Anti-ScienceScience

“Can anyone name a disease which has been cured?”

The other day, new user “tigirl” attempted to post a big rant on a post that had nothing to do with what she was ranting about, so obviously I didn’t allow the comment to go through. It was so long and ignorant, though, that I wanted to post it here so that she could get the information she sought. Here is what she posted, in full:

Creativity will never come from the skeptics corner.

I practice “alternative medicine” in the form of acupuncture and am also a scientist–Biologist. I see that only two of the skepchicks are even scientists and I wonder if those two have ever read about or experienced any “alternative medicine” treatments when they were ill? In the case of Chinese Medicine, there are many “modern” theories as to how and why it works. Mainly it has to do with the formation of the embryo and the fact that the tissues–endoderm, ectoderm and mesoderm–which form the various organs and body parts are related via the fascia of the body and that messages are sent along this fascia to the various organs of the body in order for the body to respond to itself and the environment–scientific fact. Acupuncture is a very precise way of influencing the body via this system. A simple example would be that an excited heart rate can be slowed by stimulating certain points on the heart channel located on the ulnar side of the forearm. Both the heart and lung channels are located on the arms just as the heart and lungs are above the diaphragm. All their fascia are connected. Fascia is a piezo-electric tissue matrix which sends a charge when stimulated either with pressure, heat, needle, meditation etc. These things are proven. Just as meditation’s effect on the brain are proven. Ever heard of brain plasticity theory?

All pharmaceuticals are harmful to the body–fact. No disease is caused by a deficiency of pharmaceuticals or surgery. No disease has ever been cured in the real sense of the word where you’re just as good as you were before, with allopathic medicine. Can anyone name a disease which has been cured? Our bodies built themselves and have the information on hand to correct problems if the damage is not too severe. It makes sense to use natural medical approaches to prevent and treat disease. It will lower the cost of health care as it already has in Washington State where alt med is required to be covered by all insurance and is available in some areas in the public health system.

Get a clue. Just because you’re a skeptic doesn’t mean you’re smart or informed. Is there anyone on this site who can actually intelligently comment on any major branch of alternative medicine? Have you read any textbooks on the subject or had any treatments? Research is supported by those not wanting it to work–ie the status quo AMA. By the way, the study of acupuncture is now offered at all the top medical schools in the country as well as many hospitals. Watch for the coming co-opting of Chinese Medicine by your local MD who will strip all real “Chinese” from the medicine and make it quite marginal as the Medical Acupuncturists already have.

tigirl

I’ll just address a few points and then let the rest of you have at it, playing Name That Logical Fallacy and correcting her mistakes throughout.

I wonder if those two have ever read about or experienced any “alternative medicine” treatments when they were ill?

First of all, the skepchicks are well-acquainted with alternative medicine, which is the phrase we give to treatments that aren’t effective enough to receive the moniker “actual medicine.” If you’re going to pick one to ascribe to, you could do worse than acupuncture, since that is one of the few that show something happens at some time, though never quite how any of its regular practitioners believe or expect.

I recommend you read Simon Singh & Edzard Ernst’s Trick or Treatment for a fair overview of what alternative medicine is, as well as what works and what does not work. It was not written by “those not wanting it to work.” Ernst was a practicing alt med doctor who turned to serious scientific inquiry to figure out the truth behind the treatment.

Can anyone name a disease which has been cured?

Tuberculosis.

Depending on how you want to define “cure,” you could throw in craploads more. Diptheria. Polio. Measles. Appendicitis. Chicken pox. Influenza.

Those are just a few of the many diseases that are successfully treated by vaccines, surgery, or antibiotics. If you tried to cure those diseases with acupuncture, homeopathy, faith healing, or magnets, you would most likely die or be maimed for life. For instance, if you look up “natural” ways to treat appendicitis, you may be convinced all you need is a little buttermilk. Meanwhile, your appendix will be oozing pus out into your abdominal cavity, which will soon become infected. You’ll die screaming in pain, and sadly you may vomit up all that buttermilk.

As you’ll find in Trick or Treatment, scientists “cured” scurvy using controlled scientific trials to figure out that lemons and limes would do the trick. Treating scurvy by recommending fruits high in vitamin C is not considered “alternative medicine,” because it works, and we know it works. Once someone designs and completes experiments showing the same unequivocally positive results from acupuncture, and it, too, will become “actual medicine.” For now, the studies are inconclusive and require stricter controls for clearer results.

So my question is: what school gave you a degree in biology without a basic understanding of the history of disease? Or were you planning to continually define and redefine “cure” until you feel your point has been made?

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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118 Comments

  1. “Meanwhile, your appendix will be oozing pus out into your abdominal cavity, which will soon become infected.” Having experienced this first-hand I can wholeheartedly recommend the modern medicine approach to treating this condition.

    I think is might also be worth pointing out that many (if not most) modern medical treatments work by complimenting the bodies natural defences against disease and that most pharmaceuticals are derived from naturally occurring substances (a biomed undergrad told me its about 70%).

  2. “Fascia is a piezo-electric tissue matrix which sends a charge when stimulated either with pressure, heat, needle, meditation etc.”

    Wait…what? I don’t remember learning THAT in histology.

  3. I always find it odd how they’re telling us about it. Shouldn’t they be writing papers, contacting the FDA and such? If it really worked, they’d be going through the proper channels actual medicine goes through, instead of fooling the uneducated

  4. Alternative medicine never re-attached a sawed-off finger. Alt medicine can’t manage a blood transfusion, or an artificial heart, or a polio vaccine. You’d think alt medicine could have managed to invent antibiotics – we’re only talking about bread mold, here – but no, they couldn’t do that, either.

    Alt medicine isn’t medicine, it’s a lethal hobby practiced by people who hate and distrust real doctors, so they take a night course in crystal power or acupuncture or aura fluffing just so they can pretend to be physicians, too. Much as a three year-old will pretend to be a fireman, and with a similar resulting degree of effectiveness in solving emergencies.

