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An Apple a Day

by Ryan Johnson, Jun 23 2009

When I hear of people that prescribe to the claimed powers of alternative medicines, I feel bad for them, but I usually don’t think twice about it. It’s their body, and if they want to be stupid about it, then that’s they’re own, misinformed business. If there’s a reasonable opportunity to subjectively offer some advice or point out an issue with an alternative medicine treatment, I’ll do so. It’s also important that I do not alienate my business clients, make enemies of my friends and receive tirades from complete strangers. One must pick his battles.

At what point does one need to intervene? When, in a business setting, does a persons decision to employ alternative treatments for possibly life-threatening illness become a liability for a company? What responsibility does a person have to insure that they are getting the best scientifically-based evaluations and treatment?

Apple CEO Steve Jobs at a Conference in 2008

Apple CEO Steve Jobs at a Conference in 2008

I’m an Apple junky. (yes I like the ones that you can eat, but that’s NOT the one we’re talking about here) The electronics and computer monolith Apple, that has revolutionized portable computers, music distribution and personal communications. At one time I had 8 PC computers, I now own 4 Apple computers and one PC that gets turned on maybe once a month for a few minutes to print out a label, and a litany of other amazing Apple products. In my mind the forward-thinking design, integrated with high technology, and a user experience that simply cannot be beat, is what allows me to do most all aspects of my job in the production field better, faster and cheaper. These systems substantially affect my business bottom-line and also my experience conducting that business.
When I heard the news that Apple CEO Steve Jobs was sick, I immediately felt ill myself. A knot formed in the pit of my stomach when I learned that a “Hormone Imbalance” was keeping him from his regular appearances on the Cupertino campus. Then he was absent from the Macworld show and a Worldwide Developer Conference. Of course the tech press were abuzz with discussions about his health, what it really meant and what connections did that have with his earlier bout with pancreatic cancer.

I felt reassured in my mind however, surely a man with this amount of insane wealth and means is getting the best medicine, examinations, doctors and treatment that money can by. “He’ll be OK if it’s a survivable issue,” I old myself.

Then, the horror of horrors, there it was, while reading an article describing the computer guru’s rocky road with illness, one word that changed the game: Alternative.

Now I’m not some Steve Job’s fanboy. Most of what I now know about him I learned within the last few months. Usually I don’t care who’s running the show, but as history has shown, Jobs is truly the driving force behind the technological marvels that have put Apple out in front of the pack. I’ve now learned that he’s apparently a Buddhist, a vegetarian and not a strong believer in mainstream scientific medicine. He, for some time, apparently tried to cure his pancreatic cancer with alternative treatments for some time, though ultimately he opted to have a surgery, in 2004 at Stanford. He has said himself that he is cured of the pancreatic cancer. In late 2008, we learned that his medical issues are continuing. Because of Jobs’ zealous privacy, little is know about the types of illness, the treatments and practices that he is taking. Are they alternative?mainstream? Both?

609px-Steve_Jobs_WWDC07So the big question is, at what point does one have the responsibility of discussing their personal health with their employees, stockholders and customers? Jobs’ is clearly the leader of Apple and if he was to suddenly no longer be in that position, as the past has shown, the stock price will tumble and possibly even the direction of the company and it’s new products could be greatly impacted.

My hope that within his circle of highly talented fiends and family are people with enough bravery to challenge Steve Jobs to re-examine his beliefs in alternative medicine. Hopefully they can show him that, as a person in the technology and science business he of all people should know: Garbage in=Garbage out.

I await the return of Job’s to his post at the end of the month, and hopefully we’ll see a nourished-looking and healthy Jobs, taking his tyrannical, ranting and sometimes hostile reign at the helm.

And for those of you that may quietly influence a man of such power and wealth, that science-based medicine, proven treatments and real doctors are the keys to success in health, I give you kudos and much respect.

Hopefully such a brilliant man will understand that alternative and unproven treatments, even when you have the world at your fingertips, cannot replace good, real science.

