I supervise the surgical skills lab for interns in the residency program in which I am a faculty member. As the course was nearing its end and the final exams were coming up, it was a practice session for knot tying, suturing, and using the simulators. The topic of medical misinformation and antivaccine physicians came up when I talked with some of the interns. One intern was surprised at how many doctors had promoted antivax and COVID-19 since the Pandemic hit. I pointed out that we have had these doctors in our profession for a long time and that most of our colleagues didn't notice them. Many didn't believe they existed, and as a result there has been little incentive for our profession to do anything about them. It has been a topic I have written about for a long time, and Dr. Val Jones even invented a term for doctors who didn't pay attention to medical pseudoscience, the " shruggie." I pointed out that no one who paid attention to these issues before the epidemic was surprised to see how many people are involved. Some of these interactions are why I have been stepping back a bit and writing more and more about why and how physicians trained in science-based medicine break bad and use their credentials to attack the science-based regulation of medicine.

I updated my thoughts on why doctors become quacks a couple of weeks ago, but I realized that they were not complete. An article in the New York Times by Andy Kroll that was published a week ago reminded me that I forgot another important trait. There are a number of pieces of misinformation that I could have written about, but I decided against it. The article is about an entire right-wing narrative about the swine flu. It is impossible for me to completely avoid mentioning politics, but I will try to emphasize the appeal of "apostasy" in medicine, whichpredates the anti-public health movement. Politics of today might lead one to believe in it, but it is more general.

Scott Jensen is a physician who is running for governor of Minnesota as a Republican and I have not written about him before.

On Apr. 8, 2020, in the chaotic early days of the Covid pandemic, the Fox News host Laura Ingraham welcomed a little-known state senator onto her prime time show. With his unmistakable Minnesota accent and an aw-shucks bearing, Scott Jensen, a Republican, was the furthest thing from the typical fire-breathing cable news guest. But the message that he wanted to share was nothing short of explosive.

He told Ms. Ingraham that he believed doctors and hospitals might be manipulating the data about Covid-19. He took aim at new guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warning that they could lead medical institutions to inflate their fees‌. “The idea that we are going to allow people to massage and sort of game the numbers is a real issue because we are going to undermine the trust” of the public, he said.

Ms. Ingraham’s guest offered no evidence or data to back up this serious allegation. Coming from a random state senator, the claim might have been easily dismissed as partisan politics. What gave it the sheen of credibility was his other job: He is a medical doctor.

There is a lot of arrogance among my colleagues, in which physicians in specialties unrelated to public health, epidemiology, and epidemics think they know better than experts in those fields. Dr. Jensen is like every other doctor. He has been a family practice doctor in Minnesota for over twenty years. There is no evidence that he has the knowledge, skills, and expertise to make statements about COVID-19, such as the ones he made on Fox News and antivaccine outlets. He is in a Q&A with Minnesota Public Radio.

Do you dispute that more than 12,000 Minnesotans have died as a result of COVID-19? Or that COVID-19 has killed more than 960,000 Americans?

Yes, I do. I think that what we have, when you say killed, I would say that COVID-19 may well have played a part. I would say that if this is a person who’s dying of stage 4 colon cancer, and COVID was diagnosed in the last 48 to 72 hours and it was put down as a COVID death I think that’s problematic. And I think the only way to solve the problem rather than call one another names or accuse someone of misinformation or disinformation, why don’t we just do an audit?

He responded to the question about his skills.

I studied epidemiology in 1976 and ‘77 when I was in dental school. My wife was an immunology researcher, prior to veterinary school. My family is very medically oriented. I went back and did advanced studies as a part of a Bush Fellowship and epidemiology and leadership and communication were part of that. But I don’t think that’s really the issue. I think that you’ll find people a lot more credentials than me on both sides of this argument. And I don’t think that it necessarily does anything to constructively move forward to simply denigrate this group of people’s credentials and elevate someone else’s.

He studied epidemiology as an undergrad and was awarded a Bush fellowship for his work. It wasn't hard to find Dr. Jensen's name when you searched the Bush Foundation website. He studied what? He studied dermatology, allergy, computer applications, leadership, and ethics. That is the reason he goes on to a "both sides" fallacy.

