Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

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Darkly
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Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Darkly » Mon Aug 11, 2008 4:43 am UTC

Firstly, if this belongs in an already existing topic I apologize. I found no good place for it.

Secondly... I met a new coworker today. An older woman, probably in her late 50's.

It started when she asked if I was in school, and I told her that I was in college for physics and electrical engineering. She seemed impressed by that and told me that one of her family members was an astrophysicist. So in the spirit of conversation, I asked her what it is she did with her life, assuming that there was more to her than a corporate retail slave. Turns out she has a masters degree in comparative literature, and spent the better part of her life in academia.

But the way she makes most of her money now is as an intuitive healer.

She spent about an hour explaining this to me. But essentially, she believes that when she was in the hospital following an accident, she died briefly (flatlined, massive organ failure and whatnot) and then came back to life. Upon coming back to life she developed (or was bestowed with) the means to communicate with extradimensional entities who give her the ability to teach people how to heal themselves psychically. She says she wrote a book about it, but hasn't published it yet.

She is also a proponent of homeopathic drugs, and almost killed herself by way of phosphate poisoning through the misuse of them.

I am still dumbfounded by the entire conversation. Does anyone else know someone who follows similar practices? It is entirely mind-boggling to me that intelligent people submit themselves to these pseudosciences so completely and so sincerely.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Exotria » Mon Aug 11, 2008 5:08 am UTC

If she's making a good amount of money from it, her belief in it is good for her. If her patients believe it works and so get the benefits of the placebo effect, then it's good for them. Everyone in that situation wins. Christianity isn't technically scientific, but it brings about many good things and a lot of happiness despite that(I understand some atheists would disagree with me there, of course). If someone else believes in something and it doesn't bring harm to anyone, then I'd say live and let live. Hell, if we understood everything and had no misconceptions, the universe would be dazzling for some, but awful for others. It's those others that your coworker peddles to.

Of course, with something like this it CAN bring harm to people who skip out on treatment that's proven to be beneficial in favor of snake oil. I believe on Oprah someone sent in a letter that said they had just read The Secret and were going to stop cancer treatments because they believed they'd get better just by using the secret and its positive thinking...? Naturally, in such cases the self-trickery does more harm than good and it's in her best interest to snap out of it. Who's going to arbitrate when to snap people out of it, I don't know. But that's really quite difficult in cases of people who strongly believe these things and so it's best to just make sure children don't make those misconceptions in the first place.

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niolosoiale wrote:So which side of the fence would you say I'm on? Why?

The confusing one. I think you should pick a different fence.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby The Great Hippo » Mon Aug 11, 2008 5:22 am UTC

Something I've always been curious about concerning homeopathic drugs--why aren't there warning labels on them? I see government mandated warnings insisting that various vitamin supplements have not been reviewed by the FDA and are not intended to treat or diagnose any disease; however, I never see such warnings on homeopathic drugs (just a label that says 'homeopathic'). Is it because the homeopathic label is considered to be the equivalent of the FDA warning? Aka, "This contains mostly water, watch out!"?

Aside from that, I mostly agree with the person above me; fake remedies are only useful in so much that they provide an alternative to invasive medication via the placebo effect. I've heard of doctors proscribing homeopathic drugs and other placebos for minor troubles to try and avoid the use of expensive and sometimes dangerous drugs; I don't know how much I approve of it morally, but if it works, it works.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby michaelandjimi » Mon Aug 11, 2008 5:32 am UTC

I am totally against the title of 'Alternative Medicine'.

It either is medicine or it isn't. If it is untested, it should be tested, in case there are unforeseen adverse effects. If there are adverse or no effects, it shouldn't be used as an alternative or at all. If it works, then it is actually medicine.

I remember watching a Richard Dawkins thing on the topic. Does anyone remember what it was about?

Aside from that, what The Great Hippo said.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Varsil » Mon Aug 11, 2008 6:30 am UTC

I support the sale of homeopathic remedies to about the same degree as I support people selling false fire insurance. Sure, it may not be harmful, and it might be a comfortable lie they're selling, but they're still con artists.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby TheStranger » Mon Aug 11, 2008 10:44 am UTC

Sounds like a job for the amazing Randi.

These thing are all fun and games until someone abandons an actual, tested, treatment.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby seladore » Mon Aug 11, 2008 10:55 am UTC

Having had a long (and frustrating) conversation with someone about this, I think I have an idea why people want to believe in these things.

This person is a school dropout, but is reasonably intelligent in an autodidactic popular-science-and-philosophy sort of way. He said that at 18, his world view was purely scientific, which depressed him very much due to the lack of meaning. After reading many new age type books, they now believe almost anything to be true (crystal healing, UFOs, homeopathy, psychic phenomena etc. etc.).
One thing that he particularly espouses is the 'My Big TOE' guy (see http://www.my-big-toe.com/), who claims to be a scientist that has unified quantum theory and GR (and of course explains and verifies all kinds of new age stuff in the process. You know. 'Psychics work by utilising superstrings via dark energy' type of thing).

I really think that belief in these type of things is caused by a yearning for meaning. When you have scientists saying 'We don't know, but we are trying to ask the right questions', verses quacks saying 'We have the answers! Scientists are too closed-minded to accept them!', it is attractive to believe the quacks. Because they have the answers. People crave certainty. Add to this a large dose of anti-intellectualism that is rampant among certain sections of the population, and you have someone who happily believes that aliens founded Atlantis, and that they can communicate with other universes.

