Anecdolt: someone so stupid they accept a quack's anecdotes at face value. This is genetic and is believed to be a spontaneous mutation caused by travelling in a 4×4 while in utero; while it is theoretically heritable, it is strongly counter-survival.
Anthroposophistry: the mental and linguistic gymnastics Steiner-Waldorf fans use to distance themselves from the bonkers (and racist) theories on which Waldorf education is based. Fun exercise to try at home: Ask your nearest Steinerist if they believe in the literal existence of gnomes.
Applied kinesiology: so-called because you can start it as soon as you've applied for your diploma-mill certificate, and it's ‘kin easy to con people out of their money. For maximum profit, invent your own esoteric version (example: the Bi-Digital O-Ring Test).
ARSEHOLE (Associate of the Royal Society of "Evidence"-based Homeopathy & Other Loony Extremists) is a prestidigitous quackification available from the Prince's Fund for Integrated Thingy. Holders must have studied homeopathic evidence for at least the duration of a Montagnier water cluster (approximately 5 picoseconds). It is known that holders are particularly prone to cranioproctosis.
Avoidance Based Medicine or ABM is the practice of medicine based on avoiding anything supported by good scientific evidence. This allows for the use of numerous quack therapies with mutually contradictory purported mechanisms of action without any feeling of inconsistency, because all of them share the core value of not being part of the reality-based paradigm.
Bestimonial: The most compelling anecdote on a quack website. The patient often turns out on investigation to be dead or never to have existed at all.
CAM belt: the ring of upmarket suburban houses on the outskirts of a major town or in the villages close by, where middle-class women swap anecdotes of all the marvelous therapies they have been "helped" by without ever allowing their mutually exclusive philosophies intrude an unwelcome aura of reality (which would, in any case, spoil their auras).
Cancer industry: the sinister industrial complex made up of Big Pharma, doctors, especially oncologists, any cancer charity that promotes or supports mainstream cancer therapies, medical foundations and the like. These people are motivated by money and the love of seeing people poisoned by chemo and burned by radiotherapy. The fact that not one of the millions of people involved in the conspiracy worldwide has ever breathed a word of it, is conclusive proof of the power of the cancer industry's vested interests.
Carevoyance: the process of arriving at a conclusion by caring about the patient rather than by any recognised diagnostic process. It is a form of monognosis.
Cognition Based Medicine or CBM is a bit of anthroposophistry in which the usual hierarchy of evidence is turned on its head and priority given to the patient's feeling of whether something worked or not. Sadly this one is not fictional, it was suggested in all seriousness as a way of resolving the problem of homeopathy's refusal to accept that fair tests find homeopathy to be placebo.
Complimentary Therapy: a health intervention provided gratis by doctors (but never by quacks, who charge by the word). Examples include advice about diet and exercise.
Conmercial: An advertisement for a quack treatment.
Consequence: any desirable outcome that follows any quack treatment (such as feeling marginally better, a reduction in the weight of the wallet pocket or winning the lottery) or, more generally, the sequence of arguments by which a victim patient is conned into believing that some unverifiable nonsense 'works" for them.
Copromancy: the process of divining a diagknowsis by examination of a victim patient's stools. The best known proponent of copromancy is Gillian McKeith – or, to give her full medical title, Gillian McKeith. The correct scientific and medical term for copromancy is "a load of shit".
Cranioproctosis: the condition of having your head stuck firmly up your arse. It is a consequence of reading so much shit that you begin reading your own toilet paper and get lost along the way. It is particularly common among homeopaths and can only be cured by a dose of Realitum 0X.
Credulibility: the kind of credibility that evaporates under any serious scrutiny. A perfect example is the Swizz report into homeopathy, which has immense credulibility among homeopathy advocates but which turns out on investigation to be a shoddy piece of not terribly competently executed propaganda.
Cure: What a quack offers for cancer. "A reputable physician does NOT promise a cure, demand advance payment, advertise".
Detocks: a portmanteau of "detox" and "bollocks"; it refers to the abject nonsense spouted by fans of detox, usually in order to sell you something of no provable worth in the name of curing something the existence of which defies objective analysis.