  5. Hmm, I don’t know anything at all about fascia and very little about the piezoelectric effect, but I do know what bullshit sounds like when it starts getting thrown around:

    “Acupuncture works to enhance Qi and blood circulation in the brain and on the affected side of the body. It helps to rebuild the brain’s ability to communicate with the body. Strokes also debilitate patients emotionally in addition to the physical trauma. Acupuncture can help calm the patient and help the patient with depression. ” (acupuncture.com – Different Strokes in the East and West… – Jan 10, 2009)

    I bet it can also bring me instant fortune and fame too, huh?

  6. Artificial hormones have successfully cured (actually more like controlled) my Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. I have yet to hear a study in which alternative medicine has effectively controlled the hemorrhaging I experienced. In fact, you could argue that PCOS is caused by a lack of pharmacology since my body wasn’t producing enough hormones on it’s own to keep my ovaries in line. Not only am I just as good as I was before hormones, I’m better as I am now not losing large amounts of blood, not anemic, not in pain, and I am baby proof. Better living through chemistry!

  7. tigirl:
    Are there some forms of alternative medicine that have merit? I’ve no doubt that there are. But surley even you can admit that there are lots of things labelled “alternative” medicine that simply don’t work or are even deleterious.

    So, how does one tell which methods are effective?

    Luckily, the last couple of centuries have given us a tool to determine this. It’s called science. Only through controlled experimentation, observation, and analysis can we really know about the efficacy of any treatment. Once any treatment has been proven effective, whether it originated as an “alternative” treatment or not, then it’s simply “medicine.”

    Are pharmaceutical companies out to make a buck? Sure they are. Have there been instances when the pharmaceutical companies have marketed dubious or hastily-approved products? Absolutely.

    Luckily, science is self-correcting, and such treatments are discovered and removed from the market.

    But what of the alt. med practitioner? He is under no obligation to demonstrate that his treatment is effective. Furthermore, he can charge $18 for a homeopathic remedy that’s naught but a bottle of water. Now, if I were looking to make a profit without any regard for the efficacy of my products, I would go that route, rather than the path of expensive clinical trial upon expensive clinical trial on the off chance that my drug might — MIGHT — be approved.

  8. Acupuncture works to enhance Qi and blood circulation in the brain and on the affected side of the body.

    And if you learn to channel your Qi flow, you can redirect lightning!

    Oh, wait. That was only in Avatar: The Last Airbender.

    . . . Damn, DVD box sets can be a dangerous thing.

  9. Speaking as a biologist (see I can make arguements from authority too), stuff like meditation does decrease stress. ‘Course, that puts it in the evidence-based medicine category. And there’s no reason to think that it would work outside of that.

    That said, of course pharmaceuticals save lives. Does tigirl really think that the advent of modern medicine and an increase in life expectancy is a coincidence? You want an easy example, look at the casualty rates in the Iraq War compared to Vietnam compared to the Civil War. Does she really want to go back to the days where a limb has to be amputated while the patient is given something to bite on and whiskey if he’s lucky?

    Again speaking as a biology major, only certain aspects of biology are medically relevant. Ecology, as an example, has virtually nothing to do with medicine. Not in the way that physiology or biochemistry are relevant.

  10. “Our bodies built themselves and have the information on hand to correct problems if the damage is not too severe. It makes sense to use natural medical approaches to prevent and treat disease.”

    Okay. Now what about the instances where the damage *is* too severe for our bodies to repair naturally?

  11. Yeah,

    Polio and Small pox were the first things that came into my mind, as well.

    I would say also, that if we could get rid of the anti-vaxers, we may have a fair shot at Malaria and Measles, someday.

    Heck, if we can get rid of certain African President/Faith Healers, I’ll bet someday we’ll even whip Aids.

    I, however, would like to see a similar list from alternative care. Say, acupuncture for example.

    Speaking from personal experience, acupuncture never did anything for my sore neck at all. But it was exceptionally lame when compared to an aspirin and a neck rub.

    rod

  12. Okay, I have a degree in Geology, but I grew up in a family of doctors and with my Paleontology focus, I actually had an unofficial minor in Biology (where I had a rep of blowing out the curves – “[email protected]#$%^&* Rock Girl” knew more about A&P and Embryology going in than a lot of pre-med students, a side effect of my Dad’s Gray’s Anatomy and his various take-apart plastic organ models being a part of my toy collection).

    I am a big believer in modern medicine and science (I still love this Doonesbury strip – http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2005/images/1218doonesbury_lg.gif ), but I’m also prone to saying that thousands of years of Chinese medicine can’t be *totally* wrong. (Which annoys the snot out of my father ;) )

    (I would love to see a study on how acupuncture affects the immune or neurological system – I still think that after a bunch of needles come OUT of your skin you’re gonna feel fabulous, just from the endorphins alone ;) )

    But, I’m sorry, I’m with Rebecca – tigirl, what school gave you a degree in Biology? And furthermore, where did you graduate in your entire class and within your major? You remind me of the young women who drifted through the Geology Department wanting to be “closer to Mother Earth/Gaia”, only to leave within a year (or more often, right before the drop-without-penalty deadline) after realizing that Geology was a hard science and there wasn’t a whole lot of warm fuzzy going on.

    I agree that the AMA can squash on alternative medicine pretty hard. Sometimes that squashing is deserved (I once received an alt med magazine in the mail by mistake, and I couldn’t believe they actually had ads for a product that was ground up silica in solution – they were basically advocating ingesting something most water filters remove), sometimes, I think it’s overkill and counterproductive. Not all of modern medicine’s solutions have been safe (Thalidomide pops into mind).

    But any doctor legally practicing in the US today has had a far more rigorous education and boarding standard than any alternative medicine practitioner around…AND they have to accrue CME credits every year – the education is ongoing.

    Whereas you can get a “Japanese Acupuncture Certificate” after 75 hours of seminar time and 10 extra hours of practice time. (Note – I do understand that there are more rigorous acupuncture programs out there that take several years – just pointing out it’s also an insanely easy certificate to get.)

    85 hours of (hopefully) post-undergraduate training vs. 4 years of graduate education, 1 year of internship, and anywhere from 4-8 years of residency. Hmmmm….what am I gonna choose when something is seriously wrong with me?

