Miracle Mineral Supplement

by Eliezer Yudkowsky1 min read20th Nov 201282 comments


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We can always use more case studies of insanity that aren't religion, right?

Well, Miracle Mineral Supplement is my new go-to example for Bad Things happening to people with low epistemic standards. "MMS" is a supposed cure for everything ranging from the common cold to HIV to cancer. I just saw it recommended in another Facebook thread to someone who was worried about malaria symptoms.

It's industrial-strength bleach. Literally just bleach. Usually drunk, sometimes injected, and yes, it often kills you. It is every bit as bad as it sounds if not worse.

This is beyond Poe's Law. Medieval blood draining via leeches was far more of an excusable error than this, they had far less evidence it was a bad idea. I think if I was trying to guess what was the dumbest alternative medicine on the planet, I still would not have guessed this low. My brain is still not pessimistic enough about human stupidity.


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I don't think point and sputter posts like this are very useful. How is this example more surprising than any other quack medicine example? How much understanding does the typical patient have of any medicine? Lots of medicines are controlled doses of poisons.

I think you are mistaken about the lethality. It would be surprising if it "often" killed its users, yet was able to spread. But that's not true. Yes, it is sold at industrial concentrations, but most people follow the directions and dilute it. The FSA says that, used as directed, it will only cause GI distress (though the FDA suggests that the low blood pressure could be fatal). Users are warned of the effects ahead of time. That probably reassures them that it is working, that they haven't been scammed with an inactive substance.

What is the death rate? The Seattle case appears to involve 200 users and no fatalities. The woman who died in Vanuatu appears to be the only known death, but I don't think much is known about the hundred thousand malaria victims in East Africa who took it.

I don't think this demonstrates human stupidity any more than any other quack medicine example. It does nicely illustrate Poe's law. Tha... (read more)

6MugaSofer8yThe post clearly states that this is intended to be used as an example in other posts, to reduce the use of religion as an example.
2MugaSofer8yThis is intended to be used as an example in other posts. Our current go-to example is religion, which leads to point-and-laugh routines and isn't very, well, dramatic, is it?
2[anonymous]8yWell, it could have been a comment in the Open Thread. But I don't think it wouldn't belong on LW at all.
0Robert_Unwin8yWhether you change beliefs in response to a new case will depend on the nature of the selection or sampling process . If you go through a history of quack medicine, you'd get lots of new case-studies but you might not change your beliefs about typical human epistemic performance at all. Even if new cases are selected to be examples of human stupidity, they might still be roughly random within that class. So cases that are more extreme than one's expectation will shift your beliefs. But this might leave your beliefs about the frequency of incidence of human gullibility unchanged. (Maybe I come to think that believers in quack medicine are even more stupid than I previously thought, but not that such believers are any more common). It's very hard to judge whether one's new information is selection-biased in some way. In areas like psychology and political science, it's not so hard to find academic papers that support either side on a debate. Even if you can't find that, it could be because of file-drawer effects or because of topic has not been investigated much by academics.

"Telling someone who trusts you that you're giving them medicine, when you know you’re not, because you want their money, isn’t just lying--it’s like an example you’d make up if you had to illustrate for a child why lying is wrong." —http://xkcd.com/971/

6Luke_A_Somers8yFor both of you not familiar with xkcd, hover your mouse over the comic.

It's industrial-strength bleach.

It is consumed diluted (I think the vendors suggest to mix it with lemon juice or so) and only few droplets a day, so it's not that bad as drinking industrial-strength bleach. (There is certain threshold of strength above which the evidence overcomes even the crackpots' natural immunity. Death or immediately noticeable health problems tend to be above the threshold. There are naturally people who ignore all suggestions and take the stuff in concentrated form, but I suppose they don't stay in the pool of MMS proponents too long.)

Actually I don't think MMS is sillier than homoeopathy - although sodium chlorite is a poison, poisons in small concentrations are used in medicine and it has at least a chance of producing some effect, which can't be said about distilled water.

I have discussed - over the internet - with a person who claimed to be cured from various diseases by MMS, and was very indignant when I said it doesn't work.