Diaknowsis: the process by which a "healer" comes to "know" what's wrong with a victim patient without the intervention of any valid medical diagnostic technique. Systems used for diagknowsis include iridology, applied kinesiology, copromancy and the like.
Ducktor: A quack (e.g. Ducktor Nancy Malik). The title doctor is one which is generally understood to mean a highly trained and competent physician with a comprehensive knowledge of the human body and its disorders. A ducktor knows all about the human bank account and how best to move the contents to the ducktor’s own. A medical doctor uses the initials MD, a ducktor might use ND, MPH, DCM or some other set of sciencey-sounding credentials. A ducktor is, of course, a quack.
Duckumentary: a propaganda film about the suppression of a quack and/or their quackery, used to build support and demand without the need for all that tiresome evidence. The cast of characters will include the Brave Maverick Doctor as himself, Evil Big Pharma Enforcers, journal editors who are in hock to Big Pharma so refuse to accept papers for publication, stubborn scientists who are unable to accept the new paradigm so fail to reproduce the results, heartwarming tales of children and beautiful people cured by the BMD, and the soulful eyes of patients cynically abandoned by the world of conventional medicine. In terms of cinema verité it is somewhere between Goldilocks and Snow White. The canonical example is the Burzynski movie.
Dullution: named after Dullman, the process of repeatedly diluting fact with hypothesis, speculation and outright nonsense until you end up with something that appears to say what you want it to say, rather than what it actually says (which may be the complete opposite).
Eclectosensitivity: Indiscriminate sensitivity to all things modern, as diagnosed using electrickery, divining or other monognostic tests.
Electrickery: Bogus claims based on electronic devices which are neither plausible nor empirically provable.
Evidunce: someone who has never been exposed to the scientific method so does not know what evidence should look like.
Fadvertising: Use of a fad to promote a product without the need to repeat the fad’s claims, thereby evading truth in advertising laws.
Fearmaceutical: a product made by Big Pharma which is expensive, toxic, based on fraudulent evidence, doesn't work and is foisted on patients by doctors for profit. No examples are known to exist.
Gobustness: In medicine, evidence must pass the test of robustness. In alternative-to-medicine the test is gobustness: if I admit this result, will I go bust? If the answer is yes, then the evidence is considered refuted.
Gull bladder: the source of gullibility in the human body. No evidence has been found for its existence, anatomical dissection has consistently failed to locate it, but that is just evidence of how powerful the force of gullibility is. For only £50,000 (plus VAT) we can do a full diagnostic test on your gull bladder – find me a so-called "medical doctor" who will do that for you, eh?
Haeling: Archaic idea of the process by which the body is restored to health by restoring the humours to balance, unfortunately frequently confused with the identically pronounced healing, the process by which the body actually restores health. SCAM practitioners generally use the latter spelling for the former meaning.
Healing crisis: The mechanism by which a quack is able to claim that their treatment is working even when your symptoms are plainly getting worse.
Homeopathetic: Originally, the standard of evidence that satisfies the intellectual rigour of a typical homeopath (i.e., none at all). Modern usage has spread this term to cover any quackery. The official definition of homeopathetic evidence is one grain of truth dissolved in a quantity of nonsense, arm-waving, flim-flam and obfuscation the size of Dana Ullman's hubris. However, the inability of science to find any boundary to Dullman's hubris has limited the usefulness of this measure.
Howspital: any substantial facility supported by significant public funds and used for the delivery of treatments that have no basis in science. The name comes form the inevitable question asked by members of the reality-based community on encountering such places: "They got funding for that? How?"
HRH: a semi-recursive acronym used when discussing Royal pronouncements on quackery. It stands for HRH wRong on Health.
Icon: Unusually accurately titled collection of cancer cons in magazine form.
Lyme disease (or chronic lyme disease, or post-lyme syndrome): the dominant cause of ME, autism, fibromyalgia, Morgellons and a number of other disorders for which no objective diagnostic test exists. Treated by long-term antibiotics or any form of quackery. Not to be confused with borreliosis, a disease caused by infection with borrelia burgdorferi spread by deer ticks and formerly known as Lyme disease. The differential diagnosis is straightforward: the presence of borrelia burgdoferi in pathology specimens indicates borreliosis – Lyme disease – the absence most likely indicates "lyme disease".