  13. Um… brain plasticity? As in, the brain’s ability to change throughout our lives? So, because our brains retain the ability to change and to learn new ways of doing things that means that meditation as a proven way to… what? heal? is proof of a whole host of things, mostly related to fascia. That’s not just fallacious, it’s circuitous in it’s fallaciousness and just a little bit nutty. Or, maybe a lot.

  14. Rebecca, you did a great job! Would it be okay if I wrote a bit of a blurp about this for my column at Richmond Skeptics Blog (A Doubting Florence)? (I’d also be throwing in my two cents as well. The RN in me got a little fired up at some of comments made by tigirl!!!).

    Thanks, Jenn Y.

    PS.
    tigirl sez: No creativity will come from the skeptics corner.

    JennY sez: Ma’am I strongly urge you to spend the day observing at a skeptics meeting like TAM. Skeptics are wonderfully creative, artistic, funny, and talented! Not only the speakers, but the audience as well. The JREF auction last year featured gorgeous handmade bookmarks by one very artsy skeptic, and you see skeptics knitting, writing, oragami, doodling, rapping, singing, and various forms of relaxed tomfoolery! (I wanna make knitted pi toys for TAM 7!) It’s so cool. (You can sit with me if you’d like. I’ll share the infamous 4PM cookie with you.)

  15. Not to mention the number of skeptics who are science fiction writers. There was a recent episode of Point of Inquiry that featured an interview with Tom Flynn where they discuss pioneering scifi writers such as H.G. Wells, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, Douglas Adams, Phillip Pullman, and Kurt Vonnegut, and Robert Heinlein. A lack of creativity has never been something that can be pinned on the true skeptic, only those who call themselves skeptics but are really nothing but doubters who miss the point of skepticism entirely.

  16. Coming back to the topic…
    What about illnesses like plague that still exist but have very specific and effective treatments? Why can’t we include these as good examples for “alternative medicine” to aspire to? Just wondering…

  17. Not to mention the number of skeptics who are science fiction writers. There was a recent episode of Point of Inquiry that featured an interview with Tom Flynn where they discuss pioneering scifi writers such as H.G. Wells, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, Douglas Adams, Phillip Pullman, and Kurt Vonnegut, and Robert Heinlein.

    How about living SF writer Michael Stackpole, President of the Phoenix Skeptics?

  18. @Chasmosaur: Good insights, but I have a couple thoughts…

    I think it’s reasonable to think that acupuncture has a pain-relief effect, in that your body releases endorphins in reaction to the needles, as you say. But there is no evidence that it has any curative effect whatsoever. In fact there is ample evidence that it does not have such an effect.

    You mention that not all of modern medicine’s treatments have been effective, citing thalidomide. As I mentioned in my earlier post, sure there have been ineffective or dangerous drugs. But because modern medicine is science-based, these errors will be found and corrected, and what’s more is that we can learn form those mistakes to ensure they are less likely in the future.

    I think it’s totally off-base to say that something that’s been around for thousands of years must have something to it. This is specifically because there is no self-correcting mechanism in alt. med. Don’t underestimate the power of placebo. Plus, some alt meds make you feel better (as I imagine acupuncture might). Add to that the fact that illnesses may get better just from the passage of time, and you might be left with the impression that your treatment worked.

    That’s the whole point of controlled clinical trials: to account for factors like placebo and our unassisted healing.

  19. “I see that only two of the skepchicks are even scientists and I wonder if those two have ever read about or experienced any “alternative medicine” treatments when they were ill?” – Argument from authority, Ad hominem

    “the fact that the tissues–endoderm, ectoderm and mesoderm–which form the various organs and body parts are related via the fascia of the body and that messages are sent along this fascia to the various organs of the body in order for the body to respond to itself and the environment–scientific fact. ” – Maybe Dr. Novella would be better at this, but this appears to be a non-sequitur. Whether true or not, they haven’t established that acupuncture manipulates this in their desired way.

    “All pharmaceuticals are harmful to the body–fact.” – straw man. Yes, any drug or therapy can be harmful if you are taking it when you don’t need to or take too much of it. Drinking too much water can be fatal, but we don’t say that water is dangerous. Or, I could claim acupuncture doesn’t work because if you stick someone with sword along a medial line, they’ll bleed to death.

    “No disease is caused by a deficiency of pharmaceuticals or surgery.” – straw man. You don’t take drugs unless you already have a disease. I don’t take Advil to prevent a headache, I take it to cure a headache.

    “It will lower the cost of health care ” – Appeal to consequences. Acupuncture doesn’t work just because it be really cool if it did. Also, it doesn’t lower the costs unless it works, which is not proven.

    “By the way, the study of acupuncture is now offered at all the top medical schools in the country as well as many hospitals. ” – Appeal to common practices

  20. “Creativity will never come from the skeptics corner.”

    Nice of you to begin this discussion respectfully.

    “Fascia is a piezo-electric tissue matrix which sends a charge when stimulated either with pressure, heat, needle, meditation etc. These things are proven. Just as meditation’s effect on the brain are proven.”

    Scientists generally like to end a statement like this with a citation to the evidence that supports this belief.

    “All pharmaceuticals are harmful to the body–fact. No disease is caused by a deficiency of pharmaceuticals or surgery.”

    Again a citation would be nice. But you are correct in saying disease is not caused by a deficiency of pharm or surgery. However they can both be excellent methods of curing disease. Disease is often caused by the addition of something new to the body (bacteria, virus) or a malfunction of the body itself rather than a deficiency of any required substance. Both pharmaceuticals and/or surgery can be very effective in fighting those conditions.

    “No disease has ever been cured in the real sense of the word where you’re just as good as you were before, with allopathic medicine. Can anyone name a disease which has been cured?”

    Smallpox, pneumonia, tuberculosis, polio, jaundice, appendicitis, …

    “Our bodies built themselves and have the information on hand to correct problems if the damage is not too severe.”

    Again you are correct, and that is the best time to use complimentary and alternative treatment as the body can heal itself (such as taking echinatia for a cold). But when the damage is too severe (like with pneumonia) it’s important to drop the fake treatment and opt for a cure that has been proven such as antibiotics.

    “Get a clue. Just because you’re a skeptic doesn’t mean you’re smart or informed.”

    Once again, that’s just rude.

    “ Is there anyone on this site who can actually intelligently comment on any major branch of alternative medicine? Have you read any textbooks on the subject or had any treatments?”

