Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

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Andrew
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Andrew » Tue Nov 25, 2008 11:40 pm UTC

Elennaro wrote:and sham acupuncture is better, in fact, because it's cheaper

Don't assume that. Studies have shown that price strongly affects the reported efficacy of a placebo. It might be that if you offer acupuncture sessions for a buck a time, they end up being worse value for money than doing the same thing and charging $20.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Xanthir » Sat Nov 29, 2008 7:30 pm UTC

Indeed. Name-brand pain medications do better than generic equivalents. When the person being given it can see the bottle, that is.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby drunken » Sat Apr 04, 2009 11:38 pm UTC

Here is a link which supports some of the things that I said earlier (about how orthodox medicine is often no better than "alternative" medicine, and saying mean things about alternative methods while praising orthodox medicine is hypocritical)
http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/04/04/042214&art_pos=11
***This post is my own opinion and no claim is being made that it is in any way scientific nor intended to be construed as such by any reader***

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby michaelandjimi » Sun Apr 05, 2009 12:05 am UTC

drunken wrote:Here is a link which supports some of the things that I said earlier (about how orthodox medicine is often no better than "alternative" medicine, and saying mean things about alternative methods while praising orthodox medicine is hypocritical)
http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/04/04/042214&art_pos=11
Hardly. When I played volleyball I'm sure I did one or two shots that luckily were better than some of the poorer shots made by Olympic-level athletes, but does that mean they should be booted off the team in favour of me?

Similarly, just because not all of "orthodox" medicine is better than "alternative" medicine, does not make someone praising the former over the latter a hypocrite.

Also, your adjectives are telling. I challenge you to find a non-alternative medicine website that isn't merely a dictionary that seriously uses the term "orthodox medicine". It conjures ideas of modern science being a religion, which frankly rubs me the wrong way, and is fairly insulting to proper scientists.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby qetzal » Sun Apr 05, 2009 3:36 am UTC

What michaelandjimi said.

Alternative medicine is 90%+ bunk, although I'm sure there's a little in there somewhere that has some merit. Conventional medical practice also contains some bunk, but the fraction is MUCH smaller.

More importantly, conventional medicine actually tries to determine empirically which treatments really do work. It's not perfect, and disproven 'treatments' don't always get eliminated as soon as they should, but at least it tries. The vast majority of alternative medicine just claims to 'know' it works, based on bogus arguments like the natural fallacy, appeal to ancient wisdom, and other baloney.

THAT's what's worthy of ridicule.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby drunken » Sun Apr 05, 2009 1:56 pm UTC

michaelandjimi wrote:the term "orthodox medicine". It conjures ideas of modern science being a religion, which frankly rubs me the wrong way, and is fairly insulting to proper scientists.


Actually that is the point I was making. No real scientist would be offended by the term. According to princeton wordnet, orthodox means "adhering to what is commonly accepted". If this offends anyone they are either not understanding the word properly, or not understanding medicine.

Nevertheless you caught my meaning accurately. Large areas of modern science are, at least to me, indistinguishable from religion. Medicine is one of the worst in this respect. If you read the article I posted most of the treatments it lists are very common. Basically it seems to me that people are saying alternative medicines are usually to be accepted on faith, on the word of the practitioner with no evidence whatsoever. I agree with those who are saying this becuase it is true. It is not however acceptable for scientists or medical proffessionals to be using techniques that we are suuposed to take their word for on faith which have actually been studied a lot more and have been shown to have no effect. Actually it is hypocritical. The basketball analogy is meaningless as it is not a hit and miss system, we are talking about science here. A treatment has either been shown to work, shown not to work, or not sufficiently tested.

I respect true science and reason, but I cannot abide people practising and criticising pseudoscience at the same time. CHOOSE ONE: Practise pseudoscience or criticise it. Is that so much to ask?
***This post is my own opinion and no claim is being made that it is in any way scientific nor intended to be construed as such by any reader***

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby qetzal » Sun Apr 05, 2009 3:30 pm UTC

Quote sniping: It sucks, and adds nothing to the discourse.

-Az

Spoiler:
drunken wrote:Large areas of modern science are, at least to me, indistinguishable from religion.


That sounds like you are either uninformed about those areas of science, or unconsciously biased against science. Probably both.