2buybuydandavis8yAnd it could actually work. To me, EY's post is a couple of unfavorable case studies. Case Study 1: Treat a substance as if it had a "curing/harming property" as an out of context absolute - out of context of treatment protocol, dosing protocol, or the particulars of a patient. We see this all the time. Newspaper headline: "Substance X cures/does not cure disease Y." Of course, both could be true for different treatment protocols. For that matter, both could be true for the same treatment protocol but for different people. Here's the place with directions for using this stuff: http://miracle-mineral-supplement.com/instructions-for-taking-mms/ [http://miracle-mineral-supplement.com/instructions-for-taking-mms/] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_Mineral_Supplement [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_Mineral_Supplement] And at the Wikipedia Chlorine Dioxide page, they show how it is used in water treatment, and the conditions for which it is superior to the use of chlorine. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorine_dioxide#Uses [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorine_dioxide#Uses] Now, I don't know if the MMS protocol simulates a beneficial water treatment in dosing terms, but I'll bet a nickel that EY didn't either when he wrote this post. Case Study 2: Confirmation bias on "the world is full of morons." EY writes: If you're just looking for case studies of idiocy, and you habitually tell yourself that you're not pessimistic enough about human stupidity, are you likely to look for the sense in what people do or say? To combat this, when I see something that looks stupid, I try to remind myself that "The other guy might not be a moron." In this case, it wasn't really that hard. I have a historical antipathy to Case Study 1 (ny own confirmation bias was at work), and the other comments provided hints and pointers to relevant information. With these facts available from wikipedia, wouldn't it be reasonable to think that the MMS folks had actually worked ou
5prase8yIf it were so (intentionally or accidentally), users would be instructed to put MMS in any water they drink. But in fact they are instructed to take few droplets of MMS once a day; they can drink whatever water they wish after that. I doubt a disinfecting agent works several hours after being ingested. Almost any chemical is used for something; couldn't you just write "seems like a huge coincidence for him to happen upon something used in dish washing" if MMS was instead a saponate? (Note that water treatment and dish washing are of approximately same relevance to human health.) Also trying different chemicals and finally choosing sodium chlorite due it's observed beneficial effects seems to me a less likely way to "discovery" in this case than knowing that bleach kills bacteria, concluding that it could work even internally and then using confirmation bias upon experimental data. Provided Jim Humble is not an ordinary quack. I agree with your first point; I was surprised that EY used the "MMS is bleach, bleach is poison, MMS is poison" syllogism, given what he has written explicitly about poisons [http://lesswrong.com/lw/tc/unnatural_categories/]. It was perhaps a shorthand for a more valid argument, but surely sounded like very hasty reasoning.
0buybuydandavis8yI don't get your points on water treatment. Maybe you don't get mine. Selling a water treatment solution as a miracle health cure has the benefit of being safe and possibly having some marginal benefit. Such a sales plan doesn't require that every bit of water be treated. And it doesn't seem like you read the directions. The directions are to put it into water, as I quoted earlier, and as can be seen in the included link. But not every chemical has been so widely ingested to human benefit. Replace "knowing that bleach kills bacteria" with "knowing that sodium chlorite can be easily transformed into chlorine dioxide, which is used as a water treatment", and you've got my point about coincidence. It's more likely that he picked this chemical because he knew it was used in water treatment than picked some chemical at random and liked the results.
1prase8ySafety would be guaranteed if the concentrations used for MMS didn't exceed the level used for water treatment (under the natural assumption that water is not treated in order to become toxic), I don't assert that the concentrations suggested by MMS proponents are unsafe, but rather that being a water treatment agent does not alone guarantee safety. As for marginal benefits: water treatment is beneficial if all water one drinks is treated and if the water were infected before treatment. The MMS protocol, as likely applied in the western world, reduces to treating one glass of water a day, or even a glass of juice. Under normal conditions in developed countries drinking water or juice are perfectly safe as they are - adding disinfectant improves nothing. If, accidentally, the user has access to spoiled water only, treating one glass again is nearly worthless, since the germs would arrive to the intestinal tract with the next glass. If MMS were indeed beneficial, it would probably be for reasons completely unrelated to its being used for water treatment. Reading more into Wikipedia I found the transformation goes as 2 NaClO2 + Cl2 → 2 ClO2 + 2 NaCl, which suggests you have to add chlorine to trigger the reaction. Are you sure this is happening when MMS is put into water? I suppose adding salt would be sufficient, but they suggest adding organic acids.

Recall that the goal isn't to undershoot reality every time, but to do so half the time.

[-][anonymous]8y 12

assuming symmetry and some relation to a linear component of your utility fuction, and so on...

Hormesis might be relevant here. I don't see a compelling reason to believe these people are not being helped in some cases. This isn't homeopathy-level crazy. And let's not forget to do the utilitarian homework: one case of cancer remission (or any other serious condition) is worth a substantial number of mild digestive discomfort.

