September 1, 2002
11:45 PM   Subscribe

As a follow-up to his original story, discussed here, Paul Sheehan has written an article detailing recent developments, including reaction from an ABC science show. If this is true, it has enormous implications for our health care.
posted by emf (11 comments total)
To my way of thinking, something purporting to be an important scientific breakthrough ought to at least involve some actual, basic science. Which this whole water/CO2 thing does not.

Double blind tests? Didn't seem to feel the need to bother with that. Research carried out by independent, non-biased scientists? Ditto. There is no proof. Sure, it would be real nice if this was true, but a handful of testemonials by people claiming that they drank some magical water expecting a certain result, and voila! got some measure of that result, proves nothing at all.
posted by contessa at 1:57 AM on September 2, 2002

That post was less than explicative.

In any event, mineral-water crazes are quite common, historically. *shrug*
posted by dhartung at 8:11 AM on September 2, 2002

Historically, the idea that germs smaller than the eye could see were the cause of disease was considered crazy over 100 years after it was scientifically proven by Louis Pastuer. Sailors were dieing of scurvy in the late 19th C even when generations earlier it was shown citrus could prevent scurvy because captains figured citrus was just another in a long line of crack-pot ideas going back thousands of years. In the late 1960s Smallpox was considered by many reputable scientists not to be contagious and thus its eradication not required. The list goes on, I think we owe every crackpot idea a chance based on its merits alone.
posted by stbalbach at 1:42 PM on September 2, 2002

The list goes on, I think we owe every crackpot idea a chance based on its merits alone.

Er, no we don't. Not when there is a rather simple procedure for definitively proving a hypothesis called the scientific method. Let's not forget that for centuries, the western thinking was that humors controlled our overall health, in absence of any proof that they didn't -- which is not the same thing as it being factual or true.

Defining a cause and effect relationship between "water" and "health" is rather fuzzy, no matter where the water comes from. The idea of it might be interesting, but I fail to see that there's anything to get excited over yet.
posted by contessa at 2:03 PM on September 2, 2002

To me, anything that includes references to "the scientific club" has lost credibility straight away.

What this guy says is very interesting, and prima facie, worthy of some investigation. Where I part company is where he says "we don't need to test", and where his boosters point to a bunch of anecdotes as though they constituted evidence.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:48 PM on September 2, 2002

Defining a cause and effect relationship between "water" and "health" is rather fuzzy

The water is just the medium he uses. If you actually read the articles it will describe better than I the chemical process and scientific reasons he claims it works.. If you have a scientific reason why his methods are unsound It would be nice to read rather than all this mud slinging. To his credit he outlines in a lot of detail why and how it works and no one has addressed why its so obviously flawed. In summary, acid in the body is a known problem and he basically is increasing the PH.

About the only disturbing thing is how quickly has has come to market with product for obvious profit gain that seems to cure everything from HIV to Cancer to ageing with no evidence other than sheep that live longer and farmers that feel better. He claims to be spending his time on the research end setting up tests in hospitals but he is also chargeing $30 for about 14 litres of water while at the same time creating a stir in the press to stoke demand.
posted by stbalbach at 3:36 PM on September 2, 2002

If you have a scientific reason why his methods are unsound It would be nice to read rather than all this mud slinging.

The only scientific 'reason' needed is the scientific method itself. As you already know, science is not a body of knowledge - it is a method of analysis. This 'miracle water' dealer uses only customer testimonials where the scientific method would require double-blind tests with controls, peer-review, etc.

His hypothesis is completely unproven and his methods are suspect. He should be testing it under controlled conditions in a lab and *paying* volunteers to help him test it. As it stands. he is getting people to pay him to be, essentially, his lab rats.

At the very least, he is a quack. He is selling an unproven medication for profit.

He may even be a murderer. If people with cancer and other serious diseases rely only on his water / unproven hypothesis instead of seeking professional medical attention, he may be killing human beings for profit.
posted by cup at 7:25 PM on September 2, 2002

I did read the articles (I must have, or I wouldn't have a clue what I was commenting on, given the paucity of clues in the front post), and here's what I got out of them: Dr. Russell Becket claims that magnesium bicarbonate neutralizes carbon dioxide, which in turn (inexplicably) cures or alleviates such chronic/degenerative problems as arthritis, circulatory problems, or multiple sclerosis. Miracle water!! Yayy!!

The Catalyst transcript is very revealing if one chooses to put their critical thinking cap on while reading it. Quoth Dr Becket himself:

"...I tried to be conventional in [the reserach] sense...I spoke to the Australian Academy of Science, I spoke to the American Academy of Science... Because I wanted to do work independently, I couldn’t get anywhere, so I had to do it other ways."

That's rather odd, isn't it? Now, just because a bit of reserach is turned down for investigation doesn't automatically mean it's hogwash, because I'll bet there's more put into the equation than the validity of the ideas (being "outside the club" probably did not work in his favor, let's say). However, somebody with confidence in their findings would be very open to taking a hands-off approach while others study thier work, don't you think? When he spoke to the science community, did he ask them "Please study my water and tell me if you get the same results I'm getting," or did he say, "May I have some funding and some lab equipment so I can make this look legit?" Sorry for the snark. Neither article is really that in-depth to say what his aims were. There are some claims and some anecdotes. Not much else. That this is now being put through clinical trials is a good thing, so what is anybody worried about?

And I have to ask -- do you really feel that it is "slinging mud" to ask critical, specific, and probing questions about something of this nature?
posted by contessa at 7:25 PM on September 2, 2002

I'm glad this is of interest to everyone. I love mysteries, and I'll continue to watch for further developments. In fact, I'll try and get hold of some of the water; I've got a cough I'm trying to shake.
posted by emf at 4:45 AM on September 3, 2002

FWIW I emailed to find out about US availability.

Unique Water is not yet available overseas and we currently do not have the ability to export. However if you know anyone in Australia they are able to receive the delivery for you and forward it to you themselves. For a list of our current distributors in Australia please visit our website at and click on the Unique Water page.

posted by stbalbach at 5:21 AM on September 3, 2002

From the ABC piece: The placebo effect of any disease is 30%. But it doesn't answer the other 70%

Oh no? With the ground placebos have been gaining in the treatment of depression, who knows what'll come next. It seems to me that fighting "the effects of age" and depression are pretty closely related.

I've heard that it helps people with arthritis; I have a form of arthritis so I think that may help.

If one believes that (x) will help, (x) probably will. Just ask Benny Hinn.
posted by mikrophon at 1:07 PM on September 3, 2002

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