Wednesday, July 2, 2014

#1103: Glenn Sabin

In the promotion and distribution of quackery and pseudoscience, the people are prey to two (partially) separate yet equally important groups: the cranks who concoct the pseudo-scientific bullshit and those who polish their PR strategies. Glenn Sabin’s main contributions belong among the latter.

Sabin is a board member for the Society of Integrative Oncology, where he is described as a “staunch proponent and leader in the area of integrative medicine”. He is perhaps most important, however, for his attempts to provide a narrative and framing for “integrative medicine” that may boost its sheen of scientific legitimacy. Indeed, Sabin has poised himself as a critic of “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), and even criticized its precarious relationships to evidence and rigorous testing. Instead, Sabin promotes “integrative medicine”, which is precisely the same thing but with a new name to make it sound fresh. As he puts it: “Today several integrative centers across the country still contain the words CAM in their name. This is both confusing to health consumers and damaging for these centers’ brand. Most clinics and centers launched during the last decade have evolved with their branding to include today’s more appropriate terminology of ‘integrative medicine’, ‘integrative services’ or ‘integrative therapies’.” (Also here.) Yep. Rebrand the quackery. That should help its reputation. I don’t think Sabin himself views it as a mere rebranding, but that’s what it is and Sabin himself pretty much admitted that it is all a matter of rebranding for PR purposes.

While CAM is often marred by the lack of evidence for its treatments, integrative medicine is different, according to Sabin: “Integrative medicine integrates proven therapies into conventional medicine. True, not all methods of mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques like, say, Reiki have a solid evidence base behind it, but in this case, many clinicians that offer services like Reiki do so because their clinical observations tell them that it helps many of their patients relax and may lessen the need of certain pain meds.” Yes, seriously – that’s what he says. Integrative medicine is better than CAM because – although not all (any?) integrative medicine practices have been backed by rigorous testing – they are supported by anecdotes. And no, Sabin apparently does not really understand how one distinguishes evidence from intuition in medicine or why it is necessary to do so. Here is Sabin on what he thinks about science and scientific testing, by the way, and what, accordingly, he thinks integrative medicine has to offer.

Oh, and it is not only “integrative”; it is “personalized integrative medicine”. That’s the label. The contents are the same as ever.

Diagnosis: It is hard to determine whether Sabin is confused or just cynical. In any case, his attempts to promote questionable treatments through various PR moves is doubtlessly harmful to society, and Sabin must be considered overall rather dangerous.


  1. the S's have a large collection of potential loons

    Not sure about Pat Sajak, but he doesn't exactly look good when he claims that public sector employees shouldn't be allowed to vote on things that would benefit them directly (he doesn't seem to realize that his proposal is unconstitutional), and that believing in Climate Change makes you an "unpatriotic racist"

    Rob Schneider (anti-vaccine celebrity (yep, yet another one) who went rage nuts over a law mandating childhood vaccination in California, comparing the California State Assembly to the Gestapo and the law to the Holocaust in the process)
    Malik Zulu Shabazz (Hoo boy...this guy is nearly a self-parody of black nationalism, claims that the Jews were responsible for the slave trade, that Obama is a Jew for declaring war on Ghadaffi, and that homosexuality is a "Jew virus")
    Steve Stockman (in Congress since January 3, 2013, but since then has managed to out crazy even Louie Gohmert and Michelle Bachmann)
    Louis Sheldon (founder and leader of Religious Right group Traditional

  2. traditional values coalition (sorry about the comment split, I'm typing this on a handheld and the keys sometimes get stuck)
    Walid Shoebat (phony ex-terrorist)
    Theodore Shoebat (for the son of an alleged ex-terrorist and supposed opponent of terrorism, his views on homosexuality are almost completely indistinguishable from those of the Taliban)
    Charlie Sykes (talk-radio guy, would just be a footnote if not for the fact that he runs a website called "Right Wisconsin" and is apparently an influential political figure in that state; also he's a climate change denial ist, a self-righteous hypocrite, basically he's like Rush Limbaugh without the three ex-wives...only one)

  3. Now that I'm typing on a computer, I can list the rest of my loon suggestions without issue

    Noel Sheppard (chief dullard of NewsBusters, climate change denialist, thinks that criticism of Creationism in the media is "proof" of "liberal bias")
    Nicholas Stix ("racial realist" (read: white supremacist) and the guy who originated the "knockout game" hysteria)
    Michael Savage (this guy is to the conservative movement what Malik Zulu Shabazz is to black nationalism)
    Amity Shlaes (a historical revisionist, sort of like David Barton, but pushes Austrian-School economics rather than dominionism)
    Irwin Schiff
    Michael T. Snyder (guy behind the Economic Collapse Blog; basically the David J. Stewart of Austrian Schoolers)
    Speaking of which, David J. Stewart (One look at Jesus-Is-Savior is all the evidence required for his candidacy)
    I'm somewhat unsure of Antonin Scala (his referring to the Voting Rights Act as granting "racial entitlements" at least merits an honorable mention)
    Paul Scalia, his son, is less famous but also a much clearer candidate, what with his involvement in a reparative therapy group (Courage International) and the fact that he doesn't believe that homosexuality really exists because "it is not an immutable characteristic or identity."
    Valerie Solanas (rad fem author of the SCUM Manifesto)
    Henry Stevens (holocaust denier and Nazi UFO "expert")
    Alexandra Sellers (she seems to think that she can speak the language of cats
    Thomas Sowell (did you know that Obama creating a relief fund for BP is facism? I sure didn't! We have Sowell to thank for revealing that bombshell. If that isn't enough, Sowell's New Deal and Climate Change denialism, his belief that Rachael Carson is responsible for more deaths than any other mass murderer in history, and his completely insane conspiracy theories about how public school teachers are "soul-raping" children into becoming true believers should do the trick)