Let this be a lesson to us all, we don’t need to stand in the shadow of a person of enormous wealth and power to lend a hand and extend the gift of good information. These people are all around us, and they ALL need our help.

28 Responses to “An Apple a Day”

  1. fluffy says:

    All the grocer’s apostrophe’s in this article are killing me.

  2. torerling says:

    All the praise of the drm happy apple company that makes you pay in baby blood for design actually makes me puke a bit inside of me.

    • Kubrick66 says:

      Not a fan of DRM… An easy stance to take when you’re not the one getting your intellectual property ripped-off. And last I checked no one is forcing you to by an Apple product.

  3. m5 says:

    Good, completely relevant point, Torerling.

  4. m5 says:

    Back to the issue at hand, it’s a tough question. Should major CEOs be allowed to do ANYTHING stupidly risky? Like skydiving? The president of the states is going to be allowed by his handlers to climb Everest, and people in charge of multinational corporations have power comparable to the leaders of nations… it’s probably time to hold them to similar standards.

  5. Tik says:

    It would seem that his experience with pancreatic cancer has opened some new in-roads. Jobs is recovering from a liver transplant as reported in the Wall Street Journal The relation between pancreatic cancer and liver cancer is summed up nicely in the quoted portion of this article in on Gizmodo

  6. nullability says:

    For some reason, I find it hard to sympathize with a billionaire who names operating systems after cats.

    But more on-topic, I think that privacy rights are privacy rights, and if he wants to kill himself with bullshit then that really is his business regardless of the opinions of his shareholders or customers. If you want to try to convince him otherwise, go ahead, but there’s no way to force him to embrace reality, nor should there be.

  7. Scott Hamilton says:

    Where did this idea that Steve Jobs has been relying on alternative medicine come from? As skeptics, shouldn’t we go by the evidence? Here’s the evidence we have so far:

    1) Jobs’ pancreatic cancer was discovered and treated with conventional medicine at an early stage. (

    2) He was okay for about three years. Then he started looking gaunt. We now know that this was probably a combination of complications fromt he original operation followed by the cancer reappearing in his liver, which is not uncommon. (

    3) In January of this year he moved to an area near Memphis, to be near a hospital that specializes in endocrinology. (I have no direct reference, but it was widely rumored [and disregarded] at the time.)

    4) In March he had a liver transplant. (

    So where is the alternative medicine in all this? I’m not sure. Even if Jobs is using alternative medicine he certainly isn’t doing so at the expense of conventional medicine, nor is he using conventional medicine as a last resort. The Huffington Post called the liver transplant more than 6 months ago, so this has been in the works for a long time. (

    Now if you wanted to write something really useful on this subject (and little less out of date, seeing as how Steve Jobs returned to work yesterday []), there is some vigorous debate on whether or not a liver transplant is a particularly useful treatment for the kind of cancer Jobs has. At best, it’s an unproven treatment, though there is apparently a preliminary study that shows promise. Of course the flip side is that there isn’t any other treatment that’s known to be any better, so it’s understandable that someone with the means would want to try the transplant.

  8. Anonymous Coward says:

    Actually, if Apple were to go, I think it wouldn’t be missed a lot. The usability of what’s there is very good, but I’ve found that its products are inadequate for daily use, since it didn’t come with all those little tools that really make a difference in my day-to-day life, and often there are weird artificial limits on how you can use the product. Even GNU/Linux doesn’t have that problem. And where Apple excels, it usually excels by copying some pre-existent technology. Doing it well, I admit, but still some other people can do that to, and if Apple goes, its niche won’t be empty for long.
    In short, when I used Apple I felt like I was having dinner in the most futuristic kitchen imaginable, but there were no knives in the drawer so I had to spent an hour cutting my meat with a spoon, and when I wanted dessert I discovered that there was no vanillevla in the fridge. Apple is like the Aldi of computing, except more expensive.
    Oh, and you’ve got a double ‘for some time’ in there. Proofreading, people.

