Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#253: Bryan K. Marcia

To be perfectly honest, I am not sure how central Bryan K. Marcia is in the movement, but at least he can serve as our Encyclopedia’s representative of one of the biggest, most insane crackpot phenomena out there: Iridology; the most famous proponent in the States, Bernard Jensen, is currently dead and thus disqualified). Marcia may even be Canadian (he probably is, but he got his educational degree from Hawaii – the cnri website emphasizes that his educational institution was accredited – so there is at least this justification for including him).

For the uninitiated, iridology is the study of the iris to diagnose disease. The governing idea is that every organ in the body has a corresponding location within the iris and that it can be determined whether an organ is healthy or not by examining the iris rather than the organ itself. The view has absolutely no scientific support, and tests show that even iridologists themselves fail miserably in distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy individuals (and the rate of agreement between individual iridologists is hardly better than chance either). See the perfectly insane responses to this article here. The utter silliness of the idea is well illustrated by this piece from a former iridologist - and he is not the only one.

Bryan Marcia is at least an iridologist and seems to be counted as something of an authority in the iridology movement, in particular for his educational work. He has also worked with the legendary Dr. Jensen, and seems to be primarily responsible for the “educational” institution The course description for the iridology course can be found here or here. The first of those pages also includes a useful list of iridologists in the US and other countries, although many of the names return preciously few google hits.

Diagnosis: Über-crank who is mired in the deep end of the fluffy pool of altmed. The popularity of iridology is unclear, but as with all woo it has the potential to cause some real harm to real people.


  1. I did not realize that The Skeptic's Dictionary and quackwatch were credible 'scientific' reference sites although this site seems no different. It is now common knowledge that quackwatch owner Stephen Barrett is nothing more than a failed MD who could not even pass his board exams, which perhaps caused much of his insanity. And you use this guy as your reference?? More on so-called Dr. Barrett:

    Obviously, you are not aware of the vast amount of clinical studies that validate the efficacy of iridology.

    Unfortunately, there has not been one clinical study in iridology held in any North American hospitals. This is primarily due to the American style of healthcare being controlled by the Medical Industrial Complex that is based upon drugging, burning and butchering people which kills nearly 200,000 people every year. It seems that conventional medicine approaches tend to kill more people than guns, terrorists and wars together..

    If you think that this style of medicine used is acceptable, then good for you. Anyone with a higher IQ knows to stay away from such invasive treatments.

    Did you know that most MD's themselves would never consider using the same treatments that they offer to their patients? I know this as fact since I worked with MD's and surgeons for several years and most of them would never consider vaccinating their own children.

    And more than likely you are not aware of the many credible scientific studies in Iridology that were accomplished in Russian hospitals for well over a decade and that there are currently over 10,000 Medical Doctors in Russia who are specialty trained in ‘Iridodiagnostics’. If you review some of these clinical studies held in Russia, you will find that MOST of them are very impressive and a few not so impressive. But what science is an ‘exact’ science? You can review some of these clinical studies here:

    No scientific support for iridology? There is plenty of support and credible clinical studies in iridology, just none from North America, land of the plutocratic rule. The fact is that your so-called research is solely based upon skeptic websites only shows me that you have very poor research skills..

    Prof. Bryan K. Marcia, PhD.

    1. Thank you for this comprehensive and compelling argument against Stephen Barrett. You really addressed his concerns over iridology in a slam-dunk fashion.

      It strikes me that neither you nor other iridologists address the results of e.g.

      - Simon, A. (1979). "An evaluation of iridology". JAMA 242 (13): 1385–9. doi:10.1001/jama.242.13.1385. PMID 480560.
      - Knipschild, P. (1988). "Looking for gall bladder disease in the patient's iris". BMJ 297 (6663): 1578–81. doi:10.1136/bmj.297.6663.1578. PMC 1835305. PMID 3147081.

      Yes, these two are old studies, but their conclusions are still pretty damning. As are:

      - Ernst E. Iridology: Not useful and potentially harmful. Archives of Ophthalmology 118:120-121, 2000.
      - Ernst, E. Iridology: A Systematic Review, Forsch Komplementarmed. 1999 Feb;6(1):7-9.

      The Russian studies you mention, however, just confirms the bias and selective use of evidence that altmed promoters are prone to. Even the article at "iridologyinternational" admits that these studies were neither blinded nor controlled (in most of them, the iridologist already knew the medical background of the patient!). It is hard to find any credible information on some of them since they are not published in credible journals - which should tell you something, shouldn't it? Altmed conference presentations as a reliable study? Hearsay in monographs? Seriously - but sorry: none of these even have the semblance of a proper study or provide any credible evidence whatsoever for the efficacy of iridology.

      There is at least one more recent controlled study, Munstedt et al., which was even published in the Journal of CAM. (Münstedt K and others Can iridology detect susceptibility to cancer? A prospective case-controlled study. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 11;515-519, 2005). The authors had to admit that the results didn't leave much hope for iridology, however.