It also isn't religion-level crazy, since it is empirically testable (actually rather trivial to test as these things go!), and controlled studies could probably change most of these people's minds on it. Knee-jerk appeals to d... (read more)

3JoshuaZ8yI agree with most of your comment but I wanted to single out one bit Given how many people still do homeopathy despite the controlled studies strongly showing it doesn't work, and similar issues with the vaccines-autism crowd, this seems overly optimistic.
0lsparrish8yYou may have a point. There's a crowd of people who do not understand the most basic of science, who are susceptible to MMS for the same reasons they are susceptible to say Astrology. However that's not the only thing at work here. Part of it is that people often find it plausible that ivory-tower science (with all of its obscure focuses and elaborate, often highly beaurocratic needs) has overlooked a simple solution that maverick scientists and amateur experimenters (desperate to cure stuff like malaria and cancer, and willing to try anything, including bleach) didn't miss. Its not an anti-science viewpoint at all, but a skepticism of mainstream methods of achieving the scientific ideal of rational empirical observation. On another note: It's strange to me that vaccines are usually attacked by the same people who promote homeopathy, and that skeptics who promote vaccines usually take the position that homeopathy is bunk. The term "homeopathy" does not etymologically have anything to do with how dillute the drug is, rather it means "like the disease" and refers to the ancient doctrine that "like cures like". A vaccine actually illustrates this principle quite well: a virus is rendered impotent by some means, but still stimulates the symptoms, and in particular the immune response for the disease. If there was ever a proof positive that homeopathy works, it is vaccination. It's surprising that skeptics have been content to allow the con artists their ridiculous premise that "homeopathy" somehow equals or implies the hyperdillution of the active ingredient. Instead they should have insisted on etymological purity and pointed out that real science has developed real homeopathic ("like cures like") approaches that work well, and it is not by hyperdillution or special mystical properties of things at all, but via rational and empirical studies like biochemistry, virology, and immunology.
3JoshuaZ8yThis is confused. Vaccination is a specific, well-understood procedure with known mechanisms. The similarity to homeopathy is purely superficial. First, even one thought of "like cures like"- vaccines exist as a preventative measure, they don't cure something already there. Second, emphasizing the etymology of a word to dictate what the word must mean doesn't change the nature of reality and is an example of using words badly [http://lesswrong.com/lw/od/37_ways_that_words_can_be_wrong/].
1lsparrish8yCalling something one thing versus another doesn't alter the reality being described. However, choice of nomenclature does affect how people tend to think about things, and I think does take its toll on discourse over time, by creating pockets of cognitive dissonance and subtle miscommunication. The fact that not only a term like "preventative medicine" but also a word which literally means "like the disease" don't instantly generate mental pointers to vaccines as an obvious and superb positive example of both of these things, seems like a pretty good illustration of words having gone horribly wrong. (Incidentally, vaccines do in some cases cure existing conditions, e.g. rabies.) Vaccines function by well understood mechanisms that stand in sharp contrast to the magic water kind of homeopathy. That's the whole point as to why I would consider vaccines a stronger example for the darned word (it being an etymologically generic sounding word which aptly describes the notion that -- in at least some cases -- "what has the best chance of curing the disease is something that resembles the disease"). Permitting an etymologically unrelated meaning to become the primary definition, especially if that is a valueless and silly thing, is linguofiscally irresponsible. Latin roots don't grow on trees (well, perhaps they sort of do, but my point is that there are costs to this sort of thing). Debunking "homeopathy" in a way that respects the idea of the word being synonymous with Hahnemann's magic water is an unnecessarily weak approach. To defeat an argument you ought to use the strongest face-value interpretation, not just the one you think the other person probably means by it (or even what the history books say they mean by it). Start by saying "your so-called homeopathy isn't even a consistent concept, otherwise you guys would be championing vaccines". Complain about the use of a word to mean an unrelated concept. Then move on to disprove the magic water hypothesis with
2JoshuaZ8yThis is an interesting set of points which I'll need to think more about. My immediate reaction is that a) you overestimate the level to which the vast majority of people are actually influenced at all by the roots of the words they hear. b) The statement about the rabies vaccine isn't really accurate- it doesn't cure rabies. If you actually get serious symptoms the vaccine is essentially close to useless. The vaccine is given to people after they have been bitten because the immunity it induces can often be enough before the virus has had a large chance to multiply. We generally only do it in that circumstance because the immunity given is short-term, on the order of 2-3 years, and humans rarely get rabies now that we have largescale animal vaccination programs. Your point about using the connotations of words to our advantage is an interesting one however that I'll need to think more about.
1ChristianKl8yThis just shows that etymology is a poor way to determine what words actually mean in the real word. Words have no meaning apart from what people mean when they say the words or listen to them. Etymological purity has no practical value.
0[anonymous]8yYou may have a point. However, I have heard two different definitions of homeopathy, and I suspect that most people who say they practice homeopathy prefer the less ridiculous one. The more ridiculous one is the idea that dilluting something to the point where water is all that's left is a good way to amplify its curative powers. I don't doubt that there have been studies disproving this kind of "magic" water, I've never had anyone seriously advocate it to me, and wouldn't hesitate to laugh in their face if they did. But then we have people that think something along the lines that e.g. taking an herb which causes the symptoms of a disease (say, cayenne pepper for a cold) will hasten recovery. That's described as "homeopathy" because that's what "homeopathy" ("like the disease") actually means. Conventional medicine that seeks to treat the functional symptoms directly is often described as "allopathic" medicine ("opposite the disease"). These people often contend that allopathic medicine causes long-term problems by circumventing the body's natural healing processes. Obviously it's a case of sometimes-valid heuristics gone wrong. Such individuals aren't right (especially not the ones who think this is a general rule of biology). But it doesn't change the fact that, watching "skeptics" tear down a flimsy representation of the idea by focusing on the stupidest possible incarnation, it comes across as a better example of tribal politics than rationalism. There's also nothing innately crazy (certainly not evil-mutant-crazy) about thinking the body's natural processes are more capable of certain kinds of things (e.g. killing cancer cells) than modern medicine, and that they can be tweaked with the proper stimulation. The real problem is not belief in alternative cures like drinking dilluted bleach with lemon juice to cure malaria (which are at least materialistic, empirical, evidence-based, and ultimately scientific claims about the universe), it's failure to believe
0gwern8yI see no reason to expect hormesis to be relevant. Typically, hormesis is about really low doses, sometimes to the point where accidental contamination is a confound: for example, in radiation hormesis, I've read of measures like using ancient marble or lead as shielding because they will have less residual radiation than other materials. If the bleach hormetic doses are that small, then all they're doing is poisoning themselves by going way beyond hormetic doses...
0ChristianKl8yThe stuff is more dangerous than just causing mild digestive discomfort. It can kill people. Yes, giving people a random person might also destroy the cancer in some people. From an ethical perspective we can't give people random poisons to see whether their cancer gets better.