Medicine is one of the worst in this respect. If you read the article I posted most of the treatments it lists are very common.


Yes, but you apparently didn't follow the article's links. If you had, you might have noted the following.

The article states:

For example, doctors have administered 'beta-blockers' for decades to heart attack victims, although studies show that the early administration of beta-blockers does not save lives;


That much is true but incomplete and misleading. The linked research study did indeed find that one particular beta-blocker (metoprolol) did not reduce deaths compared to placebo. But it also found that metoprolol did reduce reinfarction and atrial fibrillation, but also increased cardiogenic shock. Their conclusion:

The use of early beta-blocker therapy in acute MI reduces the risks of reinfarction and ventricular fibrillation, but increases the risk of cardiogenic shock, especially during the first day or so after admission. Consequently, it might generally be prudent to consider starting beta-blocker therapy in hospital only when the haemodynamic condition after MI has stabilised.


Not quite so cut-and-dried and the /. article implied, huh? Just because metoprolol didn't reduce deaths doesn't mean it has no potential benefit at all. That's misleading cite #1.

What about the next claim?

patients with ear infections are more likely to be harmed by antibiotics than helped — the infections typically recede within days regardless of treatment and the same is true for bronchitis, sinusitis, and sore throats;


The link for that claim does say that 80% of ear infection symptoms improved within 2-3 days without antibiotics. It does NOT actually say that antibiotics have no benefit. It most definitely doesn't show that antibiotics are more likely to harm than help! That's misleading cite #2.

OK, how about the next:

no cough remedies have ever been proven better than a placebo.


Once again, read the linked article. It doesn't say what /. claims. What it says is that over-the-counter cough remedies don't work better than placebo. Not quite the same. I don't know about you, but I can't remember the last time a doc told me to take an OTC cough med (or to give one to my kids). I have gotten prescription cough meds. So that's misleading cite #3.

My point is not to suggest that all of orthodox medicine is perfectly science-based, or to deny that there are conventional med practices that go on despite being unproven or disproven. But you and that /. article are trying to imply that conventional medicine (not to mention 'large areas of modern science') is just as bad as pseudoscientific alt-med. You're blowing conventional med's faults way out of proportion, so you can try to claim some sort of equivalency with pseudoscience. That's the tu quoque fallacy, and it's wrong.

On top of that, you're presenting a false dichotomy - that 'we' should either quit criticizing alt med, or quit supporting conventional med, just because parts of conventional med aren't perfect. The proper response is to criticize all pseudoscience (which includes the vast majority of alt med), and support all properly science based med (which is the majority of what's currently practiced).

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby drunken » Mon Apr 06, 2009 12:23 am UTC

qetzal: It is unfortunate that slashdot is so prone to exaggeration and misrepresentation, but I believe my points still stand. If you require further evidence I also reccomend this film: http://freedocumentaries.org/film.php?id=197. Sure it is the drug corporations who are causing the worst harm in the films example but the doctors play along, and they are the people who should be looking out for their patients rather than milking them.
***This post is my own opinion and no claim is being made that it is in any way scientific nor intended to be construed as such by any reader***

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby qetzal » Mon Apr 06, 2009 2:15 am UTC

drunken wrote:qetzal: It is unfortunate that slashdot is so prone to exaggeration and misrepresentation, but I believe my points still stand.


OK, let me be sure I'm clear on what you're claiming. Earlier you said that large areas of science are indistinguishable from religion, and that medicine is one of the worst in this regard. I take that to mean that you think that especially large areas of orthodox medicine are not science-based. Please let me know if that's a correct interpretation.

If it is, then I think the onus is on you to show not just that some parts of medicine are not science-based, but that really large areas are not science-based. If that were true, I'd agree with your general points about orthodox medicine vs. alt med, but I don't think it is.

The previously cited article doesn't meet the burden of showing what I think you've implied. That was the point of the multiple quotes I cited and refuted. I'm sorry that was perceived as quote sniping, but that wasn't my intent. I was only trying to show that the article didn't adequately support what it claimed. I thought the point of these forums was to back up claims with evidence, so I wanted to show exactly why I didn't accept that article at face value. (FWIW, the original of that article is apparently here: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/02/the-ideology-of-health-care/.)