  2. In Regards to the few studies that you mention by Ernst and Knipschild, incidentally, if you check other studies accomplished by these same authors, you will find they tend to debunk any non-conventional healing methods, not just iridology. For example, more negative studies from the same authors:

    A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy by E. Ernst

    A systematic review of randomised clinical trials of individualised herbal medicine in any indication by E. Ernst

    Acupuncture and chronic pain: A criteria-based meta -analysis by P. Knipschild

    And there were some iridologists who have written rebuttals for these negative studies:

    The abstract title by Ernst, “Iridologists claim to be able to diagnose medical conditions through abnormalities of pigmentation in the iris” is way off the mark if they were only using iris pigmentation as signs for detecting pathology.

    The abstract title alone shows me that they did not have a clue what they were doing and chances are that they did not use sector photography or did not even know about the relief of the iris.

    The cancer study was also poorly done. There is no one sign for cancer in the iris, but rather a combination of 3-10 signs according to Asian and Russian studies.

    There was a ‘GOLD’ standard Korean government approved conducted at Aju University General Hospital which reported up to 80% accuracy in diagnosing some types of cancer:

    In Russia, they had 91% detection rate in a clinical study for breast cancer: "In addition, 11 women were found iridology signs of breast lesions. The clinical anamnestic test changes in the mammary glands are installed in 10 subjects (91%). " Velchover Clinical Hospital Study Monography.

    Have you ever searched the statistics on the amount of false-positive diagnosis using mammography? Let me give you a hint: shocking!!

    More recently (2012) clinical studies in India showed between 72–75% accuracy in diagnosing diabetes using iridology:

    And another study (2006) from Singapore also showed high degree of accuracy in detecting diabetes:

    I consider the abstracts from Russia very credible since they were accomplished in hospitals by several doctors and researchers, not by some individual who makes their living debunking the sciences.

    If we look deeper into conventional medicine’s approach to ‘gold standard’ research and design, that up to 80 percent of medical study results are either wrong or fraudulent.

    A few recent articles relating to the medical industrial ‘gold standard’ system of clinical studies:

    Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science:

    Why Most Published Research Findings Are False:

    Contradicted and Initially Stronger Effects in Highly Cited Clinical Research:

    The few links that I have listed accurately demonstrates how conventional medicine is anything but evidence-based science. There is virtually no credible basis for the majority of modern medical treatments.

    Then we can also look at the biometric companies, who in the past decade, and after investing millions, have been touting that the iris is stable and never changes, such as your fingerprint, therefor the iris is perfect for using in biometric security applications. I can imagine their dismay when a current study came out last year that did not support their non iris-change theory:

    Prof. Bryan

    1. I apologize for the fact that your comment got caught up in the spam filter and hence took some time to get published (it happens with comments that contain a lot of links).

      "if you check other studies accomplished by these same authors, you will find they tend to debunk any non-conventional healing methods, not just iridology" does not count as engaging with their actual findings. Nor do your inferences from what they took into consideration just based on short sentences in the abstract - these debunking studies have let the iridologists they test use whatever means and techniques they would ordinarily use for diagnositization, though I suspect that there isn't just one diagnostization technique accepted by iridologists across the board.

      I have not had the time to look at all the links. The studies referred to still aren't published in serious venues, and the one nature study on biometric scans has nothing to do with the validity or not of iridology.

      Nor can I be bothered to counter the misunderstandings that go into your attacks on "conventional" medical science. It is pretty obvious that you haven't bothered trying to understand what the articles you link to yourself, or why the observations these articles are based on in no way whatsoever imply any criticism or problem for science-based research (there is a brief explanation here, but I don't suppose that you'll look at it). The simple point is really: medical science changes all the time, as new information comes in, things get better understood, techniques improve - hypotheses are rejected, theories are modified, old ideas are let go of; as our understanding improves, we realize that older research involve certain incorrect or imprecise assumptions or techniques, and must be revised. That's the nature of science, and a consequence of letting one's theories be guided by data and rigorous investigation. (In altmed the situation is different, of course. Altmed theories don't change, and nothing really ever gets discarded, since altmed isn't driven by evidence, data or research. That a field is unchanging, and that its general principles don't get revised and often discarded, is not an indication of quality, but of bias and dogmatism.)

      Instead of really engaging in a debate on this issue (since I suspect it will be fruitless), I will point out a really curious upshot if you take conventional medical scientific investigations to be untrustworthy, as you seem to do:

      If it really were the case that "If we look deeper into conventional medicine’s approach to ‘gold standard’ research and design, that up to 80 percent of medical study results are either wrong or fraudulent," i.e. that rigorously conducted medical studies are as untrustworthy as you say, what reason do you have to trust the studies you cite in favor of iridology? If not even rigorous scientific investigation counts as trustworthy evidence, then nothing does, which should lead you to conclude that the studies you cite in favor of iridology don't give you any evidence for iridology either, right?

      That the research in conventional medicine is sloppy, even if it were true, is not a reason to think iridology works.