It's industrial-strength bleach. Literally just bleach. Usually drunk, sometimes injected, and yes, it often kills you. It is every bit as bad as it sounds if not worse.

Apparently it's quite diluted and taken in very low doses, so it's not like you are advised to drink a glass of bleach. It's also less corrosive than chlorine and superior for the control of legionella bacteria, when used for water disinfection and purification. Whether it kills cancer without killing the patient first has apparently not been tested.

2AstraSequi8yBleach will control (kill) most bacteria, but since cancer cells are very similar to your own cells, the prior is very low unless there is a specific reason to think that it will target one of those differences. For example, something that is just corrosive will probably affect the different cell types equally. Another thing is that since it's a charged molecule, it can't actually enter the cell on its own unless it rips apart the cell membrane, in which case that's probably the main mechanism of toxicity. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if it had been tested. The most likely outcome would be that it failed at an early step in the testing process (along with a large number of other chemicals), and nobody had any reason to publish it or think that anyone would ever actually decide that it might work.
0shminux8yAll good points, which, incidentally, invalidate the OP's assertion that he is 'still not pessimistic enough about human stupidity".
-2MugaSofer8yAre you seriously suggesting someone should have given cancer patients bleach in case it turned out to cure them?

A lot of chemo drugs are toxic, aren't they? I'm actually not sure how they were located as hypotheses. Does anyone have info on this?

A lot of chemo drugs are toxic, aren't they? I'm actually not sure how they were located as hypotheses. Does anyone have info on this?

This is discussed to some extent in Siddhartha Mukherjee's "The Emperor of All Maladies" which is an excellent book about the history of cancer. In most cases, chemo drugs are chosen because they target a specific phenomenon that is occurring in cancer cells more commonly than it is occurring in other cells. The most common example is mitosis (since the main problem with cancer cells is that they just keep growing). This is why chemo drugs often harm cell types like immune cells and hair follicles- these cells are some of the few cells in the body that are often growing.

A historical example may be instructive. One of the first attempts at chemo was for leukemia. It was known that leukemia cells had strange mitosis behavior and distorted nuclei. So researchers tried giving folic acid to the patients since this was known to be important in cell dvision. Unfortunately, this made the leukemia even more virulent: it turned out that levels of folic acid were actually a limiting factor on how fast the cancer cells could divide. So then they tried giving them chemicals that interfered with the metabolism and processing of folic acid. This was the first set of chemo drugs that had any success (although it turned out to be always temporary: the cancer almost inevitably evolved around it).