A lack of scientific training also stands in the way. I mean, most high level science is pretty oblique to most people. It's hard to differentiate something like this:

A scientist wrote:Many cell signals are carried by molecules that are released by one cell and move to make contact with another cell. Endocrine signals are called hormones. Hormones are produced by endocrine cells and they travel through the blood to reach all parts of the body. Specificity of signaling can be controlled if only some cells can respond to a particular hormone. Paracrine signals target only cells in the vicinity of the emitting cell. Neurotransmitters represent an example. Some signaling molecules can function as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter. For example, epinephrine and norepinephrine can function as hormones when released from the adrenal gland and are transported to the heart by way of the blood stream.


And this:

A quack wrote:All living cells, composed of between 70 and 90% water, emit biophotons which cannot be seen by the naked eye but can be measured by special equipment. Cells communicate via bursts of energy in the ultraviolet electromagnetic bands above the visible light spectrum, thus obscuring them from our vision. These energy emissions control vital bodily processes. Healthy and cancerous cells emit quite different photons of energy.


Without knowing about Biology, or science in general. If you don't, then all you have is two seeming experts with differing opinions. Except one is certain, and the other is not.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby westcydr » Mon Aug 11, 2008 5:26 pm UTC

People believe what they want to believe. I mean, they still ask on some forms for a person to identify their "race", when the "science' that divided people into races has been long since debunked.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby wirehead » Mon Aug 11, 2008 6:40 pm UTC

I kinda tend to think that homeopathic and many herbal products have the benefit of grandfathering. Mostly that it's fairly hard to actually actively kill yourself with a lot of them. Most of the time, the homeopathic stuff is just sugar. Most of the time the herbal and vitamin products just give you expensive piss.

I mean, the government generally doesn't regulate tobacco very well either and that's got tons of evidence that all it really does is rot your lungs.

I have a hard time sometimes with people who believe this. The problem is, fairly smart people tend to get seduced by this. I mean, the whole idea of making colloidal silver at home sounds very fun and geeky... :D

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Mon Aug 11, 2008 6:48 pm UTC

Pasted from a previous post, and spoiler'd for people who don't want to see "alternative medicine" working.

Spoiler:
Ok, so my chiropractor when I was a kid told my dad that he could help me with my allergies. Since I was allergic to almost everything, this was a good thing to my dad, who had tried almost every drug available on me. EXAMPLE: Our neighbors mowed their lawn? I was not allowed outside (and I'd still have breathing troubles inside). It was a high-pollen day? I would need bedrest after that. I had peanut butter at school? Hello, emphysema (sounded like). Those sorts of allergies. I had a hot/cold humidifier in my room that cost a huge amount of money, because I needed it to keep my lungs from getting inflamed just in the course of breathing dust during the day. I had a wide variety of creams and lotions for my skin, since I also had eczema and almost anything outside caused me to bleed through my skin.

Anyways, my chiro sat me down on the big chiro-bed-thing. He had dozens of ampules, each less than 1 mL, which he placed into my dad's right fist, and then placed said fist on my chest. Each ampule contained a tiny amount of whatever I was allergic to. My dad would then hold out his left arm. My dad: 6'4" (same as me) 250lb-ish ex-police officer and RCMP officer. See: stopping barfight by entering the bar and standing there story (link not found). Big guy. Chiropractor? Not big. Chiropractor would place two fingers on my dad's outstretched arm, and push down, asking my dad to resist as well as he could. Almost invariably, said arm would go down, to my dad's surprise. Chiro would then make some adjustments to my back, posture, 'energy', what have you, and he would go back and try again, and this time my dad's arm would move down less, or sometimes not at all (even when the chiro changed to using his entire hand). Each session, we'd go through four or five ampules that way.

The changes were not immediate (I saw this guy every Wednesday) but in the space of one summer, almost all of my allergies were removed (except hay and pollen, which I still have, but to much lesser degrees). I could have peanuts, eggs, orange juice, walk on grass in bare feet, climb trees again, etc... everything normal kids did. My dad couldn't believe it worked, and I couldn't believe it worked, but it did. My dad, also in one summer, went from thinking this was a loony back-cracker to a medical marvel, and he is now a big promoter of chiropractors. I'm not entirely sure how it worked, but it did.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby BlackSails » Mon Aug 11, 2008 7:24 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:Something I've always been curious about concerning homeopathic drugs--why aren't there warning labels on them?


Because homeopathic solutions are just pure water.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby superglucose » Mon Aug 11, 2008 7:41 pm UTC

It bothers me when people use Pseudoscience to lead other people astray. Point: there are people who refuse true medical treatment for easily curable diseases because their 'homeopathic healer' (read: fraud) 'advised' them 'not to' (read: give the money to the fraud rather than the doctor).

I mean, if someone has back pain and they try homeopathic medicine, awesome! Modern science is stumped when it comes to pain. Can't measure it, can't solve the problem (though you can mask the symptom), so what the hell can medicine do? Might as well try acupuncture or whatever else is out there (placebo acupuncture FTW!)

But when it comes to Cancer, HIV, TB, and generally speaking those dangerous, deadly diseases I don't want someone saying, "Hey, you can cure your HIV by unprotected sex with minors!" There's a fine line between stupidity and dangerous stupidity. When homeopathic medicine and pseudoscience cross that line is when it needs to be shut down, not before.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Varsil » Mon Aug 11, 2008 7:48 pm UTC

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:Big guy. Chiropractor? Not big. Chiropractor would place two fingers on my dad's outstretched arm, and push down, asking my dad to resist as well as he could. Almost invariably, said arm would go down, to my dad's surprise. Chiro would then make some adjustments to my back, posture, 'energy', what have you, and he would go back and try again, and this time my dad's arm would move down less, or sometimes not at all (even when the chiro changed to using his entire hand). Each session, we'd go through four or five ampules that way.


