Bill Nye Saves the World?


That is a mighty declaration Bill Nye makes in his new Netflix show’s title, isn’t it? Especially since his “entertaining” op-ed-esque message in episode two on alternative medicine is mostly destructive. Normally, I wouldn’t be interested in watching anyone try to debunk alternative medical treatments because it is just a way for me to get unproductively angry, further taxing my adrenal glands. But on a particularly boring Saturday night, I got a text from a friend, “Bill Nye has a new show on Netflix, episode 2 is on alternative medicine. Check it out—some good stuff.” We can call this friend (who I love dearly) a world-class instigator. I was already mad because considering his kitschy name—”the science guy”—I assumed it would be very anti-anything-that-isn’t -Western medicine. But masochism and feistiness won: I watched. The episode far exceeded my expectations: I was left more angry than I imagined was possible by a short 30-minute segment. I wasn’t feeling personally offended that Mr. Nye disagrees with anything slightly to the left, I was angry at the much larger effect is has on the mysteriously sick population to use your platform to sell ideas that could potentially be harmful. In an effort to turn the unproductive anger into something productive, I would like to do a little debunking myself.

The episode proves nothing. Oh, I’m sorry, it proves one thing: There is a very expensive item at Whole Foods that claims to cure heartburn. But—surprise— it doesn’t. Of course, this does us no good because he never divulges the name of the product. But we all know to be suspicious at Whole Foods, right? RIGHT? Instead of using facts and stats and, well, science, he spends his time mocking a world that he clearly knows nothing about—a world that has many advantageous options, a world that helps people—if not, saves people—from pain, heartbreak and illness. Being biased when it comes to medicine can literally take someone’s life.  So, if you happened to catch Bill Nye shamelessly (and ineffectively if you really paid attention) try to debunk any treatment plan that is not FDA approved or available at the pharmacy then I want to offer a deeper, more comprehensive and truer reality.

To be clear, I’m not interested in any radical opinions about medicine whether they are Western or Eastern.  I think the modalities compliment each other nicely—I have healed using both, and I still use both on a daily basis. Where Eastern falls short, I go Western and vice versa. I strongly believe that people should be well-informed, well-researched and do what works for them— that treatment is individual and personal. I think people should never feel bullied into or out of whatever way they deem best to care for themselves.  The only generalized belief I have about healing from something as destructive, cunning, and chronic as Lyme is that it requires a three-fold approach: spiritual, emotional and physical. All three must be met equally to have full success.  Point being, I am not biased. I am, HOWEVER, a person who got sick with something that is a hell of a lot less straightforward than say, a sinus infection—something that is notoriously well-treated with antibiotics. A serious illness and a lack of funds forced me to open up to a world of possibilities when it came to medicine, and I guarantee you, Bill Nye has had no such experience nor did any of the guests on his show.

Considering the wide array of medicines and treatments that are not recognized as Western medicine, I thought it was quite ambitious to debunk ALL of them in just 30 minutes. Of course, he doesn’t at all do what the title of the episode suggests— instead he focuses on magnetic knee bands, sound therapy, and a mysterious $50.00 potion from Whole Foods. Oh, I’m sorry, he also gives us about one minute on homeopathy. He never touches on acupuncture, herbs, infrared saunas, massage, Reiki, supplements, ozone therapy, vitamin drips, exercise, meditation, or FOOD.

He spends the first many minutes of the episode explaining how medicine becomes medicine: Research. Research includes 2 groups, a group given the new drug and a group given a placebo, the results are looked at and effectiveness is determined. I thought this show wasn’t for children? Nye breaks down this process as simply as possible and then for the rest of the episode forgets to ever mention whether or not the alternative medicines he preys on were tested that way. Of course, most aren’t because they can’t get funding to do research—he says himself that alt medicines aren’t researched so consequentially he has no stats or facts.  Alt treatments aren’t given the same kind of money and don’t have backing from big-pharma.  Not to mention that medicine NEVER starts as medicine. If antibiotics are made from mold and fungi then there was a time when they weren’t considered medicine either, right? They had to undergo the process he describes and weren’t discovered until 1928 and chemo wasn’t used in cancer patients until some years later. Remember just some months ago when weed wasn’t medicine? Cancer patients use it now.

But, to be fair,  there are some things we agree on. He suggests people tune their “quack-o-meter.” I would suggest the same. Except that I know lots of “quacks” that have their MD and are prescribing— oh I don’t know—painkillers, psych drugs and antibiotics by the dangerous handful.