I don't have the time tonight to review all 6 parts of the film series you've now linked. If there's a transcript somewhere, that would be a lot easier to review. Otherwise, I'll try to watch it when I can. Be that as it may, the question for me is not whether some parts of medicine are insufficiently science based. We both agree that's the case. Rather, I'm objecting to your implication that really large portions of medicine are non-science based, and that defending orthodox medicine over alt med is therefore hypocritical. I disagree on both counts.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby drunken » Mon Apr 06, 2009 3:15 pm UTC

qetzal wrote:If it is, then I think the onus is on you to show not just that some parts of medicine are not science-based, but that really large areas are not science-based.


Well the onus is on me at least to define what I meant by large. 3 hairs is not a large number to have on your head, but it is a large number to find in your soup. When I said large areas of science I meant they are large compared to what the fallibility of humans necessitates. Obviously some poor science is unavoidable. In a science like medicine it seems to me that a large amount of unscientificness is much smaller than what would be considered a minimal amount of unscientificness in something like philosophy. Medicine is responsible for lives, for suffering and for the wellbeing of humanity, our level of tolerance should be very low. We may very well debate what is an acceptable level of scientific rigour for medicine. The combination of my research and my personal experience leads me to believe that the scale and proliferation of this lack of rigour in medicine is beyond what I consider acceptable. I believe I have shown some examples of the problem, but I can only say that I consider it unacceptable, which is my opinion and nothing more. I suggest that we look to the users of this forum for a consensus as to what is or is not acceptable.

Who here agrees with the following statements and who disagrees:

1) The fact that several commonly used medical treatments have no scientific basis, or have been shown to be ineffective is not acceptable practice from scientific professionals.
2) The prescription of expensive label drugs over cheaper generic drugs with the same clinical effects for the purpose of getting financial incentives is both unscientific, unethical and in violation of the hippocratic oath.
3)In cases where diagnosis is difficult, different doctors will give different diagnoses. While this an unavoidable consequence of biology, it also shows that medicine is abstracted from pure science in that a medical scientist is forced to reach a conclusion without sufficent evidence, something that pure science does not and should not tolerate.

Let us debate.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby qetzal » Mon Apr 06, 2009 6:11 pm UTC

drunken,

Thanks very much for clarifying your position. I emphatically agree with all 3 statements.

Really, my disagreement with you is when you have equated the degree of pseudo- and/or non-science in alt med with that in orthodox med, and where you've argued that it's hypocritical to support orthodox med while being critical of alt med.

I think one can support orthodox med overall because it's mostly science based and criticize alt med overall because it's mostly pseudoscience, without being a hypocrite. However, if one accepts pseudoscience in orthodox med but not in alt med, that would certainly be hypocritical.

Personally, where the orthodox medical establishment really deserves harsh criticism is for their growing incorporation of alt med pseudoscience into conventional clinics and med schools. Apparently, lots of med schools now include so-called "integrative" medicine programs that 'teach' med students about acupuncture, homeopathy, energy healing, etc. And not from the perspective that students need to be aware that their patients might pursue such alt meds, but from the perspective that students should actively incorporate such 'treatments' into their practices and referrals! Similar, many prestigious cancer clinics now have integrative medicine groups that offer these 'treatments' to their patients.

Here are a couple of excellent blog posts on this problem, and many others can be found on that blog:
http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=28
http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=72

While I don't think it's right to blame all of orthodox medicine for these developments, they still deserve strong condemnation. However, perhaps this is getting a bit off topic, so I'll leave it at that.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby LukeOD » Thu May 12, 2011 3:38 am UTC

I do not mean to interrupt, feel free to ignore.

I just read about "quantum jumping." After laughing, I decided I wanted to laugh some more, so I thought if I could get a few intelligent opinions on the subject, it'd brighten my day.

If I ignore my religious beliefs, the idea that there are infinite versions of myself living all walks of life, that seems pretty reasonable. But to communicate with them through meditation? Does anyone believe it could be based on anything reasonable?