This is charlatanism. You can push anyone's arm down this way--an outstretched arm is a lever, and makes it really easy to push down. Why did it go down less on the second try? Easy. Less force was applied. See http://skepdic.com/akinesiology.html, particularly the quoted bit of the Ray Hyman 1999 study on the subject.

The changes were not immediate (I saw this guy every Wednesday) but in the space of one summer, almost all of my allergies were removed (except hay and pollen, which I still have, but to much lesser degrees). I could have peanuts, eggs, orange juice, walk on grass in bare feet, climb trees again, etc... everything normal kids did. My dad couldn't believe it worked, and I couldn't believe it worked, but it did. My dad, also in one summer, went from thinking this was a loony back-cracker to a medical marvel, and he is now a big promoter of chiropractors. I'm not entirely sure how it worked, but it did.


Curiously, in about the space of a summer, allergies I used to have that could send me to the hospital (to cats, dogs, shellfish, red dye, chocolate, and umpteen other things) went down so much as to be either gone or trivial. I had no pseudoscientific treatment, nor was I receiving medical treatment at the time (I had previously received medical treatment, which had helped, but was not at the time and hadn't been for at least a year).

Why? Allergies sometimes go away. Now, this is the thing about quackery--if your allergies had not gotten better, you'd have gone away mildly frustrated, and thinking that guy was a quack. But if they do get better, even though no causal link has been conclusively established, they've created a die-hard follower. This works even better if you're offering cancer cures--the only people around to say anything about your treatment are the ones who are going to sing your praises.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Mon Aug 11, 2008 7:56 pm UTC

That might indeed be charlatanism, but you don't particularly know my family very well, and if anyone tried that stuff on my father, they would find themselves in quite a bit of trouble, especially where his kids were involved. But perhaps lifelong police officers are fooled by small chiropractors all the time... I don't know all of them.

As for the allergies going away, yes, the chance exists that it was coincidental timing. There's no particular scientific reason for allergies to suddenly leave a 5 year old's body over the space of two months, though, so my point still stands.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby BlackSails » Mon Aug 11, 2008 8:00 pm UTC

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:As for the allergies going away, yes, the chance exists that it was coincidental timing. There's no particular scientific reason for allergies to suddenly leave a 5 year old's body over the space of two months, though, so my point still stands.


Kids are rapidly developing at that age, and many things are constantly changing.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Varsil » Mon Aug 11, 2008 8:51 pm UTC

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:That might indeed be charlatanism, but you don't particularly know my family very well, and if anyone tried that stuff on my father, they would find themselves in quite a bit of trouble, especially where his kids were involved. But perhaps lifelong police officers are fooled by small chiropractors all the time... I don't know all of them.


This fools all sorts of people. The well-known scams are easier to spot if you have some knowledge of them (like this one), but to investigate various pseudoscientific claims they often need teams made up of specially-trained scientists and magicians (why magicians? They're experts in sleight of hand).

So yes, I have no doubt in the ability of lifelong police officers to get tricked by this one. These aren't things that only work on fools, or else they'd be far less common, and far less dangerous. Read this article for more (it's the Hyman article linked to from the last URL I gave, but it's worthwhile reading and covers everything from your chiropractors treatments to dowsing): http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/ideomotor.html

As for the allergies going away, yes, the chance exists that it was coincidental timing. There's no particular scientific reason for allergies to suddenly leave a 5 year old's body over the space of two months, though, so my point still stands.


Other than the fact that this is a well-known phenomenon--enough so that my allergist kept saying it was likely throughout my childhood.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Mon Aug 11, 2008 10:47 pm UTC

Varsil wrote:Other than the fact that this is a well-known phenomenon--enough so that my allergist kept saying it was likely throughout my childhood.


Now, this is the thing about quackery--if your allergies had not gotten better, you'd have gone away mildly frustrated, and thinking that guy was a quack. But if they do get better, even though no causal link has been conclusively established, they've created a die-hard follower.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby TheAmazingRando » Tue Aug 12, 2008 12:09 am UTC

I went to middle school with a girl whose mother was diagnosed with brain cancer at a stage where it was very likely that it could have been treated. She refused all recommended treatment and, instead, decided she wanted to cure it through herbal remedies and nutritional changes. They did nothing, and the cancer killed her.

This is an extreme example. For smaller things, the suggestive properties of the mind are incredible, and the placebo effect may not cure cancer but as long as it stops symptoms of colds and headaches and what have you, it's still a legitimate effect. If it makes the pain go away, and it isn't masking the signs of some serious illness, does it matter if it was a physical or mental change? Most of the time, there are no negative results from homeopathic remedies, other than the bore of sitting through hours of another person talking about how doctors don't know shit and how all you really need is colloidal silver to make every ailment known to man go away, and the medical industry knows all this but they're suppressing it because they're evil, greedy bastards who want your money.

I've heard people use the most ridiculous information to "prove" their method. This particular woman I'm alluding to told a story of how her daughter had a terrible ear infection, and she went to the doctor and got antibiotics. Her daughter took them that night, and a few hours later her ear was still hurting terrible, so she poured in some colloidal silver and held it in for a while. In the morning, her ear was much better, but of course it must have been the silver, not the antibiotics, because they didn't instantly fix it.

Ultimately, it takes a pretty strong level of arrogance to wholly buy into homeopathy, because it means that you, as an untrained layman, know more than people who have devoted their lives to studying medicine. It's easy to call their work bullshit when you have a captive audience that's too polite to call you out on it, and who doesn't actually know the science that refutes your claims.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby HadouKen24 » Tue Aug 12, 2008 2:26 am UTC

I find this topic somewhat frustrating.

