Official Review: Snake Oil is Alive and Well

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Renu G
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Official Review: Snake Oil is Alive and Well

Post by Renu G » 17 Jun 2019, 04:48

[Following is an official review of "Snake Oil is Alive and Well" by Morton E Tavel.]
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2 out of 4 stars
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When I saw Snake Oil is Alive and Well, I immediately selected it for reading because I’m aware of the pros and cons, use and abuse of similar natural remedies around the world. In this book, Dr Morton Tavel explains the mindset and problems with the thinking process that allow people to fall prey to misinformation and spurious marketing tactics in the health field. As a retired physician and cardiologist who has guided interns, he desires to conscientize the general public as well as medical personnel about this phenomenon. The author uses the term “Snake Oil” to symbolize all the attractive remedies that the sick fall prey to especially when they are desperate for a cure.

Firstly, Dr Tavel explicates the basic principles of research that include logical reasoning, the significance of numbers, interpretation of results, cause-effect relationships, etc. He then describes various misconceptions in the health field: effects of “placebo,” faith healing, alternative medicine, vitamins, nutrition, weight loss, evidence-based medicine, and more. Finally, he explains the relationship between science and religion.

In my opinion, as a researcher in the field of holistic health with decades of experience, the philosophy of science and research methodology mentioned in the first few chapters need to be updated according to the latest developments in these fields. Nevertheless, I appreciate Dr Tavel’s genuine concern for humanity and magnanimous sharing of his knowledge in the health field. He wants people to avoid spending their hard-earned money unnecessarily. It is true that people can be gullible and need to be discerning in their choice of therapy. I liked the author’s explanation of the effects of “placebo” and its reverse “nocebo.” However, I do not agree with everything that he writes. The physician seems to have worked mainly in the institutional set up in the USA.

I am annoyed with the author’s blanket judgment and unsubstantiated statements against systems of medicine such as Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Homeopathy. He is himself falling prey to an unhealthy mindset with his biases and condescending tone. There was a time when people thought the earth was the center of the universe. Dr Tavel sees conventional Western and Allopathic system of medicine as the norm for rational treatment, which is an arrogant stance and seems disrespectful of physicians in traditional Eastern systems of medicine that wouldn’t have survived over the millennia if they weren’t effective. The author’s statements about Homeopathy are also unacceptable. It was founded by Dr Hahnemann, who was an allopathic physician and researcher in the 18th century in Germany. Dr Tavel does not respect the fact that there is a lot of ongoing scientific research on these systems of medicine and surgery outside the USA. They have advanced over the years just as Allopathy has evolved from traditional Hippocratic school of medicine with its cruel and absurd practices based on myths and superstitions.

After thoughtful and critical analysis of the contents, I rate Snake Oil is Alive and Well 2 out of 4 stars. It is a disappointment for me compared to its sequel Health Tips, Myths, and Tricks that I happened to read prior to this book and which I much appreciated. Dr Tavel’s arguments don’t appeal to me, and I hope he will substantiate his statements against other systems of medicine in the next edition. I found a few grammatical errors in this 233-page manual, and it will benefit from a round of editing. This book will be understandable to individuals who are educated, especially in the field of health care. I’m not quite sure whether people without a medical background will grasp or interpret the contents correctly.

Snake Oil is Alive and Well
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Post by Nivi Gideon » 18 Jun 2019, 03:25

Thank you for the honest review! It gave me a clear idea of what to expect from the book! I often find it difficult to choose these kinds of books cause most of them aren't meant for people unfamiliar with medical terms!

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Post by Amanda Deck » 18 Jun 2019, 09:47

I agree RenuG. Allopathic medicine seems to be reasonable and obvious since it's backed by science - but science reverses its findings quite often as more information becomes available.
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Post by Prisallen » 18 Jun 2019, 12:33

I agree with you that there is a lot of alternative medicine that is very effective, and I think his assertions that they are all bad would irritate me also. Therefore, I think I will pass on reading this book. Thanks for a wonderful review!

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Post by Kyoks » 18 Jun 2019, 14:50

I totally agree with Renu G, the book is very informative and tells more about the hidden tricks about medicine use.
I definitely loved reading the book because it is very educative and creates awareness to the people.
Thank you for the incredible and wonderful review.

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Post by Stephanie Elizabeth » 18 Jun 2019, 18:46

This book immediately caught my attention because I read one of the author's other books "Health Myths Tips and Tricks" It doesn't look like this one rated as well as the other book. Thanks for the honest review, though.

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Post by Helene_2008 » 18 Jun 2019, 20:11

I agree from reading other books of the author that he can be biased and condescending. It's frustrating because I think it turns away readers who might benefit from the message. Thank you for your review.

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Post by Meg98 » 18 Jun 2019, 21:29

I have read "Health Tips, Myths, and Tricks," and found it insightful and well-written, but it seems that this book did not deliver. I was planning on reading "Snake Oil," but after your honest review, I am rethinking it. Thank you for this excellent review!
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Post by Wriley » 18 Jun 2019, 22:14

I completely agree with the review. I'm not in the health care field but I do have a degree in Biology and know from experience that doctors get things wrong. I know orthopedic doctors think chiropractors are quacks but chiropractors do actually help people. I know I've had doctors tell me things that were wrong or disagree with each other. If a holistic treatment has been around and people return then those things then it work for those people. Judgemental never resonates with an audience.
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But Imagination will get you

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Post by EvaDar » 19 Jun 2019, 01:50

Renu G wrote: ↑
17 Jun 2019, 04:48
There was a time when people thought the earth was the center of the universe. Dr Tavel sees conventional Western and Allopathic system of medicine as the norm for rational treatment, which is an arrogant stance and seems disrespectful of physicians in traditional Eastern systems of medicine that wouldn’t have survived over the millennia if they weren’t effective.
Like you, I find Dr. Tavel to be quite lacking in his education of all things non-allopathic. I was not a fan of his other book either. I found him to be a bit too attached to his agenda. He is curiously narrow-minded about all forms of holistic medicine, considering he has evidently not taken much time to research his subject matter. He is fond of making unfounded claims that no research exists to support holistic medicine. I have a dozen books on my shelves that indicate quite the contrary. Fortunately, more and more funds are being allotted to research on alternative methods. Thanks for the honest review.
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. -Scott Adams

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Post by Ekta Swarnkar » 19 Jun 2019, 02:41

I think with this book, more people will be aware of the cruel tricks of the medical field. Great and honest review!

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Post by TuyetMai » 19 Jun 2019, 06:47

I'm actually considering Chinese medicine for my higher education, so it's disappointing that the author doesn't regard Eastern medicine highly. I'm still curious about what he has to say because I have never read about the placebo effect in-depth. Thanks for sharing your thoughts of the book.

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Post by kdstrack » 19 Jun 2019, 16:18

The author's desire to warn the public about "Snake Oil" is admirable. However, with his blanket statements he turns off many potential readers. I appreciate your insights about this book's contents. Thanks!

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Post by CyndiA1 » 26 Jun 2019, 09:45

I'm glad you mentioned the author's other book. I had read that and gave a two out of four stars. I think you are correct about the biases of the author. He is definitely a big pharma guy. I will avoid this book. Thanks.

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Post by dorebri2020 » 02 Jul 2019, 14:11

It is very important for an author writing on such a touchy subject to be objective in his reporting, with some room for opinions, but if what you say is true then I believe he may have gone too far. Therefore, I will pass on this book. Thanks for the honest review!
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