Talk:Quackery involving radioactive substances

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Arbitration Committee Decisions on Pseudoscience

The Arbitration Committee has issued several principles which may be helpful to editors of this and other articles when dealing with subjects and categories related to "pseudoscience".

Four groups

Objections to term "quackery"[edit]

I am not happy with the term quackery as applied to this. Some of these devices were not irrational at a stage where almost nothing was known, and the knowledge of what would be curative effects was not well developed. Certainly the fluorscope was not quackery--it did serve the advertised purpose of fitting shoes, and was mainstream. It was of course dangerous and totally unnecessary, but it survived through the 1950s. DGG (talk) 20:52, 21 August 2007 (UTC)

Good point. Today's science is tomorrow's quackery? Understanding does evolve, at least as long as the religious fanatics do not have total power...
Seriously, leeching at one time was certainly not considered "quackery". Maybe that is a bad example. I think I read somewhere that leeching has made a comeback for some reason or another, or was that only a bad nightmare?
Presumably "quackery" is defined by the status quo, whether that be "truth" or not. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:21, 14 May 2008 (UTC)
Then there is the term "radiate", which is used (in physics) in a slightly different manner than the common understanding for "radiation". Just talk about "radiating bodies" to a zoning board and see how far you get in obtaining a variance for an antenna site. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:23, 14 May 2008 (UTC)
Today "quackery" means benefits of a claimed therapy are unproven at best, fraudulent in general, harmful at worst. In absence of a scientific method, there's no such thing as quackery - so indeed the leech analogy is bogus, and DGG's objection is nonsensical - except in the case of the shoe-fitting fluoroscope, which wasn't propounded as a therapy. Even then, it wasn't called "quackery", but only included here under "see also". -- (talk) 21:05, 3 October 2009 (UTC)
Some uses of radioactivity was quackery, other uses weren't. Quackery implies that the methods were unapproved by conventional medicine, which isn't true for all cases. Radium had been used with a high success rate to treat problems like lupus and cancer, and studies on those types of treatments appeared in peer reviewed journals. With evidence that it was useful in those cases, bits were put into medication for things like tuberculosis, and that was also met with success. A lot of the use of radium in medicine was for a lack of better treatments.
Of course in addition to scientifically oriented doctors, you had the quacks, which wanted to put it in everything and market it as a cure. Doctors did know radium had "toxic" effects, experiments had already shown it interfered with the normal healing process. Scientists put blocks of radium in wounds and observed the effects. But the two aspects to radium treatment -- legitimate and illegitimate -- need to be discussed together. I'm planning on starting an article on the medical use of radium in the next couple of days. Brianshapiro (talk) 04:12, 18 July 2011 (UTC)
I agree that the term quackery has not been justified in the context of this phenomenon. I have now added some historical context on the use of hormetic therapies which were an accepted part of mainstream science at the time when this phenomenon was prevalent. Later findings have uncovered that the practices covered in this article went well beyond the bound of what might be hormetic dosages, however the argument has not been presented as I at least would expect, that this immature knowledge constitutes a rationale for applying the term quackery. I also object with what may be a more forceful objection to the lack of attribution or reference for the use of this term itself. Wikipedia should not invent phrases that do not already exist. __meco (talk) 11:23, 13 March 2010 (UTC)
I disagree with the notion that radioactive quackery in the early 1900s was based on the concept of hormesis. The harmful effects of ionizing radiation were not known back then. Hormesis, conversely, involves a purposeful administration of a sub-toxic dosage of a substance, which is known to be harmful in larger doses. The claimed benefits of radioactive patent medicines were not based on the hormetic effect (which is disputable, but we can give it a benefit of doubt), or any other scientifically recognized phenomenon, but rather on purely imaginary and non-scientific claims of "energizing", "purifying" and so on. As such, they fulfill the definition of quackery.—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:57, April 30, 2010
I agree, to a degree. The harmful effects of radiation were known early on. In 1901, Becquerel got a burn on his chest after carrying a sample of radium in his pocket. That low levels encouraged growth and health was indeed a theory that seemed to be confirmed by experiments, at least on plants. Additionally, gamma rays (filtered radium rays as they could be called) seemed to have the mysterious property of eliminating useless or harmful tissue while being neutral or even benign to healthy tissue; the latter was only harmed once the former was gone. - Then again, that much of the stuff for private use was pure quackery without any theory except buzzwords is beyond doubt. Hexmaster (talk) 09:14, 29 July 2011 (UTC)

HSS advert[edit]

According to article Ferrouranium, it had some moderately desirable qualities, and was somewhat commercially successful on that basis for a number of years... AnonMoos (talk) 02:45, 10 February 2013 (UTC)

After considering this comment, I decided to remove the advert that I had added in this article. Since it's non-medical, and there's a tiny grain of truth behind the wild exaggeration, it's not the greatest example to put in this article, although there's still clearly an element of snake oil in the advert—a very non-/pseudo-scientific sense of "ooh, uranium is magic" that was an echo of the cultural moment of radiographic medical quackery—and there's no way that this brand of HSS was 20% to 50% better than most other brands, because it would have swept the field if those numbers were true, in the way that HSS swept away half the usage of older tool steels, and carbides swept away half the usage of HSS. I may delete the advert from the ferrouranium article only because its snake-oil tone and 20-50% claim makes it a poor example of HSS being .05-5% better when some ferrouranium is added (as the article states). Will think about it ... — ¾-10 21:55, 10 February 2013 (UTC)

The Patchwork Girl of Oz[edit]

In L. Frank Baum's book The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913) appears the following passage:

Here was nothing grimy or faded, indeed. On the contrary, the room was of dazzling brilliance and beauty, for it was lined throughout with an exquisite metal that resembled translucent frosted silver. The surface of this metal was highly ornamented in raised designs representing men, animals, flowers and trees, and from the metal itself was radiated the soft light which flooded the room. All the furniture was made of the same glorious metal, and Scraps asked what it was.
"That's radium," answered the Chief. "We Horners spend all our time digging radium from the mines under this mountain, and we use it to decorate our homes and make them pretty and cosy. It is a medicine, too, and no one can ever be sick who lives near radium."

Worth mentioning? —Mark Dominus (talk) 03:12, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

Article title[edit]

This probably needs a new title, but I can't think of any better options right now. Also, the lead sentence needs to be re-written per WP:REFER, but that will be much easier to do when a better title is in place. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:12, 1 September 2014 (UTC)

What about "Harmful uses of radiation therapy in the 20th century". Not great, but (IMO) better than using the word "quackery". (talk) 20:04, 2 September 2014 (UTC)
There's nothing wrong with using the word quackery in a page title. Quackery is quackery—that's the word for the concept. The problem with the title right now is not that it includes that word, but rather that the adjective radioactive usually means "emitting radiation" (as opposed to "related to radioactivity"). Quackery is not a physical object that can emit radiation; it is a behavior or practice. One new title that solves the problem is "Radiotherapeutic quackery", because radiotherapeutic in that instance means "of or relating to radiotherapy". — ¾-10 17:24, 3 September 2014 (UTC)
Radium beauty products!

Another image which could be added[edit]

This makes the quackery angle more vivid through exaggerated advertising language, and is likely to provoke a visceral reaction among those who know of Marie Curie's death, or the deaths of the radium watch-dial painters... AnonMoos (talk) 16:37, 17 November 2014 (UTC)