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“Pimping Pseudo-Science”: Carson Denies Obvious Ties To Controversial Supplement Maker

At the CNBC debate, Ben Carson tried to argue that he never had anything to do with an extraordinarily shady supplement company.

That is nonsense. The truth is that Carson had a years-long relationship with Mannatech—a company that pimps pseudoscience and allegedly engaged in unethical marketing practices.

Jim Geraghty broke this story months ago at National Review. Mannatech is a supplement company that sells so-called glyconutrients. Its representatives have suggested the product can treat autism, cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis. Spoiler: “Glyconutrients” do not cure cancer, and no credible researcher or doctor says they do.

In fact, if Carson had glanced at the company’s Wikipedia page, he would have seen that one top glycobologist said these “glyconutrients” have no identifiable impact on the human body besides making you pass more gas. Seriously.

The state of Texas sued the company, which settled in 2009 by paying $4 million to Texas customers, promising that its representatives would stop saying its products could “cure, treat, mitigate or prevent any disease.” The company didn’t admit to any wrongdoing.

When Geraghty reached out to Mannatech about their relationship with Carson, spokesman Mike Crouch said this: “We appreciate his support and value his positive feedback as a satisfied customer.”

But Mannatech doesn’t just sell bad medicine. At least one lawsuit alleged it uses astonishingly unethical marketing practices to do so. In 2004, a mother sued after trying to use the company’s products to help her 3-year-old son, who suffered from Tay-Sachs disease. The suit alleged that the company showed naked pictures of the boy—which his mother said she shared with representatives of the company in confidence—to suggest to hundreds of seminar attendees as evidence that its products worked. The worst part? The son died while using Mannatech supplements, according to the suit. The company confidentially settled that suit in 2005 for $750,000.

Anyway, Carson addressed at least three of the company’s annual conferences, according to National Review. His image appeared on its website’s homepage. He praised its fart-inducing glyconutrients on PBS. And as recently as last year, he suggested the company had tapped into God’s secrets for good health.

“The wonderful thing about a company like Mannatech is that they recognize that when God made us, He gave us the right fuel,” Carson said in a video touting the company’s products.

“Many of the natural things are not included in our diet,” he continued. “Basically what the company is doing is trying to find a way to restore natural diet as a medicine or as a mechanism for maintaining health.”

As part of his characteristically lackluster debate performance, Carson tried to distance himself from Mannatech on Wednesday night when a CNBC moderator pressed him on that relationship.

“I didn’t have an involvement with them, that’s total propaganda,” he said, betraying a total misunderstanding of what the word “propaganda” means. “What happens in our society, total propaganda. I did a couple of speeches for them, just for other people, they were paid speeches. It is absolutely absurd to say that I had any kind of relationship with them. Do I take the product? Yes. I think it’s a good product.”

To be fair, it is a good product—if you like to fart.

By the way, this isn’t the first time Carson has touted pseudoscientific nonsense on the presidential debate stage. At the last debate, he touted the debunked idea that parents should disregard the Centers for Disease Control’s recommended vaccine schedule and “space out” their children’s vaccinations. As The Daily Beast detailed, that suggestion is a species of anti-vax trutherism. It’s less pernicious than full-on vaccines-cause-autism trutherism, but it is trutherism nonetheless. “Spacing out” your kids’ vaccines has one effect, and one effect only: increasing the amount of time your kids are vulnerable to the diseases from which those vaccines inoculate them.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, October 28, 2015

November 1, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Nutritional Supplements, Science | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Inside Ben Carson’s Cancer Scam”: Glyconutrient Supplements Powerful Enough That He Didn’t Need Surgery For Prostate Cancer

Ben Carson credited a nutritional supplement for helping save his life from cancer, yet he never mentioned it during interviews about his illness until he started shilling for its manufacturer.

Carson was a spokesman for Mannatech, which claimed its “glyconutrients” could treat cancer, autism, multiple sclerosis, and AIDS. “The wonderful thing about a company like Mannatech is that they recognize that when God made us, He gave us the right fuel,” Carson said in a 2013 speech praising the company. On Wednesday, he denied any involvement with Mannatech.