I mean, you’ve got people like Jayanta Bhattacharya, Harvey Risch, Scott Atlas, John Ioannidis, Peter McCullough, these people are all highly regarded giants in their field. And then you’ve got other people like Tony Fauci and Mike Osterholm, and others that are respected on another side.

Many of those names are familiar to regular readers of this website, as we have written about them and how they have promoted contrarianism and minimization in the early days of the Pandemic. If you're interested in the details, use the search box. I'm not going to talk about that in the future. This part of the article is where I want to go.

My first experience with medical apostasy: Dr. Robert S. Mendelsohn

I often make allusions to the religious language used by antivaccine doctors and doctors who believe in alternative medicine. Conventional science-based medicine is dismissed as "dogma" by them. A number of physicians with views outside the mainstream like to use the same language that Dr. Jensen uses.

The apostate evokes images of a distinctly religious variety. The fourth-century Roman emperor Julian, who pushed to abandon Christianity and return to paganism. Freethinkers tortured and burned at the stake for daring to question the official orthodoxy of their era. And yet for as long as the word “apostate” has existed, it has possessed a certain allure.

To become one requires undertaking a journey of the mind, if not the soul, a wrenching transformation that eventually leads one to reject what was once believed to be true, certain, sacred. It’s a journey that often results in glorious righteousness. They’ve experienced an awakening that few others have, suffered for their awakening and now believe they see the world for what it is.

Ronald Reagan, who was a New Deal Democrat before becoming a Republican, is one example.

“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party,” Reagan liked to say. “The Democratic Party left me.”

This was a clever bit of sloganeering by the future president. It was also the testimony of an apostate.

Back to medical school, I had my first experience with medical "apostasy". My girlfriend gave me a book by a doctor that was published in 1979. Heresy and apostasy can be found in the same person, if that person is a former member of a religion who left and became apostates.

Indeed, in the introduction to confessions, Dr.

I do not believe in Modern Medicine. I am a medical heretic. My aim in this book is to persuade you to become a heretic, too. I haven’t always been a medical heretic. I once believed in Modern Medicine.

There's it. The doctor was not just a medical heretic. He was a medical apostate, too, having abandoned his belief in Modern Medicine for a different belief system.

Without the ritual of the checkup, internists would have trouble paying the office rent. How else can the doctor ensure a steady supply of sacrificial victims for the Church’s other sacraments without the examination? The Gospel said many were called and few were chosen, but the Church of Modern Medicine has gone that one better: All are called and most are chosen.

I was shocked to read that Dr. Mendelsohn found The Truth and medicine to be a religion with doctors. There were reasonable criticisms of how modern medicine operated with over-the-top rants that portrayed surgeons as bloodthirsty butchers who didn't care if operations were necessary or not but did them anyway. He said that gynecologists and obstetricians sacrificed women on the altar of surgery during childbirth. In his 1984 book How To Raise a healthy child in Spite of your doctor, Dr. Mendelsohn wrote that there was no convincing scientific evidence that mass inoculations can be credited with eliminating diseases. He wanted to know if we traded the two diseases for cancer and leukemia.

If you read the article, you will find a number of antivax ideas. Measles and mumps were seen as harmless in the 40 years that have passed. He pointed out that the same way that COVID-19 antivaxxers point to the transmission of COVID-19 among the vaccine-vaccinated, he pointed out that the same way that an outbreak of pertussis among vaccine-vaccinated children could be. Even though the vaccine is good at preventing disease, it is not a sterilizing vaccine. It sounds similar? He fearmongered about the effects of vaccines. He said the vaccine was to blame for sudden infant deaths. This was written about the vaccine.

Meanwhile, there is an ongoing debate among the immunologists regarding the relative risks of killed virus vs. live virus vaccine. Supporters of the killed virus vaccine maintain that it is the presence of live virus organisms in the other product that is responsible for the polio cases that occasionally appear. Supporters of the live virus type argue that the killed virus vaccine offers inadequate protections and actually increases the susceptibility of those vaccinated.

