Friday, July 1, 2011

Article rejected when Transcendental Meditation researchers caught data "massaging"

Transcendental Meditation researchers have a long history of deceptive "research" practices spanning decades. Transcendental Meditation research has often been performed and promoted by longtime Transcendental Meditation associates, initiators and zealots, rather than by sincere, independent scientists.

If recent behaviour is any indication, rather than improving their research over the decades, Transcendental Meditation researchers have simply become better liars. Rather then promoting the discovery of truth, they've instead become an outlet for exaggeration and under-handed misrepresentation of findings, in the name of promoting and selling an overpriced meditation technique.

Enter a recent study the Archives of Internal Medicine and a gullible reporter at the Telegraph.
The Telegraph beamed rumours of a 50% reduction in heart attacks and strokes on their website, but mere minutes before publication the Archives of Internal Medicine pulled the paper. As it turns out, there was "additional data" that was still being submitted by the researchers at the very last minute.

On closer examination, the research looks highly suspect and very likely the result of "data massaging", the unscientific manipulation of data to assure a certain end. In this case there seems to be a great desire by the Transcendental Meditation Org researchers to have their brand of meditation look good to sell more of their product, the TM pagan-goddess mantras.

According the blog of Larry Husten, Ph.D., a veteran reviewer of cardiology studies, the study seems at best represent "hypothesis generating", that is, it does not represent final conclusions but merely preliminary gropings for answers. "They tell us absolutely nothing about the actual value of TM" Husten points out.

Here a few "items of concern" listed in the Forbes entry:

  • Although 201 patients are reported in the analysis, the study assessed 451 patients for eligibility and randomized 213 patients.
  • Of the 105 patients randomized to TM, 19 didn’t even receive TM.
  • 12 patients– 6 in each arm– were randomized but then excluded because they did not meet the trial’s inclusion criteria.
  • 41 patients– 20 in the TM arm, 21 in the control arm– were lost to followup.

Dr. Husten goes on to point out the more ominous problems with the study:

But my biggest concern is with the analysis of the primary endpoint, which was the composite of all-cause mortality, MI, or stroke. This occurred in 17 patients in the TM group compared with 23 patients in the control group, a difference that the authors claim achieved significance (p=0.03) after adjusting for differences in the age, sex, and use of lipid-lowering drugs between the groups. However, there was no significant difference between the groups in any of these factors. Even worse, there were very significant differences in the amount of education (11.3 years in the TM group versus 9.9 years in the control group, p=0.003) and the CES-D clinical depression scale (13.8 versus 17.7) for which the authors did notmake an adjustment, although in both cases the imbalance would appear to favor the TM group. In other words, to use the old cliché, they tortured the data until they made it talk. Strange behavior, perhaps, for supposedly laid back TM types, no?

Looks like TM researchers have been caught once again at what they do best: dishonesty, advertising their product(s) and trying to pose it as real science.