4Alicorn8yThat's really interesting, thanks!
3AstraSequi8yHistorically, most drugs have been identified by high-throughput screening, i.e. you purify an enzyme of interest and test billions of different chemicals against it for the desired effect. You then test for an effect in cell culture (compared to healthy cells), or you can screen directly against the cancer cells. Once you have that evidence, you test whether it has effects in mice, and only after that can you test anything in humans. It's possible to propose a single chemical and get it right by chance, but testing a single chemical is cheap. In an already-equipped lab, the initial cell culture data will probably take a few weeks and under a thousand dollars, and after that you will have people willing to help and/or fund you. The lack of even this initial evidence is generally a good reason to believe that something doesn't work. With regards to hypotheses, a lot of the early drugs were identified by chance - there's a description at History of cancer chemotherapy [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_cancer_chemotherapy]. Most of the current interest is in targeted therapy, i.e. intended to act against specific proteins involved in various types of cancer, and the starting point is the identification of that protein. Chemo drugs are a bit different since they're a very broad class (they target rapidly dividing cells in general, which is also what causes the toxicity), and the metabolic networks they affect are generally well-known, so the initial hypotheses tend to be about new ways that you can intervene in those networks. There are other approaches to the various steps as well, e.g. structure-based drug design has had some success, but not yet enough to replace the screens.
1MugaSofer8yMe neither, but I doubt they just gave them random poisons on the off-chance one of them would survive. EDIT: Seconded the request for info, incidentally.
3quiet8yHmm, when jokes about medically experimenting on cancer patients with bleach don't register as being all that dark (until someone takes it seriously), then I think it might be time to reevaluate my sense of humor.
1shminux8yPun intended?
2shminux8yMoldy water has been known to cure typhoid [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_penicillin], what's your point?
0MugaSofer8yMy point is that testing toxic substances on people without any reason to believe that they will have any effect beyond further damaging their health is, y'know, bad. Obviously. We don't stab people in the head to cure their personality problems, even though brain damage can and has altered peoples' personalities. Have you read HPMOR? Because Dumbledore makes a similar suggestion, but at least he has the decency to suggest something merely inconvenient.
0Manfred8yProbably that we have a causal model of how bleach is bad for you, and a causal model of how cancer drugs can help, and bleach would just kill you. We're not evolution, we don't have to test every design before building a car.

I showed this to my friend who is a chemistry student. He said bleach is sodium hypochlorite, and this is sodium chlorite.

1CronoDAS8yTrue. They're pretty similar chemicals, though.
0Kevin8yAnd the suggested use is to mix it with acidic food..

Another angle on this is that it isn't about humans in general, it's about some of the most gullible humans.

That aspect of things became salient to me when I read a man complaining about the women who get involved with prisoners-- even those who have been convicted for murder. It's so unfair when some ordinary guys get no female attention at all. I suddenly realized that he was talking about a very small proportion of women. The vast majority of women aren't chasing prisoners.

Tolkien's Sindarin (and, IIRC, Welsh) have two plurals, one for more than one and... (read more)