Carson even credited the supplements as being powerful enough that he didn’t need surgery for advanced prostate cancer. Dallas Weekly reported in a 2004 interview that Carson “said his decision to have a medical procedure resulted from his concern for those people who might neglect traditional medical procedures because they had learned of his personal experience with supplements.”

The neurosurgeon told Dallas Weekly that he had his prostate removed to be a role model.

“I knew that other people with my condition might not have been as religious about taking the supplements as I had been,” Carson said.

A radical prostatectomy is a serious surgery that involves an incision either below the navel or between the scrotum and anus, as Johns Hopkins Hospital (where Carson had his) notes. Complications may include urinary incontinence, impotence, and sterility.

Dr. Carson was told that his recovery after the August 2002 surgery would be arduous and that he would not be able to return to work for six weeks. “Because of my experience with glyconutrients I was able to return to work in three weeks,” he said.

For the first two years after his surgery, though, Carson never mentioned glyconutrients.

In November 2002, Carson told the 700 Club that he was diagnosed with “one of the most aggressive types [of cancer.] I thought at one point that I was going to die.”

The interviewer asked Carson how he handled the situation and if he had any fear of the procedure. Carson said he was worried about the potential of the cancer spreading but that he was at peace with the thought of death.

Later, Carson discussed how eating better can help take care of one’s body and that preventative medicines could also help the immune system. This would appear to be the perfect opportunity to mention the glyconutrients he would later say helped him, but he did not. Mysteriously there is no mention of them whatsoever from Carson.

“Organic fruits and vegetables. Much less in the way of processed foods,” Carson said. “Snack foods are pretty much out. I don’t drink soda anymore.”

Carson also praised the surgery but did not mention glyconutrients that in 2004 he said helped him recover.

“Well, all of the cancer was contained within the gland that was removed,” Carson says. “He was able to spare my neurovascular bundles to preserve all my body functions, and the lymph nodes were negative. My status is cured!”

In another story about his recovery in Ebony magazine in January 2003, Carson also did not mention glyconutrients.

Carson said that there is a “dietary connection” to cancer and mentions pesticides and water contamination as possible causes. The doctor also scheduled the prostate surgery just six weeks after the initial diagnosis, suggesting that he thought the surgery—and not supplements alone—was necessary to save his life.

Carson also gave an address at the Niagara University commencement in May 2003 where he discussed his cancer as well. Yet there are no mentions of Mannatech or any of its products.

The next year though, Carson began telling a different story involving his cancer.

“I had a friend who was diagnosed with cancer who was given three months to live,” Carson told Dallas Weekly from his Johns Hopkins office. “He changed his diet and pursued proper nutrition. He was still around and doing well … As a result I started to look at nutritional supplements.”

Carson said the father of one of his patients told him about Mannatech and glyconutrients. After contacting the company, Carson said he was surprised by the amount of science they provided him.

“I was impressed that they did not make any wild medical claims,” he said. “The majority of their science pointed to how glyconutrients supported the body’s normal functions of regeneration and repair.

“The science made sense to me,” he continued. “God gave us [in plants] what we need to remain healthy. In today’s world our food chain is depleted of nutrients and our environment has helped destroy what God gave us.”

Carson said he then contacted Dr. Reg McDaniel, a supposed authority in glyconutrients and medical director of Manna Relief, Inc. Dallas Weekly called the group a charity that makes glyconutrients available to medically fragile children around the world. McDaniel was accused in 2006 of using his charity, the Fisher Institute for Medical Research, to fund and publish studies that were favorable to the supplements sold by Mannatech.

Mannatech was sued by the state of Texas in 2009 and forced to pay consumers $4 million and promise to prevent their representatives from alleging that products like glyconutrients cure any disease of any kind.

 

By: Gideon Resnick, The Daily Beast, October 29, 2015

October 30, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Nutritional Supplements, Science | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“How Can You Resolve This Contradiction?”: How Is Ben Carson Both So Incredibly Smart And So Spectacularly Stupid?

There are a lot of scientific prerequisites if you want to go to medical school — not just biology, but also chemistry and physics, even some math. By the time you get there, and certainly by the time you leave, you’ll be long acquainted with the scientific method and the broad contours of scientific knowledge on those topics.