Thank you.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby jules.LT » Fri May 13, 2011 1:55 pm UTC

If you consider the tree of possibilities as some kind of new quantum dimension and have a theory of mind based on quantum, maybe you can imagine that meditation allows you to locally lower variations of possibilities and interact with neighboring alternate versions of yourself? And apply multi-core computing to your brain? :mrgreen:

There's no way I can imagine a theory that allows you to talk with very different versions of yourself, though. I'm not crazy enough :-P

But think of it... quantum multi-core brains!!
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Abgrund » Fri May 13, 2011 9:58 pm UTC

90% of "alternative" medicine is hocus. However, if you try twenty different things, there's an excellent chance that something will help, and in spite of the outrageous price of most of these things you may still be better off than if you went to an allopathic (i.e., real) doctor.

However, it should be pretty obvious that 1. There are some remedies that don't even count as "alternative", because they cannot possibly be effective (e.g. homeopathy, magnetotherapy). 2. There are some conditions that can't be helped by herbs, or not much (e.g. myocardial infarction, gunshot wounds).

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Soralin » Fri May 13, 2011 10:58 pm UTC

Abgrund wrote:90% of "alternative" medicine is hocus. However, if you try twenty different things, there's an excellent chance that something will help, and in spite of the outrageous price of most of these things you may still be better off than if you went to an allopathic (i.e., real) doctor.

However, it should be pretty obvious that 1. There are some remedies that don't even count as "alternative", because they cannot possibly be effective (e.g. homeopathy, magnetotherapy). 2. There are some conditions that can't be helped by herbs, or not much (e.g. myocardial infarction, gunshot wounds).

Also, just as there's a chance that one out of those 20 different things will help, there may be an even larger chance that one of them will cause harm instead. And often, things which are able to help under certain conditions and doses, can cause harm under other conditions or doses. Something which changes your blood pressure might be good, or might be bad, depending entirely on your current condition and the dose involved. Just trying things at random seems like it would be more likely to harm than to help.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby qetzal » Fri May 13, 2011 11:51 pm UTC

Abgrund wrote:90% of "alternative" medicine is hocus. However, if you try twenty different things, there's an excellent chance that something will help....


I call BS. Unless of course you're counting placebo effects and/or regression to the mean.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby jules.LT » Sat May 14, 2011 2:31 pm UTC

qetzal wrote:
Abgrund wrote:90% of "alternative" medicine is hocus. However, if you try twenty different things, there's an excellent chance that something will help....


I call BS. Unless of course you're counting placebo effects and/or regression to the mean.


Well, homeopathy has the positive placebo effect without any of the possibly negative physiological impact.
In many cases, that is more effective than a conventional doctor giving you what may be the wrong medecine, something you're allergice to or something with bad side-effects :mrgreen:
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Angua » Sat May 14, 2011 2:58 pm UTC

qetzal wrote:
Abgrund wrote:90% of "alternative" medicine is hocus. However, if you try twenty different things, there's an excellent chance that something will help....


I call BS. Unless of course you're counting placebo effects and/or regression to the mean.
If he's counting things like St John's Wort (which is actually good for depression, and does have a greater effect than placebo) and other 'natural' remedies (which are generally not as good as their refined pharmaceutical-we are 100% sure of the dose-counterparts), then there would be some that work (though 10% might be a bit high).

However, you still have to be careful with those things interacting with your other medication - St John's Wort is a big player in a lot of bad interactions.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby qetzal » Sat May 14, 2011 3:44 pm UTC

@jules.lt

Sure, positive placebo effect is better than negative side effects from a drug. But saying that homeopathy is more effective "in many cases" presumes that the benefits from real drugs are so small and the side effects are so large that the net outcome is worse than the placebo effects from homeopathy. Also, keep in mind that taking a real drug will have the same potential placebo benefit as homeopathy. So your statement is really only true in cases where the drug causes net harm. That certainly occurs, but not with very high probability.

@Angua,

I agree that some of the herbal stuff probably has some net benefit for some conditions. I don't agree that you can try 20 different things (for whatever's bothering you) and have "an excellent chance" that something will help (beyond placebo or natural recovery).