    Yes, I had a doctor that referred me to both a Chiropractor and an acupuncturist for chronic hip pain. I was very open minded as I’d never heard the skeptical arguments against those forms of treatments. Both of them were able to treat my symptoms but neither were interested in curing my condition, that would end my paying sessions. Eventually, I found a physiotherapist that dealt with my condition in a scientific manner and cured my condition. His interest did not lie in keeping me as a life long paying customer but rather in treating me with the goal of eventually losing me as a patient when I was healed.

    “Research is supported by those not wanting it to work–ie the status quo AMA.”

    Again citation please?

    “By the way, the study of acupuncture is now offered at all the top medical schools in the country as well as many hospitals. Watch for the coming co-opting of Chinese Medicine by your local MD who will strip all real “Chinese” from the medicine and make it quite marginal as the Medical Acupuncturists already have.
    Tigirl”

    Argument from authority + ad-hominim attack = no proof

  21. @greenishblu:

    Oh, I agree with all that (I don’t think acupuncture *cures* anything, just perhaps temporarily eases symptoms for some – I realize now I didn’t make that clear).

    I think I’d just like to see someone run some serious clinical trials on the bigger alternative medicines, if only so that data is there as a foil to those who say modern medicine doesn’t have the answers. Clinical trial data on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of alternative treatments would be good data to have, you know? And in the long run, it would be money well spent that meant more funds could be put back into effective therapies (or just good preventive medicine, because people aren’t wasting time on alternative things that don’t work, and let whatever disease they have take a deeper hold of their systems).

    I’m also aware of how clinical trials work (and that Thalidomide was really before their time). My brother works in R&D in one of the big pharmaceutical companies. ;)

  22. @Blake Stacey:
    Alright, you’ve got me there (there’s a reason I added a qualifier to that statement). But ecology cannot directly tell us if a particular drug is effective; which is what tigirl is attacking.

    Just like I wouldn’t go to a geologist for medical advice I doubt I’d look for an ecologist. I’d much rather listen to an M.D. or a nurse or a pharmacologist.

  23. @Chasmosaur: Ah, gotcha. Yeah, we’re on the same page. :D

    —-
    A few more thoughts on tigirl’s inital comment:

    Is there anyone on this site who can actually intelligently comment on any major branch of alternative medicine? Have you read any textbooks on the subject or had any treatments?

    This is essentially the Courtier’s Reply. Just because something is written in a book somewhere doesn’t make it true. And just because people have expanded upon an idea and built this huge structure of thought around something doesn’t make it true. Only evidence can tell us what is.

    Research is supported by those not wanting it to work–ie the status quo AMA

    Wait, aren’t you the one advocating for an ancient folk treatment? Look at what medicine was like 100 years ago, 50 years ago, even 20 years ago and tell me that what we have today is the “status quo?” Modern, science-based medicine has revolutionized the way we treat disease, and continues to do so again and again.

  24. Sorry for not even reading the rest of the article or comments, but an old boyfriend of mine’s mom was an acupuncturist/chinese medicine-ist and she had some very interesting , um medicines. For example, dried donkey penis. Just makes me think (since hardcore vegans, IME, tend to also be hardcore anti-big-pharma)…

    I wonder how many vegans who wouldn’t dare ingest honey because it oppresses bees (if you ever want to continually slap yourself in the forehead, go to the craigslist vegan forum) stand by the awesomeness of Chinese medicine, just because it’s, you know, Eastern, therefore better? Ground axis deer antler anyone? (In all fairness, I think that a good amount of militant vegans would know that, they seem to think of nothing else but finding out if what they are involved with has an iota of animal in it..)

  25. She is right about the meditation thing, there have been scientifically proven positives to the practice, but I’m sure the results can be acquired by listening to relaxing music or something of the sort. Accupuncture has had mixed results. I will give her that, but that’s about all she has going for her . The rest is just ridiculous.

  26. @Chasmosaur: There probably have been studies performed on the effectiveness of alternative medicine, but even if there haven’t been any and one is undertaken, do you think someone like tigirl who insists that “research is supported by those not wanting it to work” will accept it?

  27. @Chasmosaur: Actually, serious clinical trials on major branches of CAM have been done and continue to be done. The aforementioned book, Trick or Treatment, and also another book, Snake Oil Science, do an excellent job of analyzing the data from these studies.

    Unfortunately for CAM proponents, the higher quality studies repeatedly fail to show CAM is anything other than placebo. Unfortunately for the rest of us, CAM proponents ignore these high quality studies in favor of lower quality studies that support their pre-existing beliefs.

    And to tigirl, if she happens to read this far:

    I was a die-hard CAM subscriber for nearly two decades, believing many of the same things that you espoused above. My belief, however, was not strong enough to overcome the fact that CAM-including your own specialty of acupuncture, of which I have had a combined total of three-plus years of treatment with five different practitioners in three different acupuncture modalities-utterly and totally failed to improve, let alone cure, what ailed me. A conventional MD, on the other hand, freely admitted he couldn’t cure me but offered me drugs that have dramatically improved my quality of life.

    I can only hope, tigirl, that your blind adherence to the dogma of your belief system will not prevent you from seeing when you, too, are failing to improve your patients and referring them to doctors who have far more powerful tools at their disposal than you do.

  28. Ok, just read the rest – sorry for that non-sequiter…that letter just got my general woo receptors going, and recently I’ve been fascinated by the orthorexia that the most hardcore vegans have.

    Anyway, don’t we have a cure for the clap? syphillis? Isn’t it antibiotics in both cases? Like as in mold? And after the scientists figured out that mother nature’s own mold (kind of like mother nature’s own willow bark) worked effectively in curing/treating something, it became officially “Western Medicine”?

    I sure was glad that I didn’t die because of the three times that I’ve had Strep Throat.

    Oh, and those fun Urinary Tract Infections.

    Not sure if it’s “Allopathic”, but that root canal was infinitely preferable to having an abcess that might, you know, infect my brain and kill me.