6tim8yThis seems to imply that there is something fundamentally different about these humans compared to other humans. I'm not convinced this is the case. I would be rather surprised if you couldn't make the average human drink bleach by exposing them to specifically tailored situations/information.
1NancyLebovitz8yThat's not just arguing from fictional evidence, it's arguing from hypothetical evidence. I don't know, but I've been told that you can get a room full of Jews shouting "Sieg Heil" with a sufficiently rousing version of this [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNqoX7Z7OJ0]. [1] You could probably get people to drink bleach by mislabeling a bottle. Getting back to the general point, it's not just important to know that an aspect exists, it's important to know how strong it is. [1] I was told it either by or about Robert Aspirin/Yang the Nauseating. He was quite a good performer.
3tim8yI think this is a rather uncharitable interpretation of my argument. There is a difference between how strong an effect is and how common it is. If you had said "Another angle on this is that it isn't about humans in general, it's about [a small subset of humans that happened to experience an unfortunate convergence of misinformation and subjective context]" then we would have no disagreement. I'm not contending that these situations are representative of the human population, but rather that these situations do not require "some of the most gullible humans" to occur.
0NancyLebovitz8yYou could be right. The thing both of us are leaving out is that deciding what can be trusted is a genuinely hard problem. You can get badly hurt trusting conventional medical advice, too.
2[anonymous]8yWhy do you need grammatical inflection when you can just use quantifiers (“several sheep”, “all sheep”, “many sheep”, “most sheep”)?
2NancyLebovitz8yBecause having rationalist features built into the language means that it's harder to slip in irrational premises. I don't know whether there's be research on whether native speakers of languages with evidentials [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidentiality] think more clearly about the sources of their information.
2[anonymous]8yWhy the same thing would count as “built into the language” if expressed in one word but not if expressed in two? After all, spelling conventions for separating words are partly arbitrary -- a language might have stuff like “severalsheep”, “allsheep”, etc.
5NancyLebovitz8yIt's a question of what's obligatory. Admittedly, this doesn't have to be handled by what's a single word. In English, you have to introduce nouns with 'a' or 'the'. I'm not sure how valuable this is-- many, perhaps most, languages don't have that feature, but in English, you're stuck with indicating whether something you're talking about is especially important. In the same spirit, you have to make an effort to avoid indicating a person's gender. In English, you can say "men do x" or "women do y" without a built in obligation to indicate or to notice to yourself whether you mean all, all that you've noticed, all inevitably, most, or some. I think not having a requirement to be clear about such things leads to a lot of stereotyping and pontificating.
2[anonymous]8yI don't think it's just a matter of language. In Italian it's extremely rare to use a noun without an article as the subject of a sentence -- you'd use the definite article (lit. ‘the men’) if you mean something like ‘typical men’ (as in ‘men have opposable thumbs’ -- male amputees do exist but are irrelevant to the point being made) and a ‘partitive article’ (or an indefinite pronoun such as ‘someone’, rewording the sentence such as ‘there are men who’, etc.) when you mean ‘certain men’ -- and yet people use the former all the time even when they have very little evidence that something applies to an entire reference class except a few irrelevant exceptions.
1NancyLebovitz8yThanks. That's a good example of mental defaults pulling in one direction even though the language is pulling in the opposite direction.
1DanArmak8yEnglish is a lot better in that respect than most languages in the Indo-European family (and Hebrew, just because I happen to know it). Many languages have mandatory gender for all nouns. Not just "he" vs. "she", but "he-chair" vs "she-sun". In those languages you can't talk about something without knowing its gender - masculine, feminine or neuter. You can't address a person in Hebrew without knowing their gender - not even to ask for their name. (Think how fun that makes replying to email.) My two mother tongues are Russian and Hebrew, but I read and write more in English. Every time I need to write something in Hebrew, I become angry at how gender forces its way to my attention. ETA: I'm sure you know this already, but it was worth saying clearly.
0[anonymous]8yBTW, see this [http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3545].
2Baughn8yIf it's built into the language then, presumably, you can't not use it. That's the main difference, I think.
0prase8yI am constructing an artificial language (just for fun; also it isn't going to be finished any soon) with three grammatical numbers: singular, plural (can be any number, zero and one included) and class plural for everything in the class. I have invented this independently of Tolkien not for practical reasons, but just for sake of elegance, as it better suits my desire to have the grammar work in part like set algebra. Having grammar rules that enforce expressing the number more precisely than we are used to (e.g. different grammatical numbers for one vs. two vs. more than two but few vs. noticeable minority vs. majority vs. all) has disadvantages when the speaker doesn't know the number or just wishes to describe a general situation where more than one number is applicable. Similar problems we face when our grammars enforce gender expression when using some pronouns (if we aren't Finns or Turks or Chinese or...). People try to find a way around, either by using more complex expressions ("he or she") or by attempts to update the grammar / vocabulary ("ey"). I am not sure whether I'd wish to have the same problem with grammatical number. As for Welsh, a peculiarity with plurals I know about is that some nouns, usually denoting animals, have the basic (shorter) form denoting plural and the singular is derived by a suffix (e.g. adar/aderyn for birds/bird, pysgod/pysgodyn for fish, plant/plentyn for children/child - children are apparently sort of animals too). I haven't heard/read about different types of plural though.

Perhaps the manufacturer of MMS actually specifically is trying to kill people?

There are two things going wrong here. The first problem is failing to call things by their true names. This is a widespread problem when people use drugs and supplements: they refer to them by slang terms or brand names. This cuts them off from information; if they knew it was bleach, they'd think twice before using it. There was a similar problem with "bath salts" (a term that does not identify a drug, but rather means "unidentified substance that's labeled as maybe poison".)

The second problem is failing to observe the first level of ... (read more)

When I read the title I thought you'd be presenting us with an ad for a fake snake oil cure, mocking alternative medicine. The truth is far more horrifying than fiction.

What I don't understand is how this got into the market in the first place. Don't they have to pass regulations first? Or was he making it in his basement like a meth cook? Now I think most alternative medicine is over-priced placebo for gullible rich twits, but this crosses the line. I have to commend Rhys Morgan for exposing this consumer hazard. At the age of 17, he's already done much more than most will ever do. He'll make a fine addition to the skeptic community.

0CronoDAS8yAccording to Wikipedia, the first person involved just wrote a book. As for how it got into the market, the people who manufacture and sell it make a point of not putting any actual "medical" claims in writing and call it a "water purifier" or something. I mean, if you want to buy and sell concentrated sulfuric acid, it's perfectly legal to do so.

Frankly, I am surprised you have even Facebook friends who would recommend drinking bleach.

0Tenoke8yHe saw it in a Facebook thread, the person who recommended it was probably not his friend but to be honest that surprised me too.The only reason I've even heard before of this is Facebook as well but it was a rant against MMS by an 'Objectivist'.