    2. I am more than willing to engage in debate even though the chance of us ever seeing ‘eye to eye’ are pretty much nil since your education is more than likely based upon corporate indoctrination. It would be interesting to know what your background in whatever sciences is based upon.

      You quoted with link “(there is a brief explanation here, but I don't suppose that you'll look at it), but earlier you stated “I have not had the time to look at all the links.” Is this because my links have no relevance and your links are gold standard superior, no questions asked?

      I did read your link regarding the “damn lies rebuttal’ and found it very flimsy for a rebuttal since I could post a few hundred more fraudulent conventional medicine ‘gold standard’ studies. It seems that the conventional approach to gold standard is if you have enough gold, you can get your fraudulent junk science study approved.

      I did find amusement with the one comment regarding the fellow who published the negative studies in iridology and other sciences, “We don’t have to imagine an Ioaniddis in the CAM world. That person is Edzard Ernst. And we have seen how he has been received – as a traitor with an axe to grind”.

      You then wrote “The simple point is really: medical science changes all the time, as new information comes in, things get better understood, techniques improve”. True.. but then you must realize that most of the negative studies in iridology that you refer to are over 20 years old!!

      Yep, when an individual has poor health, they are lacking inorganic chemical drugs, correct? And there is no gold standard study that carrots can be beneficial to one’s health, correct?

      And Let me guess again..

      The only gold standard studies for healthy food are now only GMO produced food, correct? I suppose that since most universities now receive the bulk of their funding from biotech and drug companies, what are we to expect in this day and age? While you wait in line for your flu shot, I will get my sun shot from the beach instead. And while you enjoy you GMO saturated corn flakes, I enjoy my local grown fruit salad WITH SEEDS. All is good, everyone is happy. We both made our personal choices.

      To make a quick point about poor quality research in iridology, I have uploaded an example set of images to my site:

      As you can see, the original image you cannot see the ‘iris transversal’. The following images show a pronounced transversal in the same eye. ‘True’ iris trabecular transversals can indicate a severe pathological process in the body. I would bet that your negative cancer study did not consider using high resolution sector imaging.. truth out!

      BTW, the biometric study does have relevance since the biometric industry based it's theory on medical science that the eye never changes throughout life. How foolish was that?!?

  3. Perhaps this additional advice can clear a few things up for you in layman terms. When you detect various iridological signs in the eye, such signs will never guarantee 100% active pathology in the body, especially in younger individuals.

    For example, if I see weak connective iris trabecular tissue in the lung or kidney area in someone who is 15 years old, chances are that there is no active pathology. The same iris signs in someone who is 50 or 80 years old will more than likely exhibit active pathology since our bodies do not compensate genetically weak tissue as efficiently when we grow older.

    In other words, I believe there would be much more accuracy doing iridology studies on individuals who are 50+ years old.

    Another good example is establishing constitutional traits of an individual via the iris. The constitution represents the whole of the individuals inherited and acquired characteristics.

    Constitutions are also genotypic and expose specific kinds of pathological processes that may occur in an individual. There is no implication that a specific disease is inherited but only the individual factors that compose a predisposition are inherited.

    A constitutional diathesis exposes a genetic pathological temperament that is conditioned by the constitution representing a sensitivity and susceptibility to illness. A physiological disease marking represents a diathesis and is expressed by the phenomena of deposition.

    The Russian hospital studies also concluded that iridology was very promising in detecting genotypic weaknesses since there is pre-clinical opportunity to deal with inherited weak tissue/organs before more serious pathological process takes effect.

    I am quite certain (110%) that no pharmaceutical companies will ever approve of any research in efficacy to be taught in medical schools, since the pharmaceutical cartel virtually funds and supplies medical textbooks used in every medical college; it is nothing more than business as usual.

    Drugs exist to make profit; they do not cure anything thus only good for investors. Healthy people or individuals using and never use chemical drugs are bad for business. And how many drugs can you name that ACTUALLY cures anything?!?

    Fortunately, people are waking up to the fact that using chemical drugs are based upon junk science and why virtually half of the USA population is now resorting to instead of using the gold standard bought and paid fraudulent medical studies. Your health is your own personal responsibility, not an MD or government. I pity those who live in the USA who will now be forced to pay for medical insurance that offers little or no cure for anything..

    As an independent self-funded scientist who seeks the truth about iridology and do see its share of mistakes, like every science. I read somewhere that only 20% of iridologists in the USA were properly trained. What was truly damaging to the science and practice of iridology is that there were certain supplement companies who were offering two day training courses in iridology for the sole purpose of selling more supplements, which I feel is highly unethical. I have never sold supplements nor do I ever intend promoting any company who sells them.

    I am currently very busy developing a massive scale database of clinical studies in iridology which I hope will establish more concrete evidence in the efficacy of iridological theories. And guess what? I will even have actual eye images included in my studies, not like ANY of the other studies you have previously mentioned. My studies may not be the 'golden standard' but at least will be honest and ethical.

    Peace out!

    Prof. Bryan

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