His handy check list to help us tune our quack-o-meter involves things like:

“does it claim to be better because it’s natural” 

Mine involves things like:

“Is the doctor taking your symptoms seriously or are they sending you away with some steroids and no blood work.” 

“are you biased” (ahem ahem)

Like him, I believe in research. People should be protecting themselves and doing research on whatever treatment plan they’re after. I think one of the best places to start is by asking people you respect who have recovered from what you have, what they did to get well. And then following it up with a couple of practitioner opinions and your own detective work in books and on the handy computer. He doesn’t approach research the same way—I guess it wouldn’t be entertaining or laugh out loud enough?

Instead, in an effort to debunk sound therapy, he sent an  “in-the-field researcher” to see a sound therapist in Haight Ashbury San Francisco—a notorious hippie-zone. I’ve got to hand it to them, they found one of the kookiest, craziest kinds of healers out there.  They found a man who claims sound therapy can heal cancer, shrink tumors, and get people off their Parkinsons’ meds.  They got the guy on tape screaming at organs. Yikes. It’s shocking. And horrible and can be dangerous to make such extreme claims—claims like “I can cure cancer, ” OR claims like,  “Bill Nye Saves the World.” Seems like the two of them are cut from the same cloth, doesn’t it?  The unfortunate truth is that I have equally terrifying scenes I can recount that take place in a Neurologist’s office. It was also dangerous, shocking and horrible to find out that my neurologist over-prescribed a medicine that could have killed me and failed to notice for five months. It was also horrible when my first doctor for Lyme kept prescribing me handfuls of antibiotics without ever so much as checking my CBC.  It was also shocking when that male OB GYN looked me in the eyes and told me I had a tiny vagina and a beautiful uterus. OMG.  My experience with sound therapy was much more pleasant than those very Western experiences.

As far as sound therapy, I had great experiences —albeit, I visited two in-demand centers that know precisely what they’re doing with those big Himalayan crystal bowls. And I’m here to tell you, it’s a fucking incredible meditation. Relaxation is a key component to combatting illness. The less stress in the body, the less acidic your body is and the easier it is for your immune system to function and fight disease. Your organs and glands aren’t working extra hard to monitor stress reactions. This is researched and proven. SO, wouldn’t something like deep meditative states encouraged by relaxing environments be useful to sick people? It is also proven that  sound therapy specifically is beneficial for stress-induced illness. Why did Bill fail to mention that? Maybe because he hasn’t had a real run-in with illness? Maybe because he has access to good doctors and vacations to the Caribbean whenever he wants them?

Let’s be clear: Just like there are very bad/ dangerous MD’s out there—quacks, if you will—there are also poorly trained and, yes, dangerous healers out there. I should know, I’ve had good and bad experiences with both sets of people. Again, staying well-informed and being your own advocate is key. It is discreditable to discuss the dangers of sound therapy without also discussing how many people are dying because of over-prescribed painkillers. And there are statistics for that.

Bill Nye brings on one guest who veers to the left in his expert panel. He  had legitimate things to say about crystals, sound therapy and complimentary medicine and he was talked over, and mocked by Bill multiple times. It’s a shame because he had solid arguments and it seemed like Mr. Nye was all too overwhelmed to actually address anything he was saying. The “expert panel” was cut short so that a three minute   “comedic stand-up” act could take the stage. Really? I thought this was about science and medicine? The comic makes fun of Deppak Chopra, white people over-buying Buddhist statues and white people ruining what was Yoga. I don’t disagree— what was an amazing spiritual and physical practice is now a hip trend, a fashion industry.  But there’s a lot of incredible yoga teachers and studios. There’s a lot of people living up to the traditional practice. And, more importantly, it helps sick people. It helps people with pain levels, it helps with lymph drainage, it helps with stress levels, and it helps people who are rehabilitating and building their strength back.

I know people who have healed from various illnesses using solely Western medicine or solely Eastern medicine or a combo of the two. And I know people who have died. It can’t all be summed up with science OR the law of attraction.If 34 billion dollars a year are spent on supplements and vitamins and alt medicine then why in the fuck aren’t we looking at what lies beyond that number: people aren’t feeling well and doctors aren’t always helping. Bill tells us to save our money, but we are simply trying to save our lives. I think the much bigger question here, a question that deserves attention and research is:  Why are people feeling so bad and why isn’t the medical industry fixing it?

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