Others have covered your knee jerk poison-is-bad reaction so I'll let that pass, but the thing that stuck out for me as bad epistemic standards from MMS proponents was seeing some "explanation" for why it would give you an upset stomach despite the other claim that it would only harm "bad" bacteria. Something about how it's your body flushing out poisons and it's a good sign. It struck me as an untested rationalisation someone just made up.

1fubarobfusco8yPeople sometimes seem to use a model that says that potency is a scalar quantity. If you have a powerful illness, you need a powerful medicine to defeat it. Weak medicine has little side effects; powerful medicine has big side effects. So if something has big side effects, that means you know it is powerful medicine! People use a similar model for computer security: Installing antivirus, a firewall, or other security features gives your computer some number of security points. Like armor class in D&D, the more security points you have, the harder it is for an attacker or malware to hurt you. If you install a lot of security stuff, it will make you really safe ... and you can safely go do dangerous things like installing software that fell off the back of a truck, or browsing spammy porn sites with IE6. The problem in both cases is an ignorance of how the attacks work, and thus how the defenses have to work, too. An arbitrary chemical that has heavy "side effects" is not thereby a potent remedy for infections, cancer, wounds, and other diverse afflictions. Malware and attackers use specific exploits and tricks; in order to make your computer safe from a specific attack, security software has to block particular things. And unlike in classic D&D, putting on a helmet doesn't make it any harder to run you through with a lance.

My initial reaction was "I wish I wouldn't have known about this", because it made me physically shuddered. After the shock and disgust, I forced myself to accept the proposition "There is a company selling bleach as medicine, and people are ingesting it". I am now happy I have seen this, because my model of the world is more accurate, and if I act on my values in accordance with more accurate beliefs, I will be able to do more good.

To be fair, it technically cures any number of ailments as well as modern medicine: You die of something other than the treated disease.

But if your standard for effective treatment is "Died of something other than the disease", there are easier ways to reach that goal.

0[anonymous]8yThat sounds like a strawman to me... Has anyone actually proposed that as a technical definition of “cure”? If I had to come up with one, I'd use “die after more QALYs than you would have without the treatment”.
0Decius8yPoe's law.

My brain is still not pessimistic enough about human stupidity.

I'm pretty sure we have a cure for that. It involves spending time on certain sites...

[-][anonymous]8y 0


It's industrial-strength bleach. Literally just bleach. Usually drunk, sometimes injected, and yes, it often kills you. It is every bit as bad as it sounds if not worse.

Industrial strength bleach? Not even diluted? Sometimes injected? But that's a go to method for a cruel and painful but fairly quick way to murder someone!

My brain is still not pessimistic enough about human stupidity.

Likewise. In fact there aren't many people I would have believed at face value if they had told me this was actually a thing people do.

Are you aware of the FIELD STUDY the RED CROSS conducted in Uganda and was naive enough to let people record on video before they realized how powerful the cure actually was? They tried denying it afterwards... but that was three video tapes and hundreds of witnesses too late. Here's the video link, if somone here is actually interested in what's going on:


To cut to the chase: from 154 malaria-infected people, 100% were cured after 48 hours. And that's verified by the red cross (unwittingly though)! Today, every 40 ... (read more)