Quite honestly, the derogatory attitude toward alternative therapies that is so common in the scientific community--and can be seen here in this thread--is wrong-headed and unscientific. There simply isn't enough evidence for most of these therapies to make any kind of scientific judgment. The absolute most one can say is that there is no known mechanism by which these effects might be caused. Unfortunately, the attitude that alternative therapies are absolutely unscientific is self-perpetuating.

There is not enough evidence to make this kind of judgment. Even a subject as well-studied as homeopathy is so rife with poorly funded and poorly administered studies that anything close to a definitive scientific judgment of its efficacy is simply impossible. This is both because of and a cause of alternative therapies being relegated to a scientific ghetto. The attitude that it is unscientific even to study these things--an attitude that lies latent in the scientific community but is rarely publicly expressed--makes it very unlikely for researchers to want to study them or for research grants to want to fund them. The more outlandish treatments, such as crystal healing, get no funding whatsoever. It is simply impossible to judge the evidence for or against these claims because there is no real evidence.

Even chiropractic medicine and acupuncture, both of which have high levels of interest and relatively high respectability, suffer from these problems. There is no real scientific consensus to be gleaned from the literature. Though it is relatively certain that acupuncture does have some health benefits, it isn't clear whether this is the placebo effect or not.

I believe the negative attitude toward alternative medicine therapy only compounds the potential dangers associated with them. Without adequate study, it is simply impossible to say what therapies might or might not be effective for any conditions or diseases, or even simply for overall health.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby roc314 » Tue Aug 12, 2008 2:49 am UTC

HadouKen24 wrote:I find this topic somewhat frustrating.

Quite honestly, the derogatory attitude toward alternative therapies that is so common in the scientific community--and can be seen here in this thread--is wrong-headed and unscientific. There simply isn't enough evidence for most of these therapies to make any kind of scientific judgment. The absolute most one can say is that there is no known mechanism by which these effects might be caused. Unfortunately, the attitude that alternative therapies are absolutely unscientific is self-perpetuating.


How is it unscientific to reject a method which has little to no evidence (mostly no evidence) in favor of a method that has been shown to work? I thought that was the quintessence of science.

HadouKen24 wrote:There is not enough evidence to make this kind of judgment. Even a subject as well-studied as homeopathy is so rife with poorly funded and poorly administered studies that anything close to a definitive scientific judgment of its efficacy is simply impossible. This is both because of and a cause of alternative therapies being relegated to a scientific ghetto. The attitude that it is unscientific even to study these things--an attitude that lies latent in the scientific community but is rarely publicly expressed--makes it very unlikely for researchers to want to study them or for research grants to want to fund them. The more outlandish treatments, such as crystal healing, get no funding whatsoever. It is simply impossible to judge the evidence for or against these claims because there is no real evidence.


Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the way that science works is that someone creates a hypothesis, which is then tested? There is nothing in there about testing every possible study. There is considerable difference between "We know Chemical X does this..., so we hypothesize that Chemical X will cause these effects... in humans, so it will treat this disease..." and "Crystal healing is an alternative healing technique for strengthening the body and resolving issues and patterns using various forms of natural crystals. The theory is that gemstones carry vibrational rates. By placing these vibrational rates within the aura - your aura's vibrational rates also change. Often the effects are indirect, but very potent. Other times, the effects are very direct and repeatable." One is based on accepted scientific theory, the other is based on pseudoscience.

As for poorly administered studies, isn't that the fault of those trying to prove it (in other words, those advocating these alternative approach are doing a poor job running their studies)?

If you can prove that alternative methods work and are not simply placebo, then they will be used. Good luck trying to prove something that is almost certainly wrong, though.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby HadouKen24 » Tue Aug 12, 2008 3:12 am UTC

How is it unscientific to reject a method which has little to no evidence (mostly no evidence) in favor of a method that has been shown to work? I thought that was the quintessence of science.


That's not exactly what's going on. It's not an "either/or" kind of scenario. It is entirely possible that both work. One cannot make a scientific judgment of the untested method until it has been tested. At most one can say that it is inconsistent with the body of scientific knowledge thus far.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the way that science works is that someone creates a hypothesis, which is then tested? There is nothing in there about testing every possible study.


But we're not talking about testing every possible hypothesis. Millions of people use alternative therapy every year. It is in the public's interest to know what effects, if any, these therapies have.

As for poorly administered studies, isn't that the fault of those trying to prove it (in other words, those advocating these alternative approach are doing a poor job running their studies)?


No. The disconfirming studies, in the literature I've viewed myself, are generally no better than the confirming studies. Most of the time, these results reflect the biases of the researchers prior to performing the study, regardless of whether they were advocates or skeptics.

If you can prove that alternative methods work and are not simply placebo, then they will be used. Good luck trying to prove something that is almost certainly wrong, though.


That attitude is very prevalent. But it is very self-fulfilling. It is unlikely to be unseated without a great deal of funding. But there won't be much funding until it's unseated.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Aug 12, 2008 3:23 am UTC

BlackSails wrote:Because homeopathic solutions are just pure water.


That's kind of hilarious. I mean, I understood that homeopathic drugs don't have any side-effects (something they celebrate quite a bit, ironically), but I was thinking that even vitamin supplements--that may or may not do anything--still need to have an "THE FDA HAS NOT CONFIRMED THAT THIS SHIT DOES ANYTHING". But the idea that homeopathic medication gets by because it's so diluted as to technically fall underneath the label of 'pure water'...

That's pretty awesome.