Malvolauvent: evil influence brought on by eating the wrong kind of vol-au-vent at a CAM belt dinner party. It can cause hypertrophy of the gull bladder necessitating an extensive series of chiropractic manipulations, a course of homeopathic treatment, and in bad cases a visit to a reiki master. There is no truth in the rumour that this disorder is spread by malicious quacks sneaking into Waitrose overnight with jars of culture stashed under their kaftans. Allegedly.
Manipulation is what a manipulative therapist (usually a chiropractor) does to their patients. Not to be confused with massage, which is (usually) not claiming to be something it isn't.
Migasm: the feeling of elation a CAM practitioner experiences when he encounters a miasm, or at least a victim patient sufficiently credulous to believe they have a miasm. Known as le petit mort in French in deference of the tiny part of the rational universe that dies every time someone accepts a diagknowsis of miasm.
Monognostic: Like diganostic, but monognostic tests somehow always comes up with just the one result: you have exactly the disease which this quack can cure with this quackery.
Morgellons: Delusional denial of delusional parasitosis.
Muddlecine: a product claimed to have curative effect but whose rationale is so hopelessly woolly and vague that nobody could possibly take it seriously. Which, of course, won't stop them trying.
Mugnetism: the invisible force by which quacks attract victims patients. Example: Deepak Chopra has a mugnetic personality.
Multi-level medicine: Just as multi-level marketing is built on the classic pyramid scheme, multi-level medicine is founded on the idea that you’ll make much more money training other quacks than treating patients. The acknowledged master of the art was B. J. Palmer, who took his father's invention of chiropractic and erected a highly successful school that didn't even try to hide the reality behind the concept of practice building.
Nothing is the modern wonder drug. It acts faster than Anadin (Tylenol for our American cousins), it is more effective than Nurofen, it relieves indigestion better than Gaviscon, and it is of course the principal ingredient in homeopathy.
Nuance is a term with no counterpart in SCAM. All SCAM works, all science that shows otherwise is wrong, anything that can't be rendered in a soundbyte is worthless and can only distract from The Truth™.
Null hypothesis: An invalid hypothesis. Named after Gary Null – any hypothesis promoted by Null is wrong by definition. Always spelled with a capital N, not to be confused with the null hypothesis, which explains virtually all SCAM claims and must be refuted in order to satisfy the tests of the scientific method.
Nurturopath: a woo-peddler healer who believes that expertise in healthcare comes from being empathic towards as many other people as possible, rather than by by the methods of the science paradigm such as study and training. If this empathising can be done at a modest profit then so much the better.
Omnimpotent: A quack is said to be omnimpotent if they have mastered multiple different useless "therapies".
Orgasmon: Despite referring back to sacred texts as the authority for any dispute, homeopaths are rarely allowed contact with the actual writings of their prophet Hahnemann. When a homeopath does get to touch an actual work of Hahnemann's, he may embarrass himself by suffering a public orgasmon.
Palacebo: The palacebo effect describes the way endorsement by credulous toffs can have the same effect as evidence and science in gaining public funding for an objectively bogus "treatment". When said credulous toffs become ill they will, needless to say, use actual medicine, because nobody wants to die before they spend as much as a day in the only job for which they've been trained from birth.
Paradime: an alternative way of looking at reality that has no actual connection with reality. While scientific paradigm shifts are rare and incredibly significant, paradimes are ten a penny (hence the name).
Pay shunt (or payshunt) is a means of shunting income from one person's pay packet into another's (namely yours).
Phallusy: an error so stupid it makes the person advancing it look like a complete cock.
Pharton: Bullshit decays over time to become ancient lore. As it decays, it emits phartons, quanta of noxious nonsense.
Plank's constant: a measure of the stupidity. It defines the amount of Stupid involved in attempts to apply quantum woo to macro effects by people who do not understand quantum theory and desperately want the physical world to be other than it is, so that they can pretend that some unverifiable nonsense is somehow valid. The value of plank's constant is exactly 2.0 Short Ones. So, the argument that the ability of an electron to be in two places at once somehow justifies homeopathy makes the person advancing the argument as thick as two short planks, which is constant however many times the assertion is repeated.