    My grandmother lives still at 82 thanks to a pig’s valve in her heart and a double mastectomy…

    I really like this part, though:”Our bodies built themselves and have the information on hand to correct problems if the damage is not too severe.”-tigirl

    Well, duh! You mean like how my boyfriend is sleeping off a nasty cold, that, as much as he is suffering right now, we are both sure that he will survive (and without acupuncture, homeopathy, chelation therapy, crystal healing, echinachia, vitamin C overdoses, etc..)?

    So, basically, in the above statement, Tigirl is saying that NO treatment (alternative or conventional) is needed when the “damage is not too severe”. Okay…so, why use alternative “medicine” if the body does a fine job itself?

    Logic fail.

  29. I’ve always thought that there may be some sort of ‘placebo’ effect with acupuncture and perhaps with many Chinese remedies too. This effect may be heightened by the fact that most people who seek out these forms of treatment expect them not only to work but also be somehow ‘better’ than more conventional treatments.
    I happen too know both a physiotherapist and a recently graduated acupuncturist. The physiotherapist generally has a good success rate with her patients and rarely has them on her books long term so this treatment should be considered effective. The acupuncturist on the other hand candidly told me that he doesn’t believe acupuncture ‘can actually ‘cure’ anything, is unsure if it can really be called a medicine but certainly seems to act to relieve some symptoms ‘
    I have never tried Chinese medicine though on numerous occasions been pointed in that direction for the treatment of eczema which I suffer from periodically. Up to this point the idea of rubbing ground tigers penis or something into my skin seems a bit too strange and the cynical me thinks they charge considerable sums of money for these treatments compared to my local pharmacy. Isn’t Chinese medicine a little unethical anyway with certain endangered species being used in it’s treatments?

  30. @greenishblu:

    Wait, aren’t you the one advocating for an ancient folk treatment? Look at what medicine was like 100 years ago, 50 years ago, even 20 years ago and tell me that what we have today is the “status quo?”

    That reminds me of something. Here in Argentina we have a TV channel dedicated to nothing but woo. It’s a continuous stream of UFOs, psychics, conspiracies, alternative medicine and so on, 24/7. Once they ran an ad for some place where they provided “non-traditional medicine”. That’s what it said in big bold letters: “non-traditional medicine“. Among them? “Chinese traditional medicine“. I swear it.

  31. “Fascia is a piezo-electric tissue matrix which sends a charge when stimulated either with pressure, heat, needle, meditation etc.”

    So that is why the French custom of kissing each cheek as a social greeting is so nice. And handshaking also. Not to mention sex. And eating. And bathing/showering in hot water. And using hair pins and socks with those tight upper bands. And walking on concrete/soil.

    Since disease is still prevalent than of course it is obvious that acupuncture at ridiculous prices given by people who do not have any educational standards to their qualification is necessary to ensure that our fasicia is stimulated enough because obviously the kind of fascia stimulation available to us by the mere dint of being alive is not enough. Just like it is the fault of some people who just don’t pray hard enough to get what they want.

    The above garbled gook of a quote from tigirl is the kind of creativity tigirl promotes. A better word would be creative misrepresentation—an euphemism for willful ignorance/ lying. Not only does tigirl need to get herself over to Science-Based Medicine (http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/), she needs to find out what creativity means because scientific achievement is full of creativity, the real kind. For starters, tigirl should investigate how Lorenzo’s oil came to being.

  32. I practice ‘alternative mechanics’ and am also very qualified in mechanics – I have a PhD in physics, so I know everything about cars. Obviously none of _you_ are qualified to say anything about alternative mechanics because you don’t believe in it.

    For example, when my car starts blowing fumes I go hug its front left wheel, because there’s tubes from the breaks that go into the engine. These are called ‘hydraulic lines’, and they work by the principle of fluid dynamics.

    All mechanical interventions harm your car – scientific fact. Using a spanner will only un-adjust something and make it worse. And greedy mechanics are expensive; we could all save a lot of money by practicing alternative mechanics instead. Now if you will excuse me my car’s engine is overheating so I need to go blow through the exhaust pipe.

  33. A nice lively discussion. I do understand the seduction of alternative medicine – my late wife battled metastatic breast cancer for several years. One thing becaue quite clear – it is important to have hope in order to endure the seemingly endless treatments and treatments for the treatments (ad nauseum – sorry about that). And what is going to give a person hope will have a large subjective component.

    My wife and I had a deal – we would jointly pursue anything she wanted, provided she informed her oncologist in advance of *treatment* and he told her the *alternative* would not interfere with her ongoing treatments. There were a couple of instances in which some pursuit was vetoed, but this seemed to work out generally well (because she was able to have some hope when her doctor basically offered her no hope and a grim future.)

    I believe that some of the reason for this is partially accounted for by a mind-body effect. An aspect of it gets referred to as *placebo* but I believe it should be elaborated upon a bit more as there can be a tendency to dismiss this too lightly.

    While I have my body, mind, and *sole* firmly entrenched in the western medicine camp, there were several reasons that it made sense not to fight the alternative medicine predators at every turn. Besides the hope factor, I do believe in a mind-body connection at some level.

    Part of the support for this was an interesting article in Shermer’s publication about alternative medicine and the anonymized double-blind study so important to practically everything, including efficacy of medical treatments. It does appear that patients do respond to quack treatments when their *physician* believes in the efficacy of the quack treatment sufficiently to persuade the patient that it will be beneficial (or at least is persuasive enough when not believing in it).

    The discussion certainly was not conclusive, nor was the testing rigorous, but it does seem to rise above the noise level of many claims.

    Unfortunately one of the metrics that will convince some people that the alternative treatment is beneficial is directly related to the price that they pay for it (money, inconvenience, pain, etc.) – Of course the *solution* is education so this mind-body connection aligns itself more towards beneficial treatments and is able to dismiss the superstitious ones.

    While I am mostly disgusted (that is not a strong enough word) with most of alternative medicine and its practitioners and while I agree with much of what was written above, I felt compelled to offer a concurring opinion with lots ‘o dicta.

    As I think about it, it may have been the same Shermer publication addressing the double-blind anonymous studies that included an interesting partial discussion/debunk to at least some chinese medicine/acupunture procedures/claims.

    Y_S_G: Alternative Medicine is Dead (oh if only it were true…)

  34. I have to say there is something to acupuncture – whether it be placebo or through the empirical process, it helped me quite a bit.