So imagine it’s 1970 or so, and you’re young Ben Carson, sitting in a biology class at Yale University. With your sharp mind and strong study habits, you don’t have much problem understanding the material, grasping the copious evidence underlying the theory of evolution, all the fossils going back millions of years, how it all fits together in an endless process that affects everything from a towering redwood down to a microscopic virus. And yet, the whole thing sounds like an attack on the beliefs about the universe you were taught your whole life from your family and your church. How can you resolve this contradiction?

The resolution came somewhere along the way for Carson: Satan. Evolution is Satan’s doing.

The fact that Carson believes this is a true puzzlement. Because Carson is an undeniably smart man. You don’t get to be one of the world’s most renowned neurosurgeons without the ability to understand complex systems, evaluate evidence, sift the plausible from the implausible, and integrate disparate pieces of data into a coherent whole. And yet he thinks that the theory of evolution is not just a great big hoax, but a hoax literally delivered to us from Hell.

Forgive me for my contemptuous tone, but that is what Carson actually believes. In a 2012 speech put up this week by Buzzfeed‘s Andrew Kaczynski, Carson says, “I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary,” and reveals that he plans to write a book explaining how the organs of the human body refute evolutionary theory. He also says the Big Bang is bunk, because the second law of thermodynamics says that entropy always increases, and there’s too much order in the universe, what with things like galaxies and solar systems and planets. “Now that type of organization to just come out of an explosion? I mean, you want to talk about fairy tales, that is amazing.” Someone should explain to him that order didn’t arrive right out of the explosion, but over billions of years. You see, because of gravity…oh, never mind.

Carson’s ideas about the Big Bang are quite similar to his beliefs about Islam, in that he picked up a snippet of information somewhere — there’s a passage in the Koran that says this or that, there’s a thing called entropy — and that snippet seemed to take hold of his rational faculties and beat them to a pulp.

To be clear, this isn’t just about religious faith. There are millions upon millions of people in the world who believe fervently in a divine power, but who also acknowledge the truth of evolution. The Catholic Church, for instance, is quite clear that there’s nothing incompatible between its theology and evolution. You can believe God set the process in motion or that God guides it down to the smallest detail; nothing about a belief in God prevents you from understanding and accepting what generations of scientists have discovered about the history of life on Earth.

So how do we explain this contradiction? All of us have some things we know a lot about and some things of which we’re ignorant. Some of us are extraordinarily good at reading people and understanding social relations, but are helpless when it comes to math; others are just the opposite. Some of us pick up languages easily, others don’t. Intelligence is complex and varied.

But what’s so odd about Carson is that science is the very thing he was trained in, and the thing at which he excelled. Yet his religious beliefs are apparently so powerful that they completely overwhelm his ability to look objectively at any scientific area that might give some answers to what people once thought were purely metaphysical questions.

Training in science is also training in how to think — what sorts of questions can be answered in what sorts of ways, and how you know what you know and what you don’t. That’s why it’s nearly as surprising to hear Carson offer as justification for his belief that no Muslim should be president, “Taqiyya is a component of Shia that allows, and even encourages you to lie to achieve your goals,” as it is to hear him dismiss the Big Bang with a line about entropy. It isn’t surprising that Ben Carson knows next to nothing about Islam; what is surprising is that, despite a career immersed in a very specialized field, he would think that he could listen to a couple of Glenn Beck rants and come to a deep understanding of a 1,400-year-old religion.

That’s not to mention the fact that Carson’s entire campaign for president is built on the rejection of knowledge and experience, in that he argues that all you need to succeed as president is common sense, even if you’ve never spent a day in government. That opinion, unfortunately, is widely held. As is, we should mention, belief in Satan — according to polls, a majority of Americans believe in the devil, so Carson is hardly alone.

If the Father of Lies is amongst us, I’m sure he’ll take a keen interest in the presidential campaign. And when Carson’s candidacy immolates, as it certainly will, he’ll have someone to blame it on.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, September 23, 2015

September 24, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Bigotry, Science | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“How Dr. Ben Carson Ruined His Legacy”: Taking A Blowtorch To His Own Credibility

As a doctor, it’s hard to imagine a career more accomplished and admirable than that of Dr. Ben Carson. His achievements as a physician so vastly exceed my own as to render any comparison laughable, a fact that I will happily concede.