Posthoctoral research: In science, postdoctoral research is research conducted by recently graduated PhDs as part of their training. In pseudoscience, posthoctoral research is research conducted by recent purchasers of quackademic degrees for the purpose of boosting their credibility by finding yet more anecdotes in support of their quackery of choice.
Practice building: The quack equivalent of upselling, practice building is the primary focus of much continuing education in quackery and refers to the many techniques by which a quack can persuade healthy people to keep coming back and bring their friends and family along with them. A core component of multi-level medicine.
Presearch: trawling the internet for conditions that match "$FOO cures cancer" and believing this to be a valid indication of whether $FOO actually cures cancer.
Prestidigitous: the sleight of hand with which quacks claim prestige by association with institutions which sound similar to reputable institutions (e.g., Bircham International University, which originally called itself Oxford International University), or by using approvals, registrations or directory entries to imply parity with reputable providers (e.g. Bircham International University, which asserts that its registration with the Spanish chamber of commerce is quite good enough to overcome the lack of accreditation which by the way only really works for those old-style universities in the mainstream educational paradigm where people care about irrelevancies like being able to get a job afterwards and your certificate being worth more than the paper it's printed on).
Pseudoscientific method: the cargo cult parody of the scientific method used by the world of SCAM to produce research favourable to its beliefs. In the scientific method, observations lead to a hypothesis, experiments are devised which will test the hypothesis and potentially prove it wrong, and the hypothesis is considered unproven until no other conclusion is possible. In the pseudoscientific method a hypothesis is fantasised, experiments are devised which will support the hypothesis, and it is considered proven until its supporters accept that there is categorical proof that it is false (which acceptance is usually not forthcoming as the validity of all research is judged on the basis of how well it supports the hypothesis).
Qik (pronounced ”cheek”) is the bare-faced effrontery of a quack healer who tells you that "science does not know how this works yet" despite numerous elegant experiments supporting the robust conclusion that it is the placebo effect.
Quackademic: In, of, by or pertaining to quackademia, the part of pseudoscience that tries really hard to hide the "pseudo". Examples include "science" degrees in chiroquacktic and Doctor of Naturopathy courses. Believed to have been coined by Prof. David Colquhoun.
Quackcine: a parody of a vaccine prepared by a homeopath. It contains water, some more water, a bit more water, and water. It is given to the credulous to protect them against disease, but only works if the disease is caused by miasms or imbalance of the quackras. Since no diseases are caused by these things, there's a good chance the victim patient will get sick and/or die.
Quackification: a certificate superficially similar to a qualification, but of no objective merit. They can be obtained by correspondence study or, for the impatient, direct from a diploma mill such as Clayton College of Natural Health.
Quackra: any empirically unverifiable fluid or energy flow within the human body. The term encompasses chakras, qi, miasms and any other nonexistent concept which can, by being out of balance, profoundly affect your health in a way that only
money the healer's wonderful therapy can cure.
Quackrobat: someone particularly gifted in the mental gynmastics that enable quackery to evade the intrusion of reality. Dullman is the canonical example.
Quacksilver: The money obtained by the quack for their remedies. Does not refer to mercury, which causes autism and should be avoided at all costs.
Quark: the term used by intelligent people from the Home Counties to describe alt med practitioners.
Quorntum: In alternative-to-medicine, quorntum is a vague, sciencey-sounding rationale likely to appeal to people whose level of scientific education is so low that they believe quorn is
edible a vegetable.
Regulotion: application of a microscopically thin coating of something designed to look like regulation, to an unregulated and usually fraudulent product.
RLHIM: The Royal London Hospital for Illusion and Magick is the latest rebranding of the institution that was formerly the Royal London Hospital for Integrative medicine before the "integrative medicine" malarkey was busted, and before that the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, and thence via a traceable lineage right back to the Royal London Druidic Healing and Goat Sacrifice Hospital in the 12th century.
