There has been an interchange among several people about the persistence of WBAI in promoting the DNA-Water premium. For example, Larry Romsted -- a scientist whose research involves examining water molecules -- writes:
I was driving to my office and turned on WBAI and there was Tony Bates pushing double helix water, cream and book along with Hufnagel touting a "discovery" called double helix water of questionable scientific support and medical validity.
Should not be happening. Why is it happening? Bad science should not provide the justification for premiums of little value (and large cost) to listener/members.
Why do Tony and Berthold persist? I think the LSB has lodged a formal complaint, right?
Again, I am offering to help.
What is to be done?
What is to be done, in my view, is for the LSB to censure the iPD, the GM, and anyone else calling the shots on this premium, for ignoring the LSB's criticism and recommendation on this matter.
This is (thankfully) not a factional issue, it's a disgraceful lying-to-listeners management issue.
Ignoring the recommendation of the LSB and bulling ahead full-steam is the kind of arrogance and mismanagement that we'd hoped to have done away with, but I see we have failed to have done so.
I will make a motion to censure at the next LSB meeting. I'm sick of the utter lack of judgment on the part of WBAI's management here.
Here's also an exchange printed here on April 5, 2012, that I'm reposting about this issue:
Here's an exchange of letters with former member of the CAB, Nora Freeman.
3/19/2012, Nora Freeman wrote:
Hello Mitchel. I'm writing about the so-called "Double Helix" water premium that was offered during the last drive. Rather than go into all the details here, I'll send you a copy of the letter I sent about it to Berthold and Tony about 3 weeks ago. I never heard back from either one so I wrote to Arlene Engelhardt about 10 days ago. Haven't heard from her either. The letter's below.
120 Wall St.
New York, NY 10005
Dear Berthold and Tony,
I was at the station today and spoke to both of you about the "double helix water" premium we were offering, and the caller who pledged for it, hoping that it will help his autistic son. I let you both know how disturbing this was especially in view of the fact that I know where this man lives since I grew up just a couple of blocks away. I am familiar with his neighborhood and it is not a very good one. It's hard to believe he would have asked about this if they had not said it on the air. Tony, you told me that he's an adult and no one forced him to do this, but my position is that by offering such questionable premiums we are taking advantage of desperate people, and it's wrong. WBAI should support maintaining scientific integrity in all areas, not only with regard to the environment. So Berthold, I'm glad you are going to let him have it at cost; that way WBAI is not making any money off of him, even though we are still enabling those who are selling it to do so, and that is still not a good thing.
Speaking of those who are selling it, I also learned a bit about them. Dr. Lo and Mr. Gann were previously associated with a company called American Technologies Group [ATG] which sold another form of "structured water" which was said to have something called "IE crystals" in it. ATG was investigated for fraud by the Oregon Department of Justice. It paid a fine and was shut down. The Oregon DOJ relied on affidavits from an independent analytical lab specializing in the application of electron microscopy to problem solving for industry, government, academia, and the law, which found the "IE water" indistinguishable from tap water; and a chemistry professor at the University of Oregon, who stated that one of Dr. Lo's calculations violates both a fundamental law of thermodynamics and a fundamental equation of electromagnetic theory. He also said that Dr. Lo's experiments lacked appropriate controls, and that ATG's board of directors did not include anyone who worked in the relevant field, which was physical chemistry. So these two already have a history of making fraudulent health claims about tap water.
Tony, you suggested that I look up "double helix water" to learn more about it. That's fair, and I did. What I found was lots of testimonials; interviews with Dr. Lo and Mr. Gann; a link to a page that almost crashed my computer; a video that purportedly showed "temperature changes" in the brains of autistic children after drinking this water, but no explanation of how this might affect the subjects' development or behavior, and no comparison to how their brains looked after drinking non-"double helix water"; and an article in a journal that does not require researchers to explain their methodologies and is minimally peer-reviewed. The interviews were a sales opportunity for Dr. Lo and Mr. Gann. Testimonials are basically just feel-good reading. The people who provide them are desperately hoping against hope to see some, any, improvement in their kids. They have made the investment of time, money, and trust, probably not for the first time. The incentives are high for them to see improvement whether or not it is there. If it is there it is as likely as not caused by the placebo effect, which is temporary. These testimonials are strictly anecdotal evidence, which proves exactly nothing. I certainly didn't see anything about randomized clinical trials, which could have proved a lot.
Berthold, you asked me what I think causes autism. I don't know, which is not surprising because even the most prominent researchers in the field are in disagreement about it. But my understanding of what seems to be the best research is that it is a complex interplay of genetic disposition arising from multiple genes with the environment, which could also include the pre-natal environment. So, like most vexing problems, it is not simple, and probably not amenable to being "cured" by drinking water. As someone who has worked with autistic children and others who present with highly challenging behaviors, I can say that there are effective interventions, which usually target communication and sensory issues. Again, anyone who is hoping for a "cure" resulting from these interventions is almost certainly going to be disappointed, but their proponents do not make such a claim, and they can lead to significant improvements in the children's ability to learn, to self-regulate, and to communicate with others.
Finally, I would just say that even the name Doube Helix Water sounds to me like a hint that something is not quite right. "Double helix" is a phrase commonly used throughout the mass media to refer to DNA, a high-tech sciency concept that is poorly understood by lots of laypeople, including probably myself and maybe both of you. But I understand enough about it to realize that it is a biological phenomenon, whereas the claims for this water are that it contains charged particles which supposedly cause it to have a phase that no one has ever before observed So there is nothing biological in their claims. Why then invoke DNA, if not to impress desperate people who may have a limited understanding of science but know that DNA has been a major scientific advance? The whole thing just smells bad to me, and it's reminiscent of the Kevin Trudeau fiasco a couple of years ago. Can't somebody look into these things before we offer them? Just my humble opinion.
Mon, Mar 19, 2012
Mitchel Cohen < firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Thank you, Nora.
The double helix water is total bullshit, and the entire Board raised this issue with management. We will continue to do so at the March 29th LSB meeting.
How to address this and similar problems systemically, and not just when each comes up? That's the problem.
I'll forward your letter again to management and elsewhere and ask why they didn't get back to you. Can I also forward it to the LSB?
By the way, I disagree with you that anecdotal testimonies are meaningless. They are very important. They describe an effect or a confluence that something is having, but they do not explain the reasons why that effect is taking place. Let's not fall for reductionist pseudo-science as the solution when countering other forms of bullshit.
That said, my own speculation -- and it is only that -- is that there's a relationship in the spiking of autism with infant vaccinations. Beyond that, I don't know.
Your letter is great, even though I disagree with small parts of it.
From: Nora Freeman <email@example.com>
Hey Mitchel. Thank you so much. Unlike so many others at WBAI you at least appear to have the ability to reply to a communication from a listener! Wow. Yes, please forward it to the LSB and anyone else that you think should get it.
You're right that we need to find a way to systemically address the larger problem of which this is only a symptom. And I have to say that I'm not proud of the fact that it took me taking that phone call, from that man who happened to live in my old neighborhood so I felt a kind of connection to him, before I did anything about this. Oh well, we are but poor vessels etc.
I take your point about anecdotes, and agree that the proposed vaccine-autism connection is probably better left for another time.