HadouKen24 wrote:Even a subject as well-studied as homeopathy is so rife with poorly funded and poorly administered studies that anything close to a definitive scientific judgment of its efficacy is simply impossible.


I'm no biologist and this is definitely not my field of study, but I know enough from the rants of biologists around me to point out that homeopathy in particular doesn't even deserve scientific investigation. If science had to research every random claim somebody made ("THE MOON PREVENTS ALLERGIES!") just because coincidence or a placebo effect causes it to work, nothing would ever get done; homeopathy makes a claim far more random than lunar phases clearing up your sinuses. I mean, this is seriously medieval shit, here.

Also, Mighty Jalapeno, I understand where you're coming from, but the difference between quacks and people with medical degrees in real sciences is that the latter are supposed to be educated in an environment where scientific method is applied rigorously and constantly; as far as I'm aware, chiropractors and their ilk shrink away from the scientific method like vampires from sunlight. Is a degree in this even considered a medical degree? Are they even subject to regulation by doctors and those in the medical field? I'm honestly asking, I don't know. I'd be marginally surprised to find out they are.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby The Ethos » Tue Aug 12, 2008 3:30 am UTC

TheAmazingRando wrote:I've heard people use the most ridiculous information to "prove" their method. This particular woman I'm alluding to told a story of how her daughter had a terrible ear infection, and she went to the doctor and got antibiotics. Her daughter took them that night, and a few hours later her ear was still hurting terrible, so she poured in some colloidal silver and held it in for a while. In the morning, her ear was much better, but of course it must have been the silver, not the antibiotics, because they didn't instantly fix it.


This is neither here nor there, but silver is STRONGLY antimicrobial. We're thinking of bringing it back to fight MRSA and VISA and VIP and all these stupid immune bugs.

I'm not defending chiro/osteo/alternameds, but I will say...I mean, they WORK for some people. All I can do for a lot of people is prescribe them a drug that makes the drug company VERY rich because this person will take it for the rest of their lives. If someone in the city gets that same pill money every month to rub their back, or hit them, or have sex with them, and it WORKS....then who's to say they're worse off?

We now market Placebo pills to kids. Google Obecalp?

The fact of the matter is, and I'm serious here...

IF YOU KNEW HOW MUCH OF WHAT I DO EVERY DAY IS NOT BASED ON SCIENCE, YOU WOULD ALL SHIT YOURSELVES.

This is why we have a push for "evidence based medicine" right now. Because I can say, without a doubt statistically, that if you have back pain and go for surgery, you have a 1/3 shot of getting better, 1/3 shot of no change, and 1/3 shot of worsening.

If you have a radiculopathy or go for spinal surgery, it is a coin flip of whether you get better.

We were rubbing maalox on bedsores up until 10 years ago.
We believed it was impossible that an herbal remedy could steady someone's heart beat.
We thought it was IMPOSSIBLE that a bacterial infection could cause an ulcer.

But here we are. Whoops, sorry about that folks.

It sucks to talk about my field this way, but it's true. A lot of the things I do every day, I do because of tradition, and NOT because of any sense of science. There's no evidence saying whether I should put you on low weight fractionated heparin or fractionated heparin. MANY DRUGS HAVE NEVER BEEN TESTED SCIENTIFICALLY IN WOMEN AND CHILDREN.

It's scary shit, but people still go to doctors, because they have faith I'll make them better.

So....does this change the tone of the thread?
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby tekno sheep » Tue Aug 12, 2008 3:34 am UTC

I have no problem with homeopathic medicine as long as it has one of those stickers that says "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, this product is not intended to treat or cure any disease." Which essentially says that this product is medically worthless (not to say actually worthless, but in terms of the medical process) and you should not rely upon it to achieve its intended effect. I mean we live in what I hope is a free civilization (meaning the Western world, and yes their are exceptions, but I'm going to stop quantifying now), and we should have the right to buy and use almost anything we want, provided it doesn't hurt others, so if you want to use homeopathic remedies go right ahead.

That being said, may I say I am amazed at the civility displayed on this forum, any other place on the 'net and people would be screaming at each other. Well done all.

*edit* sorry, didn't read the above post

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby qetzal » Tue Aug 12, 2008 3:44 am UTC

HadouKen24 wrote:One cannot make a scientific judgment of the untested method until it has been tested. At most one can say that it is inconsistent with the body of scientific knowledge thus far.


No, in many cases one case say it is strongly contradicted by the body of scientific knowledge thus far. Homeopathy being the most obvious example.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Aug 12, 2008 3:45 am UTC

The Ethos wrote:If someone in the city gets that same pill money every month to rub their back, or hit them, or have sex with them, and it WORKS....then who's to say they're worse off?


Spoiler:
Person A: "Man, my head is hurting. I'm going to go to a doctor."
Doctor: "YOU HAVE THE BRAIN CANCER. TAKE THESE PILLS AND THIS SURGERY."
Person A: "This cure sucks and is expensive, but at least I won't have the brain cancer anymore!"

Person B: "Man, my head is hurting. I'm going to go see a MAGIC CRYSTAL MAN."
Magic Crystal Man: "Your crystals are out of alignment! Watch this episode of My Little Pony and eat these magical beans that look like a rainbow eaten by a pack of roving carebears and then shat out into a candy-coated urinal!"
Person B: "Oh wow I don't have any more head hurting anymore! This is great, man I love magic crystal medic--URK."
Magic Crystal Man: "Oh, hey, look! Free wallet! Score!"