Rogueulation: The rogue actions of a regulator in suppressing treatment on specious grounds (e.g., lack of credible supporting evidence, prescription of fatal overdoses of thyroxin based on diagnosis of non-existent Wilson's syndrome etc.)
Rumedy: a remedy for which the explanation is "a bit rum" or which you would have to be roaring drunk to accept.
Rumourdy: the medical equivalent of a free energy machine: a miracle cure you've heard about on the internet but which has been suppressed by vested interests. Like free energy machines, the existence of these rumourdies consistently eludes the most diligent detective work. As with free energy machines, this is categorical proof of the strength of the conspiracy.
Shillanthropy: the funding of quackery to your own direct or indirect benefit on the pretence that you are doing it for some noble purpose. Also: shillanthropic, supposedly charitable acts designed to provide support to quackery. The Prince of Wales engages in shillanthropic work.
Shilling: Advocating quackery. So-called because quackery advocates are notoriously easy to buy: a shilling is 5p in current money (actually for this you can currently buy a gross of quackery shills, due to the recession).
Shilliteracy: Use of scientifically illiterate people to champion your quackery on the internet, allowing you to simply sell it rather than making any claim that would attract the unwelcome attention of regulators.
Silent killer: Anything which cannot be shown to exist and therefore can be "cured" without fear of contradiction using quackery. Vertebral subluxation complex is portrayed as "the silent killer" by chiropractors. This appears to be accurate in that cervical spinal manipulation in the name of correcting this non-existent disease is credibly associated with a risk of stroke and fatality due to vertebral artery dissection. An amateur form of cervical spine manipulation was used for treatment for certain criminal behaviours for some hundreds of years under the colloquial name "hanging".
Snide effect: an adverse reaction to a provably effective treatment brought up by a quack in an attempt to assert that a completely ineffective treatment is somehow "better".
Spiritual: Any form of healing that is as effective as singing songs was in freeing black people from slavery. Note that the healing form of spiritual differs from slavery in two important respects: the slaves to this form of belief are apparently willing, and the songs are worse.
Sublucksation: a bit of pseudoscientific gobbledegook you think up in an inspired moment when you're a bit down on your luck, whereby you can persuade perfectly well people to return to your office for visits ad infinitum (or at least until you accidentally kill them by twisting their necks and causing vertebral artery dissection).
Threatment: Dire warning of the consequences of failing to continue giving a quack your money.
Toxsick: the sickeningly toxic products promoted by Big Pharma, especially chemotherapy drugs. Alternatives to medicine are invariable gentler than toxsick “pharma drugs” and therefore better, unless you use outdated and really quite irrelevant measures of “better” such as patient survival or disease progression.
Uncertainty is that component of a scientific conclusion which can be exploited to pretend support for the opposite. For example, “vaccines are very safe, multiple studies have failed to show any link with autism, adverse reactions are rare and rarely serious, it is extremely important to keep levels of vaccination up to protect those whose immunity may be compromised” is interpreted as “we can’t prove vaccines don’t cause autism, there might be a reaction, why should you risk your child because they say it will protect other people, better be on the safe side and not vaccinate”. This line of “logic” is responsible for the USA now having the worst outbreak of pertussis in 70 years. The pseudoscientific method does not have uncertainty since results inconsistent with the core premise are simply ignored.
Vacscene: a portmanteau word comprised of “vaccine” and “obscene”. It describes the vile, scientifically illiterate outpourings of anti-vaxers who, thanks to their selfish, delusional and wilfully stupid actions have resulted in the resurgence of diseases such as pertussis, measles and polio among populations most of whom have done their level best to avoid them. Inability to understand concepts such as herd immunity, social responsibility and facts meet in these imbeciles to produce a perfect storm of fatuous new-age fruit-loopery and actual serious public health danger.
Vertebral artery dissection: Something that absolutely does not happen when a chiropractor pulls your neck and twists it, certainly no more often than after a visit to any real doctor other healthcare professional, and coroners and ER docs really should shut up about it because they’re not helping. Some of us are trying to build a practice here.
Willness: The willingness of a victim to leave all their money to the quack who killed them or to research the quack cure that failed to save them.
- the Quackford English Ductionary, where this list started.