    Short story of my experience: stomach pains, saw a doctor, they refused to give me any sedative for sigmoidoscopy every time I planned a check. Took 9 months and one bogus 30 day prescription of Ativan for “panic attacks” to make me switch to another health provider. Jerks.

    Meanwhile I had a acupuncturist ( a good one – not just “your in, I’ll stab you, and you’re out”) treat my chronic pain. It fixed my back and my stomach and some good recommendations on diet. It really fixed the pain and lost 26 pounds without drugs.

    Now for the odd part: I decided to stop going and two weeks after my would-be scheduled appointment, it all came back BIG time.

    I eventually got a sigmoid (all clear) kept on the diet, incorporated more exercise and discovered the issue had to do with my posture when sitting and diet . Now the issue is gone.

    My conclusion: acupuncture is great as a medical accessory for chronic pain and I’d recommend it if you had knee surgery, back pain, etc. But as a form of “cure”, no way in hell.

  35. Wow! Looks like tigirl stepped on an ant hill! Let’s step back and look at the logic in some of the responses. But first, let me say that she has succeeded in stimulating one part of most of you: your knee-jerk response. I doubt we actually understand (any more than she doe) what she means by “cure.” If she means that the body must be returned to the state it was in before it contracted the disease, in most cases that is impossible. My heart disease was “cured” by a pig valve, but my heart is not the same. My lung disease is moderated by the medications that I take, but it cannot be cured.

    Saying acupuncture cannot cure cancer, however, is as asinine as some of her rant. Tetracycline did not cure my heart disease, but no one suggested that it would. Yes, some charlatans will claim anything. But to generalize for the sake of argument is a poor use of the forum this provides.

    I am a strong believer (and unfortunately a frequent user) of Western Medicine. I have had surgeries and treatments, medications and tests. I have placed my faith in doctors who have given me (for the most part) sound and curative advice.

    That said, when my Physician (roughly 30 years ago) confronted the fact that I could not place any weight on my ankle after all proper treatment of the fracture had been tried, he suggested acupuncture. It was only then that I learned that he had practiced medicine for nearly forty years, but had taken a year-long sabbatical to hike throughout China. He did not learn acupuncture from some new-wave artsy-fartsy incense school. He learned it on the ground in China. After his treatment, I put down my crutches and walked normally ever after. Did he stimulate the piezo-electric fascia? I sincerely doubt it. Did he readjust my yin? No.

    But it worked.

    I keep my pharmacist and various medical specialists in new cars and clothes. But I still can’t explain how aspirin (specifically) works on the body.

    It simply works.

    That that native in the rain forest chews leaves to get the same chemical I get from Bayer doesn’t make him a fool. It means that my access to medicines differs from his. We still might discover that his leaves have more compounds that are beneficial to us.

    We should benefit from dissing the Wooo, but also from keeping an open mind when those who are not totally enamored by the woo suggest that there is something of value outside of our own understanding.

  36. Two points. First, “Can anyone name a disease which has been cured?” reminds me of this little gambit over at Sensuous Curmudgeon:

    In the 150 years of dedicated study that has gone into evolution, the evidence for the theory has hardly changed.

    To quote Lewis Black, “I had to remember to breathe.”

    Second, I’m also reminded of that fact that there are a few hundred peer-reviewed papers are in the literature that evaluate specific effects of traditional Chinese remedies (typically in low-profile Chinese journals). I’m skeptical that such studies will lead to major medical breakthroughs, but at least they’re submitting their claims to experimentation and scientific review.

  37. Meditation does have physiological effects, it raises NO levels.

    Acupuncture is a placebo. Sham acupuncture (using fake needles that don’t break the skin) works better than “real” acupuncture. My explanation is that sham acupuncture is a better placebo because it doesn’t break the skin. The placebo effect is mediated through NO, pain and injury cause stress which decreases NO. Sham acupuncture causes less pain and injury so it is a better placebo than real acupuncture.

    http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/2007/04/placebo-and-nocebo-effects.html

  38. Couple things.

    First off, I greatly admire the civil, intelligent comments in this thread, which could have easily and quickly devolved into vitriol.

    Second, I think it would only be fair to let tigirl know about this thread, and allow her to comment since my mama taught me that it’s not nice to say things about people without letting them respond.

    Of course, doing so might introduce that vitriolic posting that I just decried… just my two cents.

  39. What’s frightening to me is just how many people, particularly medical providers, buy into this garbage and defend it as if it were scientific. I’ve spent a good part of this day debating the safety of aspartame with a very intelligent person whose friends in the medical community swear aspartame is dangerous. It has become very clear to me that having a science degree does not guarantee that a person will have good critical thinking skills or that they will use those skills when they are needed most.

  40. Thalidomide’s responsibility for an entire generation of children born with birth defects is certainly one of 20th century medicine’s darkest moments right up there with the Tuskegee Experiment in terms of the amount of shame it represents to the medical field. That said, I find it interesting that Thalidomide is being cited as an example of one of medicine’s greatest failures on this thread. You might be interested to know it is experiencing quite a renaissance in terms of it’s utility in treating complications related to Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) and Multiple Myeloma. Granted, it’s administration is being very tightly controlled by the FDA for obvious reasons, but it’s an excellent example of how an evidence based treatment paradigm corrects its mistakes and learns from them. (albeit too late for many of the afflicted, but when was the last time the CAM community as a whole stopped a treatment because it was dangerous or just plain ineffective?)

  41. Vene–
    As possibly the only person reading this that’s a member of the Ecological Society of America, I’d like to point this out:
    http://abstracts.co.allenpress.com/pweb/esa2006/category/58898

    Nearly every one of our meetings and journals covers the environment/human health connection in some way.

    Having said that–on to tigirl.

    I just can’t really respond effectively to tigirl’s rant, because it touches me personally on so many levels. As a person with epilepsy, I’d be unemployed (and possibly dead) without my drugs. Instead, I’m helping to run one of the largest inland research stations in the US.
    I’m a poster child for better living through chemistry.

    I tried acupuncture, and I found it very restful–because you have to sit *extremely* still for a half hour in a darkened room. Basically, it’s meditation with needles. Did it make my seizures stop? No. Did I feel better? Um, sort of. It’s a good placebo.