I think you have to take into account the fact that while there are things that work that haven't received rigorous scientific study for a variety of reasons, there are also plenty more things that are just clearly and obviously bull shit. It's important to separate the latter from the former, and science often gives us the tools to do that. Also, I was under the impression that the reason back surgery is a coin flip is because our backs are very poorly designed and prone to all sorts of horrible malfunctions (also the reason why back injury is easy to fake, and easy for charlatans to claim they can cure).

tekno sheep wrote:I have no problem with homeopathic medicine as long as it has one of those stickers that says "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, this product is not intended to treat or cure any disease."


It doesn't. Which really threw me for a loop. But apparently, you don't need to have it if your product is actually just water.

Which I find hilarious.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Tue Aug 12, 2008 4:05 am UTC

Sunlight and vampires, indeed.

Spoiler:
Chiropractors obtain a first professional degree in the field of chiropractic medicine.[42] The U.S. and Canada require a minimum 90 semester hours of undergraduate education as a prerequisite for chiropractic school, and at least 4200 instructional hours (or the equivalent) of full‐time chiropractic education for matriculation through an accredited chiropractic program.[4][43] The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines suggest three major full-time educational paths culminating in either a DC, DCM, BSc, or MSc degree. Besides the full-time paths, they also suggest a conversion program for people with other health care education and limited training programs for regions where no legislation governs chiropractic.[16]

Upon graduation, there may be a requirement to pass national, state, or provincial board examinations before being licensed to practice in a particular jurisdiction.[44][45] Depending on the location, continuing education may be required to renew these licenses.[46][47]

In the U.S., chiropractic schools are accredited through the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) while the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) is the statutory governmental body responsible for the regulation of chiropractic in the UK.[48][49] CCEs in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe have joined to form CCE-International (CCE-I) as a model of accreditation standards with the goal of having credentials portable internationally.[50] Today, there are 18 accredited Doctor of Chiropractic programs in the U.S.,[51] 2 in Canada,[52] and 4 in Europe.[53] All but one of the chiropractic colleges in the U.S. are privately funded, but in several other countries they are in government-sponsored universities and colleges.[13] Chiropractic education in the U.S. is divided into straight or mixer educational curricula depending on the philosophy of the institution.[42]

Regulatory colleges and chiropractic boards in the U.S., Canada, and Australia are responsible for protecting the public, standards of practice, disciplinary issues, quality assurance and maintenance of competency.[54][55] There are an estimated 53,000 chiropractors in the U.S. (2006),[56] 6526 in Canada (2006),[57] 2500 in Australia (2000),[58] and 1,500 in the UK (2000).[59]


Also, I am not defending ALL alternative therapies, but am rather sharing those events that I have seen with my own eyes, and experienced myself. I'm not making any claims for any activities, behaviors, or treatments that I have not witnessed, and been subject to. You'd think that would be 'scientific' enough.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby JayDee » Tue Aug 12, 2008 4:18 am UTC

See, I wouldn't even have considered Chiropractic to be alternative medicine, really. I've known some chiropractors that were into some alternate things, and some that were more skeptical than plenty of Doctors I've met.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby arcticfox.sq » Tue Aug 12, 2008 4:19 am UTC

I'm curious, do you guys lump Tradtional Chinese Medicine in with pseudoscience and alternative medicine and all the negative connotations it comes with?
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Aug 12, 2008 4:20 am UTC

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:Also, I am not defending ALL alternative therapies, but am rather sharing those events that I have seen with my own eyes, and experienced myself. I'm not making any claims for any activities, behaviors, or treatments that I have not witnessed, and been subject to. You'd think that would be 'scientific' enough.


From what little I understand of science, this is referred to as 'anecdotal evidence', and isn't really science at all.

Mighty Jalapeno wrote:Sunlight and vampires, indeed.


Going to a college for a week to learn how cow shit cures cancer is no different then going to college for seven years to learn how cow shit cures cancer. The only discernible difference is that the latter student would (hopefully) have learned some other useful things beyond the magical healing properties of bovine feces.

I don't know jackshit about chiropractors but nothing you just quoted convinces me that they aren't a tightly knit insular community of people who, beyond general health concerns, have absolutely no oversight to anyone to do anything beyond convince people that they aren't useless. It's like the homeopathic remedies that don't need an FDA warning on them because they're just water; no one's regulating this shit (beyond the homeopathists themselves--and the chiropractors themselves) quite possibly because this shit doesn't do anything worth regulating.

Mind you, pardon if I'm being a little harsh. I am perfectly willing to be put into my place like a good little boy by someone who knows far more about this subject than I; I'm just asking for a tall cool glass of science to wash down this steaming hot plate of conjecture.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby HadouKen24 » Tue Aug 12, 2008 4:35 am UTC

Just to make myself clear, I'm not against calling quacks quacks. I would never go for crystal healing myself, and I don't think that all diseases have their origin in the spine, or that you can cure anything with the right kind of foot massage. One day I got tired of listening to people on both sides claiming they were right, and decided to check out the literature for myself in the college library (I've since graduated. Unfettered access to the vast collection of knowledge in a university library is something I dearly miss.).

I found a great paucity of good research. I found that nothing but a bunch of contradictory studies, most of which were poorly funded, had small sample sizes, and/or had questionable research methods.

I was trying to get to the bottom of things. I couldn't. It was very frustrating. I attribute this paucity of research to the attitudes that make such research unpopular within the research communities.

The Great Hippo wrote:I'm no biologist and this is definitely not my field of study, but I know enough from the rants of biologists around me to point out that homeopathy in particular doesn't even deserve scientific investigation. If science had to research every random claim somebody made ("THE MOON PREVENTS ALLERGIES!") just because coincidence or a placebo effect causes it to work, nothing would ever get done; homeopathy makes a claim far more random than lunar phases clearing up your sinuses. I mean, this is seriously medieval shit, here.


