternative medicine websites on the Internet, and it provides lots of advice backed by variable degrees of evidence that is associated with variable levels of risk to potential users (also here). Weil’s enormous medical marketing enterprise has been astonishingly successful, and he has been on the cover of Time (twice, in 1997 and 2005), which announced that “medicine man Dr. Andrew Weil has made New Age remedies popular,” and that “millions of Americans swear by” his medical advice, respectively. Time also named him one of the 25 most influential Americans in 1997 and one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2005. He has received a huge amount of other prizes as well for his fight against science, accountability and reason.

Weil’s standard whine consists of the Big Pharma gambit (rather ironic given his own rather successful enterprises in alternative medicine), appeals to paranoia and special pleading.

He is also the author of numerous (an enormous number of, really,) books promoting, amongst other things, Ayurvedic medicine, crank dietary beliefs and so-called self-healing. The most famous (apart from his pro-recreational-drug books) may be “Why our Health Matters”, “Natural Health, Natural Medicine”, “Spontaneous Healing” and “Eight Weeks to Optimum Health”. He has also, more recently, promoted changing the scientific method for testing alternative medicine, in favor of so-called “uncontrolled clinical observations” (that is, blatantly biased anecdotal evidence) over double blinded randomized trials, since it would make it far easier to obtain results supporting whatever he has already convinced himself are true this way – a fairly typical quack ploy. One of his suggestions is relying on what he calls “pragmatic trials”; their merits are discussed here.

Weil has recently tried to lay the groundwork for a board certification for woo promotion, which is a rather interesting project that is unlikely to be supported by many of his followers. Since “efficacy of treatment” can rather obviously not be among the certification criteria, one wonders what exactly the criteria are going to be.

A list of books he has endorsed or written the forewords for (which suggests a modicum of endorsement) can be found here. The latter include, among others:
- Sanford Newmark: “ADHD without Drugs”
- Gershon Winkler: “Daily Kabbalah: Wisdom from the Tree of Life”
- Russell H. Greenfield, Stuart H. Ditchek, & Lynn Murray Willeford: “Healthy Child, Whole Child: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Alternative Medicine to Keep Your Kids Healthy”
- Keith I. Block: “Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Treatment”
- Lewis Mehl-Madrona: “Coyote Medicine: Lessons from Native American Healing”.
Diagnosis: One of the most dangerous, insidious people alive today, Weil is enormously influential, and a severe threat to civilization.


  1. You forgot lucrative: He was getting $20,000 a pop for speaking engagements a decade ago, and it's been upward from there.

  2. Ah so this is the guy who keeps making these quack remarks on the vaccine truth site.