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Angua » Sat May 14, 2011 3:56 pm UTC

qetzal wrote:
I agree that some of the herbal stuff probably has some net benefit for some conditions. I don't agree that you can try 20 different things (for whatever's bothering you) and have "an excellent chance" that something will help (beyond placebo or natural recovery).
Fair enough - I thought you meant the implication that 10% was effective.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Charlie! » Sat May 14, 2011 10:28 pm UTC

jules.lt wrote:Well, homeopathy has the positive placebo effect without any of the possibly negative physiological impact.
In many cases, that is more effective than a conventional doctor giving you what may be the wrong medecine, something you're allergice to or something with bad side-effects :mrgreen:

Sure, if we were in the 1700s and doctors were bleeding people to death. But I don't think you can just selectively market homeopathy to people about to go demand antibiotics for a viral infection while not also marketing homeopathy to people about to go demand antibiotics for a bacterial infection.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Gorelab » Mon May 23, 2011 4:46 am UTC

The most insidious form of alternative medicine has to be when it piggy backs off a real disease. Endocrine diseases seem to be popular for this, probably due to the large variety of nonspecific symptoms. Addison's disease becomes 'adrenal fatigue' and hypothyroidism is just a mess of weird theories that go against science in weird non-diseases and an utter distrust of Synthroid for whatever reason.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby ianfort » Sun May 29, 2011 3:44 pm UTC

I didn't have the time to look at all of the pages of this thread, so I apologize if this has already been addressed, but I don't understand why there are some posts here that say that vitamin supplements are bunk. I thought vitamins were generally accepted by the medical community to be essential to human health. Am I missing something here?

Any clarification would be appreciated.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby gmalivuk » Sun May 29, 2011 4:53 pm UTC

Vitamins are important, but taking supplements isn't the best way to get them into you, plus people often already get enough vitamins, and then add supplements under a "more is better" misunderstanding. (One of the most common sorts of overdose among children is vitamin pills.)
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby ianfort » Sun May 29, 2011 5:37 pm UTC

There are certain situations, though, when vitamin supplements are the best option, right?

Would it be a bad idea to take vitamin D pills in the winter under the reasoning that there's less sunlight then for your body to generate it naturally?

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby skeptical scientist » Sun May 29, 2011 5:41 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Vitamins are important, but taking supplements isn't the best way to get them into you, plus people often already get enough vitamins, and then add supplements under a "more is better" misunderstanding. (One of the most common sorts of overdose among children is vitamin pills.)

Yeah, one of the most common effects of taking lots of supplement pills is really expensive urine, as much of the uptake just passes through. A somewhat less common side effect is vitamin toxicity, e.g. hypervitaminosis A. Generally speaking, supplements are most useful when your body is not getting enough of something from your diet; taking supplements for things you get in your diet is a waste of money at best, and potentially toxic at worst.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Pseudonymoniae » Sun May 29, 2011 6:54 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Vitamins are important, but taking supplements isn't the best way to get them into you, plus people often already get enough vitamins, and then add supplements under a "more is better" misunderstanding. (One of the most common sorts of overdose among children is vitamin pills.)



I've certainly heard a different take on the "more is better" claim, which is something to the effect of "I take supplements to ensure that I have the minimal recommended amount." This generally makes a lot of sense, as it can be difficult to keep track of/determine whether one has consumed the appropriate amount of specific vitamins. Additionally, it is often the case that there is a wide range between the recommended daily dose of a given vitamin and the toxic dose. In this case, the only real risk of taking certain supplements is wasting a few bucks, while there is the potential benefit of ensuring a healthy level of consumption. I'm not saying this is always the case--odds are a large proportion of people supplementing vitamins already get most of those vitamins in their diets--but it certainly is a reasonable argument to rationalize taking supplements, even when they are unneeded.

Although I guess it's a little ironic that some people happily eat vitamin-deficient food and thousands of excess calories on daily trips to McDonald's without a care in the world, while many of those consuming a healthy diet worry about having a minor vitamin deficiency.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby KestrelLowing » Tue May 31, 2011 7:18 pm UTC

Often people end up taking vitamins for a specific deficit too when they'd probably be better off taking a specific supplement.

For example, I have a very hard time getting enough iron in my body. I'm naturally anemic and when I'm on Shark Week, I have major issues. I tried taking a multi-vitamin for that (not knowing I was specifically iron deficient) and it worked quite well. But, when I ran out and my roommate only had iron supplements, I took that and felt the same. Really, the only thing I needed was the iron.