This offers me a rare opportunity to be comfortably neutral. .I believe that both factions are right and that use of either of the vaccines will increase, not diminish, the possibility that your child will contract the disease.

In short, it appears that the most effective way to protect your child from polio is to make sure that he doesn’t get the vaccine!

New is old again. It's true, I know, but I write that too much.

The rhetoric was full of religious imagery as well. There is a chapter called Ritual Mutilations in the confessions of a medical heretic. It was reasonable to argue about how many tonsillectomies and hysterectomies were necessary, but that was not what the doctor was talking about. He predicted that most cancer surgery would be seen with the same kind of horror that we now regard the use of leeches. There is a lot of religious imagery in the book. Hospitals are referred to as The Temples of doom. There are many overblown criticisms of hospitals that portray them as abattoirs. I exaggerate a tiny bit.

The other chapters have titles as well.

  • Miraculous Mayhem (Chapter 2)
  • Holy War on the Family (Chapter 5)

There is a lot of religious language in the book and it wasn't the only one. During an address to the National Health Federation in 1984, Dr. Mendelsohn said that the view of medicine as a religion leads to quackery.

Doctors complain that quacks keep patients away from orthodox medicine. I cheer! Since all the treatments, both orthodox and alternative, for cancer, coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and arthritis, are equally unproven, why would a sane person choose treatment that can kill the patient?

Both sides of the story. They are just two different belief systems that are not completely proven. It's got it? He wrote in the foreword to Immunisation: The Reality behind the Myth.

Elegance of style is an additional bonus. For example, James compares modern vaccines—laden with formaldehyde, mercury, dog kidney tissue—with the “eye of newt and toe of frog” added to the brew of Macbeth’s witches. She wisely comments: “Is it too impudent to suggest that man has long had a love affair with decomposing animal proteins, noxious potions that ward off the demons of ill fortune?”

Immunization: The Reality Behind the Myth will open the eyes of those who still believe in the religion of modern medicine. It will strengthen those who have left that religion. And to protect every human being right from the start— this book is the most valuable gift you can present to the mother of a newborn baby.

The narrative of the apostate needs to be noted again.

He described his alternative medicine as New Age-y before Oprah Winfrey became popular.

Our New Medicine cuts across all political and ideological lines and touches the core of every person’s relationship with life: How long and how well will I live? The New Medicine, too, takes on some of the trappings of a religion.


Faith is the first requirement for a religion, and you still need faith to practice the New Medicine. But you won’t need faith in technology or doctors, or drugs, or professionals.

You need faith in life.

By faithfully, religiously if you will, regarding life — and loving it — the New Medicine immediately will discredit Modern Medicine. The New Medicine need not come between a person and whatever traditional religion he or she chooses, because the religions that have survived all support life.


Since life is the central mystery of our New Medicine, our “sacraments” acknowledge and celebrate the life of the universe. The “sins” of the New Medicine, in many cases, turn out to be the virtues of the Church of Modern Medicine: any practice that promotes or condones violence against life. The New Medicine says it’s a “sin” to restrict weight gain during pregnancy, to use the Pill freely on the theory that it’s safer than pregnancy, to submit to routine annual physicals, to put silver nitrate in babies’ eyes, to immunize children routinely, to be ignorant of nutrition, and a host of other activities that Modern Medicine promotes as “healthy.” These activities are sins not because they offend anybody’s idea of correct or polite behavior, but because they present a clear and present danger to life. They are offenses against biology. Since the life in our bodies seems to have an incredible capacity to heal itself, if given the proper conditions the corrective activities of the New Medicine — guilt and penance — will aim at producing those proper conditions. Imbalance is often as difficult to avoid in human life as balance is desirable. Since this is a human medicine, not one bound to the deathly formality of machines, hope is one thing that is never taken away from even the worst “sinner.”

