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Don't Call Yourself "Doctor" and Spew Fake Science

One of the many episodes of Big Bang Theory I loved was when Bernadette got her Ph.D. Penny mocks Howard by saying to the others, “You’re a doctor, you’re a doctor, and Howard, you know a lot of doctors.” When I was working in higher education, I worked with many fellow Ph.D.s. We never addressed one another as “doctor,” but there was an expectation that students would call you “doctor” rather than “Ms.” (which drove me nuts).

When I introduce myself to others, I don’t call myself “doctor.” I don’t say, “Beth Bradford, Ph.D.” When I write news articles about health topics, I don’t claim to be an expert and use Dr. Beth Bradford. That would be deceiving, because people would assume I’m a medical doctor, right?

Yet I see a LOT of people with doctorates (which can include education, theology, fine arts, etc) use “Dr.” before their name when they’re marketing health-related products and services. Although I have a good deal of respect for chiropractic care, there are a lot of chiropractors who use Dr. when they write about psychology, yoga, and other things that go beyond their chiropractic expertise.

Using "Doctor" to spew misinformation

I recently saw an ad for the Gaia streaming channel, and a “Dr.” was spewing all kinds of nonsense about the pineal gland. He was saying that when we activate the pineal gland, we can enter into new realms, yada yada, yada. Someone who is desperate to escape their mundane world would probably say, “Yes! Sign me up!” Meanwhile, this guy is raking in a ton of cash for his disinformation. More on him in a mo.

Other “doctors” have marketed someone else’s tapping technique, which was originally conceived as an acupressure practice. Now you see people paying a ton of money getting certified as an EFT tapping practitioner, yet you can easily learn this technique for free from a 5-minute video on YouTube. Yet his website—and promotions for this practice—will list a ton of “studies,” but they are so scientifically flawed. Yet someone who is desperate for healing their anxiety, depression, or plantar warts will fall prey to this marketing scheme. Meanwhile, this guy’s Ph.D. is from a college that either doesn’t exist or it went out of business. It certainly wasn’t accredited. But hey, he gets to put “Dr.” in front of his name.

I find it unethical for so many of these alternative medicine practitioners to mislead their customers with these “miracle” practices they claimed to conceive on their own. Meanwhile, these “miracle” practices are offshoots of authentic practices that have been passed down for generations. These charlatans are just putting a marketing spin on them.

Are these claims supported by science?

Beware of anyone who puts their name on breath practices without having some scientific evidence to back it up. The Wim Hof method is essentially cold water immersion therapy, which has scientific evidence, and breath retention, which also has significant scientific evidence. I’m still working on my Wim Hof review. Sure, Wim Hof does a good job of marketing his practice, but you can learn it on your own. He’s really not doing anything new—his breath practice is based on the Buddhist practice of Tummo. Even Wim Hof’s website says Tummo is comparable (it’s the same, imho). But we have to be careful to scrutinize claims that this breath practice can cure depression, anxiety, and plantar warts any more than other breath practices can.

However, Wim Hof doesn’t claim to be a doctor. Yes, there have been lots of studies about his physiology while he practices his cold-water immersion and breathing practice. But he’s not trying to give you a scientific explanation of why this works. He just knows that it works for him.

On the other hand, a certain Doctor of Chiropractic is making a killing on his courses and teachings, telling people how they can become “supernatural.” He says that he’s taken courses in neuroscience, etc., but where? Coursera?

I tried “his” breath practice, and it’s essentially pranayama done incorrectly. After all, when you do a breath retention on the inhale, you’re not supposed to squeeze your abdominals (called the uddiyana bandha). You do that on the exhale. Imagine trying to do a sit-up while you’re inhaling—it’s the same thing.

His meditations aren’t anything different from what people have been teaching in the many spiritual traditions for centuries. Why should I pay hundreds of dollars for these courses and teachings when I can practice most of these mediations for free on just about any meditation app? Why should I pay more for his line of supplements that say they “chill out the pineal gland” when I can buy a melatonin sleep supplement with GABA at CVS—and it probably has been USP or NSF approved?

I’m sure a lot of people have found relief using “his” breathing practices, meditations, or supplements, but you can probably find relief for free elsewhere. And besides, there are some breathing practices, meditations, and supplements that are backed by quality science. You won’t find any of his products in any scientific journals.

But maybe that’s the point. Maybe he’s catering to the people who have lost their trust in science. Maybe he knows there’s a huge market for people who don’t want a scientific opinion—they want someone to trust. He uses the old formula—appeal to their needs, tell them what they want to hear, then when they build enough trust, they move in for the sell.

If that’s his plan—to discount (or mislead) scientific evidence, then he shouldn’t use “Dr.” when he sells you his products.

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