So it's not that vitamins are worthless, they're often just worthless for the majority of people who already get those nutrients.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby skeptical scientist » Tue May 31, 2011 7:53 pm UTC

Pseudonymoniae wrote:I've certainly heard a different take on the "more is better" claim, which is something to the effect of "I take supplements to ensure that I have the minimal recommended amount." This generally makes a lot of sense, as it can be difficult to keep track of/determine whether one has consumed the appropriate amount of specific vitamins. Additionally, it is often the case that there is a wide range between the recommended daily dose of a given vitamin and the toxic dose. In this case, the only real risk of taking certain supplements is wasting a few bucks, while there is the potential benefit of ensuring a healthy level of consumption. I'm not saying this is always the case--odds are a large proportion of people supplementing vitamins already get most of those vitamins in their diets--but it certainly is a reasonable argument to rationalize taking supplements, even when they are unneeded.

Yeah, there's absolutely nothing wrong or unscientific with taking supplements if it's done for reasons like this. A lot of the real vitamin-related nonsense out there is not about ordinary supplement consumption, but about so-called "megadosing."
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Mokele » Tue May 31, 2011 8:03 pm UTC

ianfort wrote:There are certain situations, though, when vitamin supplements are the best option, right?

Would it be a bad idea to take vitamin D pills in the winter under the reasoning that there's less sunlight then for your body to generate it naturally?


It depends. Milk is now supplemented with vitamin D, so if you drink enough milk, pills are unnecessary. Plus, it doesn't take much time outside at all to generate a day's vitamin D, less than 30 minutes usually (especially since UVB penetrates cloud cover).

However, if you live somewhere with minimal sunlight in winter (very high lattitude), have a lifestyle that results in minimal/no sun exposure (CS major), and/or cannot acquire it via milk (lactose intolerant), dietary supplementation does work - it's widely used in reptiles, amphibians and monkeys in captivity when they cannot be given natural or supplementary UVB light for various reasons.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby crates » Thu Jun 02, 2011 6:07 pm UTC

Darkly wrote: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.


It's dangerous to say that because we don't currently understand it, therefore it does not/cannot exist. I just finished watching an old documentary on heat and at one time they believed in a fluid that passed through a medium making it hot referred to as "caloric". A scientist disproved this by showing that by boring cannons, he could artificially produce heat, thus it could not be a fluid present. However, it was a full 50 years later before his ideas were actually accepted. For 50 years, he was the only individual that reasoned that this common scientific idea was in fact, not true.

There are multiple cases of people flatlining and maintaining consciousness. While it doesn't necessarily make her perception of the events correct either as humans often misinterpret things, it certainly doesn't make them impossible. Open mind is a good thing anyways. Even if the healing is nothing but the placebo effect, it is still bringing positivity into the world.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Jun 02, 2011 6:45 pm UTC

crates wrote:It's dangerous to say that because we don't currently understand it, therefore it does not/cannot exist.
Perhaps, but if it still doesn't have any evidence for it even after repeated experimentation, it becomes pretty safe to say there's nothing happening.

There are multiple cases of people flatlining and maintaining consciousness.
Oh? Can you cite some of them?

Even if the healing is nothing but the placebo effect, it is still bringing positivity into the world.
Not if they're doing something bogus in place of something that might actually help. Placebo can't cure cancer, for example, but chemotherapy and/or surgery often can. So if you opt for placebo medicine instead of real medicine, you're basically committing unintentional suicide. If you're doing this on behalf of someone else, e.g. your child or other dependent, it's homicide.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Mokele » Fri Jun 03, 2011 3:08 pm UTC

crates wrote:Open mind is a good thing anyways.


"There is such a thing as having a mind so open that your brain falls out." - Richard Dawkins.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby yash » Fri Jun 03, 2011 4:23 pm UTC

crates wrote:
It's dangerous to say that because we don't currently understand it, therefore it does not/cannot exist. I just finished watching an old documentary on heat and at one time they believed in a fluid that passed through a medium making it hot referred to as "caloric". A scientist disproved this by showing that by boring cannons, he could artificially produce heat, thus it could not be a fluid present. However, it was a full 50 years later before his ideas were actually accepted. For 50 years, he was the only individual that reasoned that this common scientific idea was in fact, not true.

There are multiple cases of people flatlining and maintaining consciousness. While it doesn't necessarily make her perception of the events correct either as humans often misinterpret things, it certainly doesn't make them impossible. Open mind is a good thing anyways. Even if the healing is nothing but the placebo effect, it is still bringing positivity into the world.


