Calling someone a quack is something that is very popular among followers of so called conventional medicine. The term was originally designed to describe someone who basically made false claims about methods to treat disease, for instance the medicine show peddlers of bygone days. Buy a bottle and this will cure everything that ails you, and so on.
The meaning of this has changed in popular usage since then though, we can say now that it includes anyone who uses treatments of questionable value, ones that purport to help we'll say but in the end do not deliver the results that are being sought.
The way quack is used the most though is to describe anyone who uses methods that deviate from the protocols of conventional medicine, so there are two groups here, doctors which follow the standard recommendations and methods, and those who do not are called quacks.
So we now see sites like quack watch who single out any practitioner that practices any sort of alternative health care, and what's happened here is that we've forgotten what makes a quack a quack, and the soundness and effectiveness of medical treatment doesn't even matter.
So being called a quack shouldn't even be deemed an insult at all, and in fact more likely is a compliment. What we really need to do is to look at the evidence that we have for specific strategies in health care, and decide on that basis, rather than just throwing slurs at people who use methods that differ from our own.
If anyone deserves to be called quacks though it's conventional doctors. Good medicine is based upon good evidence and in particular good reasoning, and for the most part conventional medicine certainly is not. Their protocols require no real justification though, their faulty reasoning is seen as more than sufficient to support it, and even clear evidence against it tends to be completely ignored.
On the other hand, there's a movement toward a more evidence based approach, and so called alternative approaches actually require some good evidence, they can't rely on a bunch of supposition and guesses, like eating fat makes us fat, or raises our risk of heart disease through raising cholesterol, or that eating the wrong diet doesn't matter to a diabetic, and so on.
The problem here is that they really aren't looking at the evidence, and we do have lots and lots of good evidence against these ideas, and we never really had any good evidence for their support, but someone just made some bad guesses here or had some faulty ideas and it was said so it was done, and the faulty thinking upon which this is based is seen as beyond question and even beyond significant scientific evidence to the contrary.
The real problem here is that in order to solve medical problems this requires sound reasoning, and if your reasoning is faulty then this is going to throw the whole thing off. So it's not even a matter of science here as much as it is a matter of philosophy actually.
For instance they may assert that in order to treat diabetes effectively this means that you just treat a symptom of it, high blood sugar. So we can show all sorts of studies that raising insulin does reduce it in the short term for instance, that's beyond doubt, so they say that their strategy is evidence based, but the problem here is that we are looking at the wrong evidence.
When you look at the evidence we have on this long term, it paints a totally different picture, and conventional treatment of diabetes is a big failure actually. They don't care though, because that is not the time frame they use, and that would actually sell less medicine which is not the intent.
Whether a practice is quackery or not boils down to its ultimate effectiveness, and the quackery we see in conventional medical practice is not only ineffective, it is based upon various degrees of stupidity. Some of it is blatant, like thinking we can treat the disease of insulin resistance effectively by worsening insulin resistance over time, and some are more subtle but just as stupid, like thinking that sodium reduction improves cardiovascular outcomes.
They didn't think to check to find out what actually happens with a salt restricted diet, and missed the part about it raising adrenal hormomes such as aldosterone and renin, to unhealthy levels, and they also didn't bother to look to see what this does to mortality rates, and therefore missed that a low sodium diet makes it more rather than less likely to die from a heart attack.
That's actually a perfect example of their stupidity actually, lowering sodium reduces blood pressure, high blood pressure is associated with heart disease, so it makes perfect sense to restrict sodium, right? Well no, because that doesn't flow at all from this here.
What is far, far worse is the way they neglect evidence that calls their practices into question. That's really what it comes down to really. So low fat diets kill, low sodium diets kill, aggressive insulin therapy kills, all sorts of things they do kill, so what do they do? They ignore the evidence and just keep on killing people with their bad medical advice and therapies.
It's said that it takes several decades at least for the quackery of conventional medicine to finally be accepted as quackery. There is no doubt who the real quacks are, and they aren't the people who find evidence that something works better, it's not the people who have different and clearly better ideas about how to practice medicine, it's the ones who practice it in ignorance of the evidence, and who are too stubborn to accept the fact that they are wrong, when everything points to that being the case.
So when I hear a certain person being called a quack by people who follow the religion of conventional medicine, in other words their being called a heretic, a non believer, that always makes me smile a bit.