Homeopathy is not much stranger from a biological point of view than acupuncture is, yet there is at least some support for the efficacy of acupuncture. It's clear at the very least that poking people with needles helps with pain as well as or better than many traditional treatments.

The fact that millions of people use these treatments is justification enough, I think, to sponsor studies to look into them.

qetzal wrote:
HadouKen24 wrote:One cannot make a scientific judgment of the untested method until it has been tested. At most one can say that it is inconsistent with the body of scientific knowledge thus far.

No, in many cases one case say it is strongly contradicted by the body of scientific knowledge thus far. Homeopathy being the most obvious example.


I went with the weaker phrasing for a reason. One can say that it is strongly contradicted by the body of scientific knowledge thus far that all disease is caused by spinal problems. There is a preponderance of evidence for other causes.

There is no preponderance of evidence that pure water that has gone through a particular process will cure allergies. There simply is no reason, from the body of scientific knowledge alone, to think that it might be so.


The Great Hippo wrote:Mind you, pardon if I'm being a little harsh. I am perfectly willing to be put into my place like a good little boy by someone who knows far more about this subject than I; I'm just asking for a tall cool glass of science to wash down this steaming hot plate of conjecture.


Well, you're going to be waiting for a while, unless you've got the cash to fund some studies and a couple dozen competent medical researchers in your pocket to run them. :|

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Aug 12, 2008 4:48 am UTC

HadouKen24 wrote:Homeopathy is not much stranger from a biological point of view than acupuncture is, yet there is at least some support for the efficacy of acupuncture. It's clear at the very least that poking people with needles helps with pain as well as or better than many traditional treatments.


I was under the impression that acupuncture had been linked to the release of endorphins via physiological triggers. Let's separate the explanation of why something works (especially in the case of traditional or alternative medicine) from the actual reason it works; acupuncture claims to manipulate chi, but there's solid evidence that what it's actually doing is stimulating the release of certain chemicals. Homeopathy doesn't even have this going for it.

HadouKen24 wrote:The fact that millions of people use these treatments is justification enough, I think, to sponsor studies to look into them.


If millions of people use these treatments successfully, that's different, but there are plenty of examples of the majority being a bunch of stupid-heads, and asking science to look into every occasion of the majority's stupidity is asking way too much of anyone.

HadouKen24 wrote:Well, you're going to be waiting for a while, unless you've got the cash to fund some studies and a couple dozen competent medical researchers in your pocket to run them. :|


You know, correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that homeopathy in particular has received plenty of scientific treatment (despite the fact that, again, this shit be medieval yo), and that the consensus was that it was just plain water with the placebo effect behind it.

Let's not forget to mention that if homeopathy did work, it would fly into the face of everything we know about chemistry and biology. I mean... I'm not kidding you when I tell you this shit is medieval:

Homeopathy - Wikipedia wrote:Homeopathic practitioners maintain that an ill person can be treated using a substance that can produce, in a healthy person, symptoms similar to those of the illness. According to homeopaths, serial dilution, with shaking between each dilution, removes the toxic effects of the remedy while the qualities of the substance are retained by the diluent (water, sugar, or alcohol). The end product is often so diluted that it is indistinguishable from pure water, sugar or alcohol.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby HadouKen24 » Tue Aug 12, 2008 6:20 am UTC

I was under the impression that acupuncture had been linked to the release of endorphins via physiological triggers. Let's separate the explanation of why something works (especially in the case of traditional or alternative medicine) from the actual reason it works; acupuncture claims to manipulate chi, but there's solid evidence that what it's actually doing is stimulating the release of certain chemicals. Homeopathy doesn't even have this going for it.


That connection was discovered after the discovery of the efficacy of acupuncture, when people started seriously looking for a cause. The effectiveness of acupuncture was unexpected by most medical researchers.

If (and I realize how big this "if" is) homeopathy is ever found to be effective, it is unlikely that the biological pathways by which it is effective would be discovered first.

If millions of people use these treatments successfully, that's different, but there are plenty of examples of the majority being a bunch of stupid-heads, and asking science to look into every occasion of the majority's stupidity is asking way too much of anyone.


People's being stupid-heads with their money is one thing. But when they start gambling their health on alternative treatments, it becomes a public concern to know more about them.

You know, correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that homeopathy in particular has received plenty of scientific treatment (despite the fact that, again, this shit be medieval yo), and that the consensus was that it was just plain water with the placebo effect behind it.


It has received much less treatment than chiropractic and acupuncture, both of which are still deplorably poorly studied.

The treatment it has received has been of poor quality overall, and there is a lot of bias against finding positive results. Whether you think there have been positive results or not in part depends on whether you read mainstream journals or journals devoted to alternative medicine. There is clearly publication bias involved, probably on both sides. As a result, it is impossible to do a proper meta-analysis.

Not that it would be all that easy without publication bias. Most studies into homeopathy are of very poor quality. The sample sizes are very small. The potential effects of researcher bias are thus greatly increased. Controls are frequently very poor. Perhaps most damning, very few of them actually test homeopathy as it is actually practiced.

Most studies attempt to treat homeopathy like any other treatment. Osteoarthritis gets one treatment, glaucoma gets another, dementia gets another, and so on. But that's not how homeopathy is done in practice. Very few homeopaths would look only at a single symptom, or even at the particular range of symptoms looked at by traditional medicine. Joint pain and swelling might be treated with one solution if in the presence of occasional migraines, and another if there are skin rashes and low energy.

Because so many studies try to test homeopathic remedies in ways that directly violate basic homeopathic practice, one cannot really say that homeopathy has been studied at all.