You've made two separate points here: that we might not know everything, and that the placebo effect is a powerful force. The point about the placebo effect is true, and I echo what several people have said before: it's all well and good, as long as this doesn't cause more harm by stopping conventional approaches.

The first point, while true, goes against alternative medicine if anything, not science. Normal medicine (if I can call it that) realises that our knowledge is limited, and attempts to find ways of expanding it- through a system by which we constantly hypothesise then falsify, until we find something good enough to withstand our attempts at falsification, at which point we accept that it's probably true. And understanding the pathophysiology of a disease and the mechanism by which the treatment works does sometimes come after finding the effect- it's not a case of shying away from any treatment that we don't know the mechanism of action for, it's simply that we're much more efficient at producing solutions if we can logic out how they should work. :3 Science knows this danger and uses it. Alternative medicine, for the most part, goes completely against that- ignoring any evidence against what it says, and assuming that the system in place, be it homeopathy or acupuncture, is correct- and does try to explain/understand this, whether via a method deemed acceptable by the scientific community or not. It may take fifty years for the scientific community to realise that they're wrong- but afterwards, it is accepted without claims of blasphemy etc. Evidence against alternative medicine has been found- but even after hundreds of years, it's not accepted!

As a general point: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grWfxsFWOFI may be of interest. Dawkins interviews Michael Baum on alternative medicines, cancer, etc. It's long, and I haven't watched the whole thing, but what I've seen was interesting.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby webgrunt » Fri Jun 03, 2011 5:47 pm UTC

ianfort wrote:There are certain situations, though, when vitamin supplements are the best option, right?

Would it be a bad idea to take vitamin D pills in the winter under the reasoning that there's less sunlight then for your body to generate it naturally?


Just to answer your first question, supplements are an excellent way to get vitamins and minerals if you aren't getting enough in your food.

I know this because I've had a type of surgery (biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch) that makes me so malabsorptive that I have to take 50,000 IU of vitamin D per day and 150,000 IU of vitamin A per day. Because overdosing on vitamin A can be more toxic than other vitamins, I believe that the amount of vitamin A I am taking might actually kill a normal person.

I get the levels of dozens of vitamins and m8inerals tested every six months. When some of them have gotten too low, I increased the supplementation, and the levels went back up. When some got to high, I decreased the level I'm taking as supplements and the levels went down. I also know people (my wife) who have not had malabsorptive surgery but were too low in a vitamin (it was vitamin D for her.) Supplementation brought the level back into the normal range without any additional time in the sun.

So I can pretty much guarantee that supplementation is an effective way to get more vitamins or minerals into your body. Obviously, getting them from eating a balanced diet is better (I believe there may be still undiscovered nutrients that you can benefit from) but supplementation is an effective workaround.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby webgrunt » Fri Jun 03, 2011 5:57 pm UTC

I haven't read all posts, but I wonder if anyone thinks herbal medicine is pseudoscience.

Oh, I'm sure that some of the herbal remedies out there are completely useless, but for others this is not likely true.

Many of the medications we take today were first synthesized from herbs that were purported to treat what those drugs do effectively treat. Of course, herbs must be standardized to ensure a consistent percentage of active ingredient, and the more testing done to discover how effective they are in double-blind situations, the better.

I also received a measured reduction in bad cholesterol and triglycerides while doing nothing other than taking an herbal remedy for bad cholesterol numbers. I believe it had plant sterols, red yeast rice and some other stuff. I deliberately changed nothing except taking that remedy after my doctor did the in-depth cholesterol/triglyceride breakdown, because I wanted to see what effect it would have. Of course, this is only the implication of a causal relationship, not proof of one, so take that with a grain.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby KestrelLowing » Fri Jun 03, 2011 6:23 pm UTC

webgrunt wrote:I haven't read all posts, but I wonder if anyone thinks herbal medicine is pseudoscience.

Oh, I'm sure that some of the herbal remedies out there are completely useless, but for others this is not likely true.

Many of the medications we take today were first synthesized from herbs that were purported to treat what those drugs do effectively treat. Of course, herbs must be standardized to ensure a consistent percentage of active ingredient, and the more testing done to discover how effective they are in double-blind situations, the better.