In fact, so great are his successes as a pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins that they comprise the sole basis for his run for president of the United States. Which is why it is astonishing to me as a fellow medical professional to watch as he takes a blowtorch to his own credibility in service to his political ambitions.

The most recent example of Dr. Carson the candidate saying something Dr. Carson the medical scientist knows to be incorrect was his response to the ongoing controversy about Planned Parenthood and the use of fetal tissue obtained from abortions performed there. According to Dr. Carson, “there’s nothing that can’t be done without fetal tissue” when it comes to medical research.

As it turns out, Dr. Carson has himself participated in research on fetal tissue obtained through abortion. First reported by obstetrician (and The Daily Beast contributor) Dr. Jennifer Gunter, Dr. Carson was an author on a 1992 paper that studied tissue from two different fetuses, one aborted at 17 weeks.

In response to Dr. Gunter’s blog post, Dr. Carson has said, “My primary responsibility in that research was when I operated on people and obtained the tissue. This has everything to do with how it’s acquired. If you’re killing babies and taking the tissue, that’s a very different thing than taking a dead specimen and keeping a record of it.”

This equivocating non-answer adds to the pernicious narrative surrounding abortions and Planned Parenthood that suggests some kind of ghoulishly nefarious end to use of fetal tissue following abortions, or that babies are being aborted specifically for the purposes of harvesting that tissue. Of course this is not the case, and the decisions women make when they seek abortions are not informed by the research that may be done afterward. Those conducting that research are no more implicated in the process by which the samples were obtained than Dr. Carson was.

Furthermore, as Dr. Gunter’s post goes on to discuss, there is a great deal of very meaningful research that does rely on fetal tissue. Which leads to the problem inherent in Dr. Carson’s initial response to the controversy, even if it turned out he’d never worked with such tissue himself—no matter how accomplished a researcher and surgeon he may be, it doesn’t mean he has plenary knowledge about all medical research everywhere. Any appropriately humble scientist will concede the limits of his or her expertise when it comes to fields that do not overlap their own.

Simply put, there’s really no way Dr. Carson can speak with authority when it comes to the use of fetal tissue in research for immunology, hematology, or any of a host of other areas that do not intersect with neurosurgery or neurology.

This leads to the salient question of whether being a neurosurgeon is in any way a relevant qualification to seek the highest elected office in the nation. As a pediatrician, I will gladly talk to you with confidence about the safety, mechanism of action, and efficacy of vaccines, but would rather flee the room than pretend to understand the nuances of monetary policy. Is there a plausible basis to expect that the skills that make one a master in the operating room will transfer in any way to working with a recalcitrant Congress or shepherding multilateral arms negotiations? After all, in the OR everyone is bent toward the single purpose of the patient’s well-being under the guidance of a sole authority, which can’t be said when you’re dealing with China or the Senate majority leader of the opposing political party.

Unfortunately, Dr. Carson’s latest comments are not the first time he’s spoken in a manner out of keeping with a scientific mind. On the topic of homosexuality, earlier this year he stated “[A] lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight—and when they come out, they’re gay.”

He later walked that statement back, while gesturing toward his own credentials: “I’m a doctor trained in multiple fields of medicine, who was blessed to work at perhaps the finest institution of medical knowledge in the world. Some of our brightest minds have looked at this debate, and up until this point there have been no definitive studies that people are born into a specific sexuality.”

A doctor trained in multiple fields of medicine who chooses to pontificate on the lack of “definitive studies” should know full well that vague anecdotes about gay ex-felons are the weakest kind of evidence. Even if one accepts that a significant number of formerly heterosexual men emerge from prison embracing a new gay identity (which I do not), observational data like that are among the worst, least reliable kind for drawing broad conclusions. Dr. Carson the scientist would laugh someone off the stage at a conference if they presented such sloppy thinking for review.

However, most egregious to me were his comments during the first GOP debate about the use of torture on terrorism suspects. When asked about whether as president he would allow waterboarding, he refused to condemn it and blithely dismissed fighting “politically correct wars.” Coming from a man who has presumably taken the Hippocratic oath, I found this jaw dropping. It made me wonder what other parts of that oath he’d be willing to elide in service to political expediency.

