Monday, May 11, 2015

#1364: Iris Bell

The name “Elohim Belial” is allegedly the name of the founder of the God Damn America Movement, a faction of the Yakub Islam movement, but we are not entirely convinced that the whole thing is not a hoax (though maybe it isn’t). Eldon Bell, a retired air force officer and birther, is not a hoax, though he is a joke, but probably too insignificant in the grand scheme of things to merit a separate entry.

Iris Bell, on the other hand, is both a joke and frighteningly influential. Bell is a homeopath, which is, as most of you know, woo so amazingly silly that one almost has to pity its proponents. But Bell is also a faculty member at the University of Arizona, home to the godfather of “integrative medicine”, Andrew Weil – in fact, Bell is Director of Research for the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, which means that students who eventually get medical degrees may have listened to the rubbish that falls out of Bell’s mouth. Indeed, Bell actually managed to obtain grant money from the NCCAM to study homeopathy (yes, that’s tax money). Entirely predictably, no support for homeopathy as an efficacious treatment was found, and equally entirely predictably, Bell thought she had found such support. The fact that the results were published in obscure alt-med journals should really tell you everything. There is takedown of her “research” here.

For instance, Bell adheres to the (frankly incoherent) idea that homeopathy works through “nanoparticles.” Yes, it is quantum woo, and the “nanoparticles” described by Bell have nothing to do with, you know, nanoparticles as scientists understand them. The papers are, accordingly, full of technobabble, nebulous nonsense and appeals to magic, containing no measurable results or testable hypotheses whatsoever, to the extent that readers with a bit of background in relevant areas would suspect a Sokal hoax; you can read a deconstruction of one of them (coauthored with Mary Koithan) here.

Another article, “Adaptive network nanomedicine: an integrated model for homeopathic medicine” was published in the pseudojournal Frontiers of Bioscience in 2013; it is notable in particular for being coauthored with none other than Gary Schwarz.

Apparently Bell has risen to be come one of the movers and shakers in the homeopathic “research” community for her nonsensical nanoparticle rants (e.g. here). Previously, she participated in some court cases (Bahura et al. v. S.E.W. Investors et al.) as an expert witness, though her testimony, in particular on her “limbic kindling” hypothesis, was excluded as unreliable.

Diagnosis: Deranged, but truly scary. Despite the amazing level of bullshit and pseudoscience, and the level ridiculousness exhibited in her “scientific” work, Bell still manages to stay affiliated with an institution that apparently takes itself seriously as a research institution. It’s as exasperating as it is frightening.

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