    Acupuncture has failed utterly in most clinical trials. But clearly tigirl isn’t interested in that, since she’s using the words “fact” and “proof” in ways that scientists really….don’t.

    Several folks have already dissected her email effectively, so I’ll just address scientific creativity. To say that scientists are not creative is utter shite.

    For example: Entomologists that work on blood feeding insects have come up with many, many extremely creative ways to feed these insects. While I was in grad school, a fellow student patented a way to feed mosquitoes with blood, condoms, and an aquarium heater. :D

    All scientists have to create and jury-rig constantly, since we are inventing ahead of the edge of manufacturing. Not knowing that tells me tigirl hasn’t experienced the joy of science as it’s practiced. And I’m sorry for that.

  42. As someone who was diagnosed with epilepsy as a child, and a person who also believes in the Scientific process, I have to give my mom credit for trying alt medicine for my condition. The treatment was a blend of sensory integration (special exercises, etc) and diet change (no process flour, sugars, whole grains, etc). The doctors believed I wouldn’t talk again, but here I am a jabber mouth, no seizures, no meds.

    Did I grow out of it? Was my case extremely mild? Did the doctors mis-diagnose me? Who knows. All I know is that I am lucky.

    Alt medicine and western medicine are both faith based institutions from the consumer and professional level. Alt medicine (like Chinese) has literally thousands of years of trial and error – which can be misguided by false positives and greed (see snake oil, crystals, 30 min acupuncture sessions). Western medicine has the scientific process – which can also be misguided by false positives and greed (see anti-psychotics for Alzheimer patients, recalled drugs via deaths/lawsuits, and doctors prescribing placebos).

    In my opinion, it’s a wash. They both have many success stories and some failures. Being a skeptic isn’t about having a belief system of criticism; it’s about being a scientist, thinking for yourself, and having a willingness to thoughtfully consider new data. White papers aren’t gospel.

  43. “You’ll die screaming in pain, and sadly you may vomit up all that buttermilk.”

    Thank you for that hilarious image. (Bursting appendix + screaming CAM lady + buttermilk all over the place)

  44. “…if you look up “natural” ways to treat appendicitis, you may be convinced all you need is a little buttermilk. Meanwhile, your appendix will be oozing pus out into your abdominal cavity, which will soon become infected. You’ll die screaming in pain, and sadly you may vomit up all that buttermilk.”

    I nearly coughed up a testicle laughing after “and sadly you may vomit up all that buttermilk.” I managed to keep it down, though I briefly had two adam’s apples, and had to swallow, hard.

  45. Creativity…

    Weren’t the scientists who put space in a plane to explain gravity? Where was alternative medicine when scientists built mechanical models of the solar system to explain heliocentrism and even the contrary? What about the power that runs your computer or the system that preserves your food in the freezer?

    I can even think of a joke about inserting meat needles!

    Geez…

  46. GossamerS wrote:

    In my opinion, it’s a wash. They both have many success stories and some failures.

    Can you name the success stories of alt med in the 20’th and 21’st Centuries, please? The thing you’re missing is, if something new turns out to work, it stops being “alt”.

    For instance, back at the beginning of the 21’st, the Chinese herb “sweet wormwood” seemed to have a powerful antimalarial effect. Within a few years, the drug Artemisinin was being used against quinine-resistant Plasmodium infections all over the world. Not “alternative” any more.

  47. @GossamerS: In my opinion, it’s a wash.

    ———–

    Well, thanks for informing me that I can ignore your opinion, because that is just made of stupid.

    Not that you, yourself are stupid. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not insulting you. I’m just saying that what you said lowered the collective IQ of every reader of this blog by a solid 5 points. That happens sometimes.

    I mean, seriously, a “wash”? I have one name for you: Lister. The guy who came up with the idea of washing surgical instruments. Probably saved hundreds of millions of lives.

    You know who didn’t come up with the idea that you should wash acupuncture needles before use? Right. Traditional chinese medicine. Probably passed millions of infections.

    A “wash”? Hardly.

  48. Welp, sorry if I didn’t mention every super awesome creative and excellent skeptic guys. :P There’s so many to choose from I don’t think I could possibly name them all. Just this site alone is bursting with wonderful humor, zany ideas and also monkeys.

  49. “Creativity will never come from the skeptics corner.”

    In fact Skepticism promotes creativity, because we find real-world solutions to problems instead of depending on magic, spiritualism and nonsense.

    Creativity will never come from the “true believers” corner. Things aren’t the way you want them to be simply because you want them to be that way. Ignoring the evidence and inventing fake paradigms is not creative, it’s just a tragic waste if intellect.

  50. Hi, I’m new to this blog and this is my first time commenting. I blog occasionally on Gooznews and am a regular reader of SBM, Respectful Insolence, Denialism and Neurologica.

    “All pharmaceuticals are harmful to the body–fact.” It would be nice to know her definition of “harmful.” All drugs have side effects, but the side effects can only be determined through placebo-controlled trials, and even then it is often difficult to know if a side effect is truly caused by a drug. Moreover, in the vast majority of cases a side effect only occurs in some percentage of users, not all users. If I take an aspirin, have I harmed myself? Not in any way that can be proven or measured. In any group of aspirin users, some percentage will experience adverse effects, such as internal bleeding. But to say everyone who pops an aspirin for a headache has experienced “harm” is just not supported by any facts that I’m aware of.

    If she means that the harms of drugs always outweigh the benefits, that is clearly not true. It is true that drugs are sometimes prescribed in situations when the potential benefit is smaller than the potential harm. However, in most cases that is due to an error on the part of the prescriber, or to a lack of sufficient data on the drug’s benefits and risks. These are problems that can be and generally are dealt with through mainstream medicine, although sometimes not as well or as quickly as we would like.

    Is mainstream medicine perfect? No. No human endeavor is. In my opinion, that is not a reason to turn to treatments that are unproven or even in some cases potentially harmful.

    The idea that the popularity of CAM has resulted in cost savings is not supported by any facts I know of. On the contrary, CAM practitioners are making money by fleecing, er, I mean charging fees to millions of gullible people. I include in this statement the increasing number of academic medical centers who have latched onto the CAM fad in order to have a nice additional source of revenue. In cases where CAM is covered by insurance that only makes the problem worse because it encourages more use of CAM.