I also received a measured reduction in bad cholesterol and triglycerides while doing nothing other than taking an herbal remedy for bad cholesterol numbers. I believe it had plant sterols, red yeast rice and some other stuff. I deliberately changed nothing except taking that remedy after my doctor did the in-depth cholesterol/triglyceride breakdown, because I wanted to see what effect it would have. Of course, this is only the implication of a causal relationship, not proof of one, so take that with a grain.


At least initially, most of our medicine did come from plants. For example, willow bark has been proven to reduce headaches (although headaches are one of those things that's relatively easy to fix with the placebo effect). It contains salicylic acid which is similar to acetylsalicylic acid, or asprin. Basically, many home remedies/herbal medicines work because there are chemicals in them that actually help.

I think earlier in the thread, people talked about the only real downside to 'natural herbal remedies' is that the dosage isn't consistent because of natural variances with the plant. Essentially, you could be taking 50mg or 100mg of the drug and you don't really know.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Mokele » Fri Jun 03, 2011 7:14 pm UTC

webgrunt wrote:I haven't read all posts, but I wonder if anyone thinks herbal medicine is pseudoscience.

Oh, I'm sure that some of the herbal remedies out there are completely useless, but for others this is not likely true.

Many of the medications we take today were first synthesized from herbs that were purported to treat what those drugs do effectively treat. Of course, herbs must be standardized to ensure a consistent percentage of active ingredient, and the more testing done to discover how effective they are in double-blind situations, the better.

I also received a measured reduction in bad cholesterol and triglycerides while doing nothing other than taking an herbal remedy for bad cholesterol numbers. I believe it had plant sterols, red yeast rice and some other stuff. I deliberately changed nothing except taking that remedy after my doctor did the in-depth cholesterol/triglyceride breakdown, because I wanted to see what effect it would have. Of course, this is only the implication of a causal relationship, not proof of one, so take that with a grain.


In addition to what Kestrel said, there's the other problem - not everything in a given plant is good for you. Sometimes it may be possible to extract just the good or neutralize the bad, but just about any natural plant produce is a mix of wildly varying chemicals used by the plant for basic metabolism, signaling, insect replant, etc. Whether any given chemical is good or bad is mostly a fluke chance of biochemistry - the plant certainly didn't make the chemical for the express purpose of relieving headaches in a bizarre ape-thing, and there's just as much chance any random plant chemical will be harmful or toxic.

This doesn't mean herbal remedies are crap, just that there *is* a benefit to isolating and purifying the active ingredient, and possibly modifying it (the acetyl group was added to salicylic acid to reduce stomach irritation), and that we cannot simply assume a given plant is always good for everyone - when you're ingesting a whole mix of compounds, there's a much bigger risk of something going wrong.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby webgrunt » Fri Jun 03, 2011 7:50 pm UTC

KestrelLowing wrote:
webgrunt wrote:I haven't read all posts, but I wonder if anyone thinks herbal medicine is pseudoscience.

Oh, I'm sure that some of the herbal remedies out there are completely useless, but for others this is not likely true.

Many of the medications we take today were first synthesized from herbs that were purported to treat what those drugs do effectively treat. Of course, herbs must be standardized to ensure a consistent percentage of active ingredient, and the more testing done to discover how effective they are in double-blind situations, the better.

I also received a measured reduction in bad cholesterol and triglycerides while doing nothing other than taking an herbal remedy for bad cholesterol numbers. I believe it had plant sterols, red yeast rice and some other stuff. I deliberately changed nothing except taking that remedy after my doctor did the in-depth cholesterol/triglyceride breakdown, because I wanted to see what effect it would have. Of course, this is only the implication of a causal relationship, not proof of one, so take that with a grain.


At least initially, most of our medicine did come from plants. For example, willow bark has been proven to reduce headaches (although headaches are one of those things that's relatively easy to fix with the placebo effect). It contains salicylic acid which is similar to acetylsalicylic acid, or asprin. Basically, many home remedies/herbal medicines work because there are chemicals in them that actually help.

I think earlier in the thread, people talked about the only real downside to 'natural herbal remedies' is that the dosage isn't consistent because of natural variances with the plant. Essentially, you could be taking 50mg or 100mg of the drug and you don't really know.


Agreed, unless they're standardized, which many are now.


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