1gwern7yAh, a video. Of course you can trust anything you see in a video edited by a partisan, right? It's not like it's a bunch of snippets put together out of context with a misleading voice over or anything. http://www.pepijnvanerp.nl/2013/05/fake-and-unethical-trial-video-claims-miracle-mineral-solution-cures-malaria/ [http://www.pepijnvanerp.nl/2013/05/fake-and-unethical-trial-video-claims-miracle-mineral-solution-cures-malaria/]
-4fatfreddie7yYou're right, a video showing the red cross administering a treatment to malaria to african children is very likely to be cut from pieces by 'a partisan' to... to what? We should really be relying on wikipedia and the FDA to even the odds between BigPharma and... and whom?
3gwern7yNo, it's not showing that. It's showing a dude doing something in Africa, who may or may not be with the Red Cross (they were very quick to disclaim him) doing something which may or may not be a malaria treatment (which was sold to them as a purification agent, hm...) which may or may not have had the results claimed by someone who presents no hard documentation and which my link offers a much more likely explanation for (regression to the mean due to quick first-pass testing with a high false positive rate). Maybe. If even that. Each cut is a chance to shift film entirely: seeing is not believing. Documentarians know this very well, that it's easy to lie. See propaganda films like Triumph of the Will, modern polemicists like Michael Moore, or heck any of the examples in TvTropes [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DocumentaryOfLies]. Just simple juxtaposition of shots can lead to starkly different interpretation of the same exact material by the viewers - the famous Kuleshov Effect [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuleshov_Experiment]. (Why do you think they give an Oscar for best film editing?) Sadly, 'seeing is believing' for a lot of people...
-1fatfreddie7yI see your point. Watching a video or picture, or whatever, for that reason, is no proof of anything. Those are easy to manipulate, I think we can agree on that. But what I want to hint to here, is the fact that we have vested interests on one side and virtually no profit on the other side. So which one do you belive? You post some link with 'exposing material', which is asserting in its third sentence, that the stuff is dangerous etc. and that that's an established fact... reading is believing, too. I've heard of some people (acquaintences) in africa witnessing the effects of mms, and that made me listen up. Look at this indepentend "help-your-self" community for example: http://www.globalresourcealliance.org/ [http://www.globalresourcealliance.org/] It's second hand info in the end again, but with our butts in front of a machine, its the best we can do...
4gwern7yVideo is not even systematic data. It's beyond easy to manipulate. Oddly enough, Nature doesn't care what vested interests think. It either works or it doesn't. When we look at systematic reviews and meta-analyses of how Big Pharma biases results (for example, the research summarized in Goldacre's Bad Pharma), we do not see anything like 'Big Pharma has suppressed 100% effective miracle drugs for global killers'. We see things like 'trials conducted by Big Pharma are 10% more likely to favor them than trials of the same drug conducted by neutral third-parties'. No, it makes a clear point about video editing which you can confirm by watching the video yourself, and offers a straightforward way in which the results are misleading which is immediately recognized as plausible by anyone familiar with the two-stage approach to medical testing (cheap initial screening with high false positive rate followed by expensive slow accurate test) used the world over which minimizes expenses & time. True of all of the thousands of alternative & traditional medicine, none of which work. They all have fans who 'witnessed the effects'. No, it's not the best you can do. And this is why I am angry at you and people like you: you are engaged in crappy thinking, you are ignorant, and your ignorance drives out good information. You can do better. You can easily do better. Where are your literature reviews and meta-analyses? Where are your Kickstarters to fund real experiments? Hell, where are your n=1 self-experiments? It is possible to run your own blind self-tests (if you spend even a minute genuinely thinking about it, you can figure out self-blinding), and it is possible to do with MMS: in fact, MMS is especially easy to test because it is dissolved in water. I have run and am running many randomized self-experiments on myself to investigate things that mainstream medicine has not yet resolved to my satisfaction. For example: * http://www.gwern.net/LSD%20microdosing [http://ww
-1fatfreddie7y<Video is not even systematic data. It's beyond easy to manipulate.> There's zero info in that comment as to the topic; it seems purely polemic to me, since I already agreed to the possibility of manipulating videos etc. <Oddly enough, Nature doesn't care what vested interests think.> Of course it doesn't, and I never said it would. The whole issue is about which sources to trust, and coming up with some meta-analysis of BigPharma not repressing 100% of what ever doesn't win you a single inch of ground: if that study says BigPharma prefers something they produce to something else by 10%, then mms must be... a fraud? Do they even test mms? You're silent about that, so let me guess: they don't. Yes, it does mention it in the third sentence, check it out again... weaving the outcome in up front is a telltale sign of insincerity - if you know before, what you'll find out later... < which minimizes expenses & time> well, maybe they have no money - ever thought about that? Interesting, you're so much into "systematic and meta-analysis"... you also tap into some higher knowledge, don't you? Is that maybe the true reason you're so agitated? Me and my kind... you don't have the slightest clue to what or who I am, but you seem to have an image of "my likes" in your head - let's stick to arguments, okay? Speaking of which: your links don't seem to cover mms... so why are they in your post? n=1 experiments - the path to truth? You seem not to have tested it, but still know so much about it... how come? Finally: I never said I was either part of "the solution", nor a "bystander"... so what's the "problem"?
0gwern7yGood. I'm glad you'll never show a manipulated video as evidence again. I hope this has been educational. Whether they test MMS or not is irrelevant. We have a good idea what Big Pharmai is capable of, and it smashes your conspiracy theory to smithereens. Or it's simply summarizing the conclusion? Like, in an abstract? ...all the more reason to use an efficient two-stage test process. You are not responding to this point or the alternate explanation, which is fatal to your conspiracy theory and your greatest piece of evidence for MMS being a miracle cure. Why is that? This is not a response. You are irresponsibly pushing MMS, a bleach solution, as a miracle cure for real-world problems that kill real people, based on trivially flawed deceptive videos exploiting a mistake a first-year stats student could diagnose after the Bayes theorem section of their stats 101 course. I know everything I need to know about you. I don't need to test MMS when there is zero evidence of its help and plenty of evidence of its harm. The burden of proof is on MMS proponents to show that drinking poison can be helpful. (This is a burden which has been passed by many therapies such as chemotherapy, incidentally.) I never said you said that. You are again not responding and evading. That was my summary, and I also explained what the problem was: Should I add rhetoric or careless reading to my above list of what I know about you?