Dr. Carson is hardly the first accomplished physician to leverage his prestige for fame and fortune, and I’m sure he won’t be the last. But if he has no record to justify his claim to the Oval Office beyond his career as a neurosurgeon, shooting his scientific credibility to hell undermines any reason to consider voting for him. He’s all but swift boating himself when he flagrantly jettisons the sound judgment he’s touting as a reason to pick him instead of the other candidates.

The sad reality is that the party that gave America Todd Akin and has a bloviating vaccine truther as its front-runner sorely needs the voice Dr. Carson could be lending to its dialogue. A willingness to speak in an honest and informed manner about health-care issues, including but not limited to women’s reproductive health, would be a welcome addition to the conversation up on the GOP debate stage. But it seems like Dr. Carson lacks that willingness, and prefers to peddle the same claptrap as his far less educated and expert rivals. It’s a woeful diminution for a man who clearly has so much more he could be offering.

 

By: Russell Saunders, The Daily Beast, August 14, 2015

August 15, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, GOP Primary Debates, Science | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“As Evidence Grows For Climate Change, Opponents Dig In”: GOP Has Abandoned Science For The Siren Call Of Their Monied Backers

Water, water everywhere.

Here on the nation’s Gulf Coast, where I live, we’ve got precipitation to spare — severe thunderstorms, overwhelmed sewer systems, and flash floods. It’s hard to remember I’m not living in a land with regularly scheduled monsoons.

Meanwhile, the great state of California is desperately dry as it endures the fourth year of a drought that has already burned through every historical record. It’s been 1,200 years, according to a recent study, since the state has experienced anything like this.

As different as the manifestations are, though, both regions are likely grappling with the effects of climate change. As the Earth warms, droughts will become more frequent and more severe, leading to devastating fires, water shortages and, in some areas, agricultural collapse, according to climate scientists.

At the same time (and this befuddles the layperson), a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, so areas that tend toward rain will have more of it, leading to more floods. There may also be more snowfall in colder climes, so don’t let a blizzard or two fool you.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2014 was the hottest year on record, with continents and oceans warmer than any year since 1880. And despite a bitterly cold winter in the Northeast and Midwest, 2015 is vying to best that. January, February, and March were the warmest on record for the planet, scientists say. Climate change is real.

Jerry Brown, California’s Democratic governor, knows that. He is living through its havoc and trying to meet it squarely. After enacting rigid new regulations about water use weeks ago, he has just issued new rules on carbon emissions — even though his state already had pretty tough requirements. Good for him.

In a speech, Brown said he wants California to stand out as an example for how to deal with global warming. “It’s a real test. Not just for California, not just for America, but for the world. Can we rise above the parochialisms, the ethnocentric perspectives, the immediacy of I-want-I-want-I-need, to a vision, a way of life, that is sustainable?”

President Obama is also doing what he can. He has called for increased fuel efficiency for vehicles; cars and light-duty trucks should be getting the equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon by model year 2025. And, in a more ambitious move, the Environmental Protection Agency has set new rules for power plants, requiring them to limit the amount of carbon dioxide they dump into the atmosphere.

But those commonsense measures have met fierce resistance, not only from industries and the billionaires who own them (think the Koch brothers), but also from their lap dogs in the Republican Party. Several GOP state attorneys general — in apparent collusion with energy companies — have sued the EPA to prevent the regulations from taking effect. “Never before have attorneys general joined on this scale with corporate interests to challenge Washington and file lawsuits in federal court,” according to The New York Times.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), for his part, has urged states to refuse to cooperate in setting targets to limit emissions from power plants. In other words, he has — shades of the Old South — advised them to rebel against federal authority.

(In April, one of his state’s largest newspapers, The Lexington Herald-Leader, printed a powerful editorial rebuking him for that stance. “Mitch McConnell and others who are trying to obstruct climate protections will be regarded one day in the same way we think of 19th-century apologists for human slavery: How could economic interests blind them to the immorality of their position?”)

While the scientific consensus on climate change — that human activity is causing it — grows stronger with each week’s evidence, so does Republican resistance to measures to combat it. Though conservatives once held science in high esteem, they have abandoned it for the siren call of their monied backers.

California’s governor has called this era a “test,” a challenging moment in which we are called to rise above greed, partisanship, and selfish convenience. So far, we’re not doing so well.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, May 2, 2015

May 4, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, GOP, Science | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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