  9. Mike says:

    Hm,so Ryan Johnson IS religious after all.Apparently he’s a dedicated member of the “Evangelical Order of the Novus Malus”.Tee hee hee…

  10. Old Ben Kenobi says:

    Re: Reply #7 from Anonymous Coward.
    This is off topic but it must be mentioned. Mr anonymous coward you ended your reply with, “Proofreading people” to publicly point out someone elses mistakes. Try reading your reply again and you’ll see your obvious errors as they are far worse the ones you arrogantly pointed out.

  11. MadScientist says:

    I just hope Jobs will tell the world something like “the so-called alternative medicine may give you a short-term ego boost, but if you want something that works go see a real doctor.” He musn’t have had that much faith in alternatives because pancreatic cancer tends to kill fairly quickly yet it is apparent that he had been treated early enough to save him.

  12. mtb says:

    I guess Steve Jobs should get the car he dives cleared with the board to make sure it’s crash test ratings are appropriate. Maybe he should drive a tank and live in a bubble. Get real, a person’s health is their own business, yes even Jobs’. If he dies and Apple’s stock tanks who cares. Does that really matter…really? For the record I am no Apple fanboy and actually hate the fanatical following they have.

  13. gwen says:

    You guys are missing the whole point of the article. One would think that Jobs would have access to the best, most efficacious treatments money could buy. Treatments that I (with my limited insurance policy)could only dream about, and it would not even cause a dent in his financial standing. Instead he has availed himself of sCAM treatments. He is not a stupid person, so the question is WHY?? Much the way Oprah who also has the best experts in anything at her fingertips almost always goes for the woo. Why is it that people like these, who have the unlimited resources, fail to use them? That is what confounds me and (it appears) Ryan Johnson as well.

  14. Ranson says:


    If I recall correctly, Jobs’s pancreatic cancer was a rare type that tends toward less malignancy and impacts the patient much more slowly than the more common forms. Basically, he got lucky, because with most pancreatic cancers, by the time you know about it, you’re screwed. Wasting time with sCAM treatments would likely have been fatal in the case of a more common variety of pancreatic cancer.

  15. alec says:

    Fluffy’s right. Figuring out apostrophes is pretty simple. If there’s only one it’s pointless and maybe rude to mention it, because it’s likely a mistake, but if there are a few it’s time to take ten minutes to learn how to use them.

  16. Rogue Medic says:

    Instead he has availed himself of sCAM treatments. He is not a stupid person, so the question is WHY??

    Some successful people tend to assume that their force of will has been behind everything. They will fall for a scam that encourages narcissism.

    Use the power of You!

    They do not recognize that, once out of their area of expertise, they know very little. Alternative medicine tells them that is OK. You don’t have to know anything. You just have to believe. A powerful person, like yourself must have a very strong chi/karma/mojo/whatever. You are better than everyone else.

    Conversely, conventional medicine is an exercise in humility. Who is going to lie to the patient and tell them that, Heads of industry do not die of cancer, the same as everyone else. They just die with more staff taking care of them in better facilities.

    VIP medicine has frequently worked against the VIPs. When routine tests are skipped, because you do not want to inconvenience the VIP, people sometimes have diseases progress beyond what can be cured, by the time it is recognized by other means. VIPs like Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley may have had their deaths caused by their doctors. Not because medicine was not sufficiently advanced to treat them, but because they were treated by the most prestigious doctors. Doctors who were no longer treating patients. Doctors who were not familiar with improvements in treatments. VIP medicine is generally something that is as feel good as alternative medicine. Some, such as the military, are changing this.

  17. LovleAnjel says:

    The case of Jobs just goes to show, it doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, how much money you have or how smart or educated you are, we all have innate faulty reasoning due to our early evolution. This is not a problem of being stupid or naive, it’s a problem with being human.

