Friday, May 20, 2016

#1664: James S. Gordon

James Samuel Gordon is an author, Harvard-educated psychiatrist, and one of the truly big names in quackery and pseudoscience promotion. Gordon promotes mind-body medicine – in particular unproven and alternative techniques – and is the founder and Director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM), an “educational” organization, as well as a fellow of the Fetzer Institute. The Fetzer Institute funds a range of alternative medicine initiatives – notably an infamous and thoroughly flawed David Eisenberg study on altmed – and has sponsored forums for advocates of psychedelic experience and spirituality. Gordon is, in short, a pretty powerful proponent of alternative and complementary medicine, or “integrative medicine” – the practitioners tend to change the designator every time the public starts to associate the current name with what they actually peddle (Gordon himself has tried to rebrand pseudoscientific nonsense as “self-care strategies”).

Gordon himself is a “licensed acupuncturist”. And like many promoters of altmed (and as the changes in designation would suggest) he is not afraid to use misrepresentation to further his cause: A typical and dishonest gambit is the bait-and-switch tactic of lumping nutrition and exercise – which belong squarely in the science-based medicine – in with “alternative treatments” to suggest that plenty of alternative treatments are demonstrably efficacious (they need to do that, of course, since none of the actually alternative treatments are).

He is also a guru of sorts, and his book The Golden Guru: The Strange Jouney of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh includes a description of his own rebirthing in India as well as a defense ofviolent psychotherapy (yup) and attempts to defend the egregious excesses and abuse committed by Rajneesh, the televangelist fraud and cult-leader who taught him. If you don't remember them, the Rajneesh cult actually made some headlines back in the day, especially in 1984, when Rajneesh’s followers apparently recruited hundreds of mentally ill and drug-addict street people to come to Oregon to vote as part of a plan to take over their section of the state through the ballot box. They also, famously, inoculated salad bars with salmonella bacteria to keep local residents away from the polls – the first confirmed instance of chemical or biological terrorism to have occurred in the US (Rajneesh himself was deported from the US for immigration fraud somewhat later). Gordon has offered plenty of Rajneesh-inspired therapies in his psychiatric practice, including the “mind expanding” technique of whirling and spinning to dizziness, and decades after Rajneesh cult’s influence had faded Gordon continued to sell Audio CDs of Rajneesh’s “Dynamic Meditation” and “Kundalini Meditation” at his own CMBM Online Bookstore. Merely to call this shit “nonsense” is to overlook the danger it may pose to people in vulnerable situations.

Despite his background as a Rajneesh fan the Clinton administration viewed Gordon as fit for tasks that required accountability and responsibility when they appointed him to the position of chairman of the White House Commission on Complementary andAlternative Medicine Policy (WHCCAMP) (to the protest of real psychologists who have long recognized Gordon as a promoter of potentially dangerous and untested treatments).

He has been in the game for a long time, though:

-       Gordon directed the Special Study on Alternative Services for President Carter’s Commission on Mental Health.
-       In the 80s he designed and implemented a study track for medical students in integrative and alternative medicine at Georgetown’s medical school (which appears to have turned into something close to a pseudoinstitution at this point).
-       His own CMBM was founded in 1991 to offer professional training programs in mind-body medicine and integrative oncology to health and mental health professionals in order to help them integrate pseudoscientific techniques into their practices. He and his followers have apparently also trained local teams in Kosovo, Israel, and Gaza to make the CMBM model a fully integrated and sustainable part of the local healthcare systems there. In 2008 they apparently even won a research award from the US Department of Defense to study their mind-body approaches with veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
-       In the 90s, Gordon was also co-director of the Mind-Body Panel at the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM), together with Larry Dossey and Jungian transpersonal psychologist Jeanne Achterberg, and managed to steer OAM’s and NCCAM’s Mind-Body research into mysticism and parapsychology.
-       Gordon has also organized a series of Comprehensive Cancer Care Conferences for practitioners of pseudoscience, quackery and New Age craziness, as well as representatives for the NIH and the American Cancer Society. His book based on these conferences, Comprehensive Cancer Care, is not a trustworthy source of cancer-care-related information.
-       He has even been part of the “Scientific Advisory Board” of John Mack’s Program for Extraordinary Experience Research  (Mack is a proponent of “alien-abduction therapy” to help the hundreds of thousands of Americans he believes may have at some point have been abducted by aliens).
-       Heck, Gordon was a speaker at a 1997 conference of followers of “orgone energy” theorist Wilhelm Reich – though he did admittedly seem reluctant to endorse their ideas (suggesting that they should “test” them; yeah, right). But he has pushed the Gonzalez protocol.

His latest (?) book is Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression, which outlines a program “adapted from mythologist Joseph Campbell’s groundbreaking [bullshit] studies of the world’s mythic heroes and heroines.” Like most of Gordon’s work we suspect the evidence base for the claims is limited to the author’s ego.

Diagnosis: One of the most dangerous people alive – he has a pretty non-modest view of his own self-importance, but there is no doubt that Gordon has had plenty of negative influence of medical practices and standards of care in the US.

Much of the information for this post was obtained from quackwatch’s entry here.

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