Sunday, August 28, 2005

A "Natural Cure" for the Author's Debts

Here's a sickening reminder of how easy it is to scam a public that doesn't understand science. Amazingly, this snake oil brochure is Number 1 on the NY Times Best-Seller list of How-To books. How is it that anyone can trust the prescriptions of a convicted fraudster with no scientific or clinical background?

Notice the con man's effective use of conspiracy theory to leverage public mistrust of large corporations. Trudeau loves to point to the "profits of multinational pharmaceutical companies" as motivation for this broad-based conspiracy to squelch natural cures (amazingly, not one of the 100,000 people he implicates has ever decided to tell all). But what about the profits from his self-published book and infomercials which have, so far, procured for him "dozens of homes and condominiums"? I mean Good God, the man has a motive.

I can't help but suspect that US consumers would think more critically about medicine if our healthcare system weren't a "black box" over which they have no control. Perhaps Consumer Driven Healthcare (CDH) will motivate consumers to critically assess their medical options (empowered by data from Healthia!).

More likely, this nonsense won't end until we stop teaching our children to trust their lives to storytellers and "spiritual leaders", and instead to make practical decisions based on empiricial evidence, as observed directly or repeatedly reported by credible witnesses.

Otherwise expect more scams like this one until natural selection kicks in to favor the consumers of scientifically valid medicine.


  1. Anonymous10:30 PM

    Mr. Cowan,

    I completely agree with you. This guy's informercials play to the weaknesses of the general consumer. I had seen a few minutes of one of these and was mesmerized by the audacity this guy has to point the finger at the "big corporations" and how they are taking money from consumers, all while attempting to reach into the viewer's wallet.

    Unfortunately, there is a population of people that cannot discern the difference and actually consider this man and his advice as valid. I suspect that the viewers of these infomercials and readers of this book are consistent consumers of the products available through spam as well.


  2. Anonymous5:44 PM

    Anti-intellectualism and paranoia aren't exactly alien to American popular consciousness. I'm no historian, but I've read enough Richard Hofstadter not to be at all surprised by the success of this drivel. It's just another reflection of the same underlying mental desperation that allows _Who Moved My Cheese?_ and similar "executive" reads to exist.

  3. Anonymous8:20 AM

    I certainly agree with your post but I'm not sure what you mean by trusting "storytellers". Hans Christian Anderson was apparently right in line with your thinking when he wrote "The Emperor’s New Clothes" and "Animal Farm" should assist with developing rational skepticism. And there is certainly a lot of junk thinking that come disguised as empirical evidence.

    I think most people are not very good at thoughtfully selecting the storytellers they expose their children to but good storytellers can often provide more nuanced insights into hucksterism than any rational explanation might. The complex social manipulation that goes on in the Brer Rabbit stories for example were quite an eye opener for my daughter who initially assumed all the animals were trustworthy and well intentioned. This obviously applies to adult storyteller as well. Good ‘adult’ storytellers are even harder to find, though there certainly are some good ones such as: George Orwell, Mark Twain, Joseph Conrad, Sinclair Lewis, Stanislaw Lem, Grahame Greene, Kurt Vonnegut, Brian Moore, William Golding, etc.

  4. Brian,

    Great point. I should have clarified, perhaps, that I meant to deride only storytellers masquerading as historians and prophets.

  5. Anonymous10:15 AM

    I am one who makes practical decisions based on empirical evidence, as observed or experienced directly. I must say that the medical industry is quite worthy of distrust. While I have not read Mr. Trudeau’s book, I have been interested in natural foods-medicine-lifestyles for a number of years. I have discovered through first hand experience that the mass of drugs are synthetic impostors to the disease cures that nature has provided. I find it very interesting that you did not cite any specific erroneous claim from the book but rather attacked Mr. Trudeau’s personality.

  6. Anonymous1:34 PM

    I tried to get this book from Amazon but had problems with the shipper. I now thank him, because a friend of mine did buy the book and was disappointed.

    Someone should call Mr. Trudeau on this book. The infomercial makes it seem like the book is filled with lots of natural cures and information. While he does give a bit of information, he leaves a lot out instructing the reading to go to places in on the internet for answers. While it might not be illegal, I believe it is deceptive and he is no better than the big drug companies that complains about.

  7. Anonymous8:20 PM

    I work at a health food store, and while yes some natural cures do work, many of the ones cited by this man, while natural, are also nearly as lethal/bad for you as many of the synthetic drugs pushed out by the drug compnanies. Unfortunately, much of this drivel is posted as fact at the store in which I work, by customers who buy into it. It makes me sick to think that we are such sheep that we would let our own health ride on a few words in a book by a guy who happens to have been on TV.

    I do not know if anyone has noticed, but his site, does not even have a way of contacting him or his associates. I think it's a sure-fire sign that they don't have the guts to stand up to anyone, despite the name of the site.