  18. To hell with the apostrophes, I’m still pondering “My hope that within his circle of highly talented fiends and family…”

    lol, j/k

    RE: If a corporation wants some assurances concerning risk-taking by valued employees, they can codeify them in an employment contract, and the employee, even a CEO, can accept or reject it. This is common in professional sports. I don’t know, but I’m guessing LeBron James isn’t supposed to do a lot of bungy jumping, shark wrassling, and isn’t allowed to play army with real weapons. I’m also guessing contracts could have generic clauses that may cover the risk of poor medical care. And don’t a lot of Hollywood types get the Lloyd’s of London insurance on some or all of their, um, attributes? Where Dolly Parton might insure her boobs, or a famous dancer her legs, or a Brad Pitt or Phil Plait type might insure their face?

  19. Boredagain says:

    Sorry, I’m just wondering if I should be offended that vegetarianism was thrown in there with the other woo like Buddhism and alternative medicine. I get the feeling that a lot of skeptics see vegetarians and vegans as pretty gullible and woo oriented. I have to say there is some truth to it, but it is a broad brush to paint people with. I’ve run into a lot of crazy vegetarians/vegans that were into energy, crystals, and homeopathy, but just as many of my veg friends are atheists, skeptics, and spaghetti monster worshipers. Just thought I’d drop that bit of “consciousness raising” on you while I was thinking about it. I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way… I mean, I don’t think that consideration for the suffering of other sentient, evolved creatures can be considered woo, can it? I’d like to hear the thoughts and maybe some shout outs from other veg people who read this site :)

    • LovleAnjel says:

      I’m not veg myself (can’t give up tasty meat), around 90% of the veggies I know are not whackaloons. The main reason tends to be that they do not like the flavor or texture of muscle, #2 is concern about shared resources. I have known only two people who didn’t eat honey because it meant humans enslaved bees.

      • Boredagain says:

        I Appreciate the response. If anyone is curious about understanding why people go vegetarian, outside of woo reasons; check out this interview between Richard Dawkins and Peter Singer Professor of Bioethics at the University Center for Human Values. Peter Singer is the arguably the founder of the modern animal rights movement.

        Although hi book, Animal Liberation, would give you a fuller understanding. This interview is a nice sound bite version of the ideas behind the animal rights movement and why some would prefer not to add to unspeakable horrors of animal farming

  20. Phil Oliver says:

    Prescribe? ["When I hear of people that prescribe..."]

    You lost me right there, Ryan.

  21. Phil Oliver says:

    Prescribe? [When I hear of people that prescribe..."]

    I was inclined to be sympathetic to your point of view, but you lost me with the first sloppy line.

  22. Huh? A blogger uses ‘prescribe’ instead of ‘subscribe’ and you toss the whole thing out? Wow, tough crowd. Let me guess – you go through your wallet and toss out the wrinkled twenties too?

  23. perplexed says:

    Man, between shermer’s liberatarian rants, and now this huge ad for apple, its getting pretty dificult to consider this a skeptical blog.

  24. Amy says:

    Alternative medicine: don’t knock it until you try it. I’ve had success with acupuncture twice in my life. Was it a crazy coincidence that my issues resolved after a few treatments? Maybe, but I’ll never know. I can only believe that it helped me. At the very least, alternative healers take a lot more time to listen to their patients and evaluate them as a whole, as opposed to conventional doctors who more often than not grasp onto one symptom, make a hasty diagnosis, and prescribe a drug. In any case, I wish Jobs well. He’s obviously a smart guy who’s exploring all of his medical options…which is his personal business, not his company’s.

  25. You hit the nail on the head Amy. One reason why acupuncture appears to work is that people usually do get more face time with someone who will listen to their pain and problems. This Slate article contains a study concerning that:

    Regarding Jobs, he is free and clear to take whatever kind of treatments he wants. I do think that if he promotes his alternative medicine ideology or subjects his children to such “solutions” it is a danger and wrong. No different than Christian Scientists promoting their own medical hogwash.