Let's not forget to mention that if homeopathy did work, it would fly into the face of everything we know about chemistry and biology. I mean... I'm not kidding you when I tell you this shit is medieval


Yup. I'm not saying it works. I'm not saying that it's likely to work. I'm just saying that it hasn't really been studied, which is a damn shame considering how many people spend money on it in the hopes of treatment or cure.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby roc314 » Tue Aug 12, 2008 6:28 am UTC

What if we look at from the view that we only have limited resources to spend on research (which is true)? Would you rather that we were researching cures for global warming, more efficient energy sources, a way to treat AIDS, a cure for cancer, or testing the value of several dozen pseudoscientific claims?
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby HadouKen24 » Tue Aug 12, 2008 6:50 am UTC

What if we look at from the view that we only have limited resources to spend on research (which is true)? Would you rather that we were researching cures for global warming, more efficient energy sources, a way to treat AIDS, a cure for cancer, or testing the value of several dozen pseudoscientific claims?


I could tack onto that agricultural research, research into more sustainable manufacturing methods and materials, easier cheaper water filtration for some third world countries, and a dozen other topics that might take priority.

That said, I think we can probably spare a few million more for research into chiropractic medicine, acupuncture, and homeopathy. Heck, a few herbal treatments, reiki, and reflexology probably have enough patients to justify some decent studies as well.

My main point, though, is not that we should spend more money, but that the attitude displayed toward them both in this thread and in the scientific community at large is unhelpful and self-fulfilling.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Exotria » Tue Aug 12, 2008 6:55 am UTC

roc314 wrote:What if we look at from the view that we only have limited resources to spend on research (which is true)? Would you rather that we were researching cures for global warming, more efficient energy sources, a way to treat AIDS, a cure for cancer, or testing the value of several dozen pseudoscientific claims?


If these pseudoscientific claims are properly debunked and these practices removed, people will (hopefully) be spending more money on real treatment, which leads to more funds for researching those other cures you mentioned. Unfortunately, even if properly debunked, a good chunk of people will probably still purchase them unless they're banned as falsely advertised.

As stated above, an FDA label, at least, would really be nice.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Marbas » Tue Aug 12, 2008 7:10 am UTC

HadouKen24 wrote:
What if we look at from the view that we only have limited resources to spend on research (which is true)? Would you rather that we were researching cures for global warming, more efficient energy sources, a way to treat AIDS, a cure for cancer, or testing the value of several dozen pseudoscientific claims?


I could tack onto that agricultural research, research into more sustainable manufacturing methods and materials, easier cheaper water filtration for some third world countries, and a dozen other topics that might take priority.

That said, I think we can probably spare a few million more for research into chiropractic medicine, acupuncture, and homeopathy. Heck, a few herbal treatments, reiki, and reflexology probably have enough patients to justify some decent studies as well.

My main point, though, is not that we should spend more money, but that the attitude displayed toward them both in this thread and in the scientific community at large is unhelpful and self-fulfilling.


The rejection is obvious. The burden of proof is on the guys making the positive claims (CHIROPRACTORS). The problem is that these guys have no evidence, ergo, rejection. Now, chiropractors can actually help with MILD TO MODERATE LOWER BACK PAIN. There have been studies done on the efficacy of this. There are good chiropractors and bad ones though. If you hear the word "subluxations", start running.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Aug 12, 2008 7:20 am UTC

I think one of the chief problems here is--as the poster above me points out--no matter how thoroughly debunked something is, people will still believe it. Especially the practitioners themselves.

I'm by no means an expert on the subject of research done to debunk homeopathy, but I'm pretty sure that regardless of any evidence you provided the industry, they'd call your research crap and keep doing what it is they're doing--and people would keep buying it. It wouldn't make much of a difference, and in the end, you'd probably be better off burning all that research money on delicious candy.

Also...

HadouKen24 wrote:My main point, though, is not that we should spend more money, but that the attitude displayed toward them both in this thread and in the scientific community at large is unhelpful and self-fulfilling.


Science isn't some sort of 'American Idol' contest where public brain farts are herded into a room and voted on to decide which one this week will be proven beyond a doubt to be a case of cerebral flatulence. Science proved homeopathy was crap back when it proved that drinking water doesn't cure cancer, a molecule of zinc doesn't cure the common cold, and atoms aren't moved by tiny leprechauns riding atop unicorns who eat electrons and shit probability. Having to go prove that homeopathy is crap is a step backwards for science; if anyone wants to know that homeopathy is crap, they just need to read a chapter in a high-school chemistry textbook and compare it to what they're claiming. The fact that the public hasn't done this merely proves that even the most robust research paper isn't going to dissuade them.

Look, science treats this stuff like crap because it is. Acupuncture was a unique case because something was clearly going on--people were sticking needles in people and things were happening (SCIENCE!). So they look at it and try to figure out what it's doing. But homeopathy? It's water. Drinking water. You're asking scientists to investigate the healing properties of water. You're asking us to pay them to do this.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Freakish » Tue Aug 12, 2008 10:45 am UTC

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby The Ethos » Tue Aug 12, 2008 10:51 am UTC

You're really caught up on the homeopathy, huh? I don't even think of that when I hear "alternative medicine".

Alternative medicine falls into one of three categories for most americans. Prayer (50-something percent), Osteo/Chiropractor-y (little less, just by the numbers game, and for osteos I'm talking about OMM treatment), and traditional or patent chinese medicine (again a numbers game, but my god is mercury delicious)

Homeopathy isn't alternative medicine, it's pseudoscience to me, but then again, osteopathy is pseudoscience to me, pseudoscience with some demonstrated benefit.
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