The New Medicine doesn’t have any empty [260] rituals. You fulfill the “commandments” and celebrate the sacraments by doing real things. Naturally, we have priests in this religion, too. But the New Doctor is not the prime mediator between the faithful and the object of faith. The authority of the doctor is severely limited by the individual taking the responsibility upon himself. Still, a system of ethics needs a mediator, a supporter of the faithful in their quest, a lifeguard when the quest runs into trouble.

I could go on and on, but you can read the entire book for free if you want, as a PDF of it is hosted at Whale.to, which was a good thing for me as I no longer have the original copy. I'm not sure what happened to it.

Dr. Jensen is under qualified to make such sweeping indictments of public health responses.

Why is medical apostasy so attractive?

Medical apostasy is attractive to some doctors. A doctor who embraces "heresy" and becomes an "apostate" against the "church of medicine" is not attractive only to the doctor who embraces "heresy" and becomes an "apostate" Those who follow the apostate are attracted to the idea of an apostate. I will look at both sides of the coin. There is a list of physicians who used the language of medical heresy to describe their conversion to quackery.

In my last article on the making of COVID-19 contrarians specifically and quacks more generally, I pointed out that a key trait in physicians that lead them to believe that they know better than the assembled experts in their fields is that they alone have found a fatal flaw in the understanding of It is possible for a doctor to see something that the experts didn't see, even if they don't agree with it. It isn't very likely. Chances are good that eventually they could convince the experts if theapostates brought home the evidence to prove their point. I will not say that it would be easy or fast, but in the long run science wins out.

It takes a lot of self-confidence to believe that you have what it takes to be a doctor. If you think you have what it takes to become a surgeon, the only profession in which society gives permission to remove or rearrange parts of people's bodies for therapeutic purposes, you're wrong. Most doctors are not scientists. People go into medicine and surgery because they want to help others. The level of religious belief among physicians is similar to that of the general public. Medicine and its practices are seen in a religious light by many.

There is a tendency among physicians to think that they are the best and the brightest, because a lot of us are. Strong work ethic and high academic achievement are required to be accepted to medical school. When physicians see medicine as a service, they are often disappointed. Something "different" becomes very attractive to physicians who have always seen themselves as brilliant and creative. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), whose members seem to think they are all better than the children at Lake wobegon, is a medical pseudoacademic pseudo professional society. An old editorial by a former AAPS president described them as "persecuted."

Inescapably, the herd is a force to be reckoned with in all of our professional lives. We must be prepared to travel with it or alongside it, to one degree or another, without being trampled or singled out for extermination. And, for those few physicians who still believe in individual-based medicine practiced according to the principles of Hippocrates, and in watching out for one another when one of our own is attacked, fortunately we have the AAPS. We are a fellowship of “different doctors,” and the distinction is apparent.

It is gratifying to be able to tell yourself that you were once mistaken, but that you saw the truth and embraced it.

These brave maverick physicians, in their own self- image, have experienced an awakening that few others have, and now see the world for what it is. Being an apostate can be either positive or negative. Being an apostate can be a good thing if you reject one harmful belief system in favor of one that is science based. Being an apostate after rejecting science-based medical conclusions is not something to be applauded. If everyone rejects what you believe to be knowledge that you possess, then you have to explain why our knowledge is rejected. Conspiracy theories describe a belief systeme as dogma. It doesn't occur to this type of apostate that their new beliefs are rejected because they aren't supported by evidence, it's because of religious differences

People tend to find Apostasy's testimonials very attractive. In his NYT article, he sums it up.

There are few more powerful messages in human psychology than that of the apostate: “Believe me. I used to be one of them.”

There are many narratives that are more powerful in reinforcing a change in belief system for the person who made that change. There is a reason why an antivaxxer named J.B. Handley likened Andrew Wakefield to another person. The stories of martyrs are particularly powerful in religion and the narrative of "unjust persecution" by Wakefield was particularly powerful to them. Apostates can be strong in their new beliefs and persuasive in converting others if they reject their old beliefs. It is the same as how converts to a new religion are the most religious.

It isn't the pure grifters who know they're the most dangerous. The true believers are the ones who believe in something.

You can buy an e- book.

Dr. Hall is teaching a video course.

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