    Marilyn Mann

  51. What is remarkably sad to me is the ignorance about how these beliefs really hurt people. I don’t think that tigirl realizes just how harmful the belief that modern medicine does more harm than good really is. A very dear friend of mine died several years ago because of it. She bought in to all sorts of common CAM practices like reiki, acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, homeopathy etc etc. She had a serious mistrust of doctors and modern medicine and that mistrust was I believe, a contributing factor in her death. She had a type of cancer with very good treatment success rate but didn’t see a doctor for regular checkups that all women should get so it was missed. She became more and more ill over the course of the year and was seeing some alt med practitioner who kept taking her money but obviously didn’t refer her to a real doctor when her symptoms continued to worsen.
    By the time she did see a doctor, it wasn’t by choice. She was in respiratory distress and had to be flown in to the hospital where her cancer was diagnosed. Four days later she was dead. That is how CAM does harm. I am sad to say that my road to skepticism was found because of it.

  52. The notion of “thousands of years” of Chinese medicine is total credulous crap, not to mention a myth perpetrated by CAM supporters and the simply uninformed. The following articles and power point presentation are great sources of information.

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=252
    http://drspinello.com/altmed/acuvet/acuvet_files/frame.htm
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?cat=8

    Modern scientific medicine is self correcting. CAM holds on to unproven ineffective modalities and makes NO changes when faced with evidence and solid research. I suppose it takes creativity to maintain the necessary delusion to believe in fantasies, ferry tales, and made up bunk. The only other option is to accept that you are a con and are taking money and providing nothing more than smells and bells and placebos. I really do think a pathological thinking process or criminal motivations are really the only options available to CAM practitioners.

    And when it comes to cancer and other significant treatable illnesses the whole issue becomes much more serious. CAM has not added a single day of life to a single cancer patient’s life. In fact CAM has KILLED many cancer patients who could have been successfully treated by science based medicine. I have seen well meaning parents cause their infants permanent organ damage and life long disability as a result of treating a child with natural CAM potions instead of seeking appropriate medical care. I’ve seen other children die as a result of parents wanting to treat their child with “natural” medications.

    This discussion is not just about beliefs, philosophies and the validity of ones arguments. The efficacy CAM is supported by only the thinnest strand of delusions, lies and misunderstandings about science, evidence and human biology and those who advocate these forms of treatment for serious and otherwise treatable diseases should be considered frauds and often criminally responsible for the harm they cause.

    Imagine that, hope and belief can get you or your children killed.

  53. As a biologist, you’d think something about homeostasis might have crossed her desk-like, “gee, my body’s own homeostatic restoration mechanism are insufficient to REMOVE THIS BULLET IN MY FRACKING CHEST and I could go for a little bit of surgery, to help things along,” or “gee, this particular strain of staph, locked in a fierce evolutionary struggle to gain nutrients from my body against my will, has acquired the upper hand against my innate defensive mechanisms which are insufficient to REMOVE THIS PUS FROM MY FRACKING CHEST and I could use a spot of tetracyclin to clear it up.” Look like instances of insufficient surgery and pharmaceuticals to me.

    And I don’t know what biology class at Bob’s College was calling fascia a “piezo-electric tissues,” but last time I checked, the sheaths of my muscles were incapable of igniting barbeques, much to my chagrin.

  54. Well, my definition of curing a disease is that an individual gets a disease and then they get treated and then they no longer have any symptoms and are no longer contagious without continuing treatment.

    Syphilis definitely fits that bill. It used to drive people mad and kill them. Now it can be cured simply with some anti-biotics. Pretty sure clamidia is easily curable as well.

  55. I got as far as the first sentence before realising I’m going to have to add another name to the list of people we in the Pharmaceutical Industry have to oppress.

    Really it’s just a big conspriacy, we’ve devoted years and years of ours lives to our careers of inventing diseases and keeping people sick. We’re all sadistic b*stard who want people to suffer so we can make huge profits out of them. We’ve got a cure for AIDS and Cancer but we ain’t sharing ’em with you. MMMUUUUUHAHAHA

  56. You know, re-reading tigirl’s post I’m begining to wonder if she’s the lady acuputurist I had a row with on the train after giving a lecture on Pharma type stuff, a couple of weeks back.

    Same arguements, same fallacies, the lot In the end I told her to check on skepchick (whoops, sorry everyone) to show that Skepticism isn’t “Male Biased” or that I was “Narrow Minded” because I didn’t believe in accupuncture.

  57. @Amanda: Nor do I remember *seeing it* in gross anatomy.

    @Saber: I like how the amazing, unbiased source is acupuncture.com

    Tigirl: You know what else can help depression treatments in stroke patients? Actual known effective treatments for depression. Why use acupuncture in an elderly person who is weakened and may develop sores or an infection from broken skin when medication, therapy, exercise, and diet (note the *and*, not an *or*) are already effective? And demonstrated as effective with studies, not alt med “effective” where you just say it’s effective and magically it is so.

    It seems to me that CAM promoters think CAM works insofar as they can say it works. So it “works” for a nebulous symptom, but not for specific medical emergencies such as a bullet wound. So they can get away with saying a lot of things and fooling a lot of people because it’s designed to be used for minor things with minor consequences. However, the problem is that this mentality leads people to dangerous places like trying to cure their cancer etc with CAM. There is no substitute (or “alternate” as they prefer) for real, effective medicine unless there is nothing wrong with you – or you want to die.

    PS Sorry I’m late to the party. Just got my internet connection back! Yay!

  58. @russellsugden: Ugh that’s my favorite. In CLASS with a bunch of future health professionals (and the TA) I was told I was Western biased and closed-minded because I asked the question “what if my client asks about something bogus like homeopathy?” (because I’m not a doctor and can’t really give them that kind of advice – I wanted to know if I was allowed to tell them it’s garbage without getting sued). Sigh…

  59. Fellow Godless Heathens –

    Dang, I just got in from my weekend and had no idea that a mini-storm happened from my last post. Some of you really take this stuff seriously – to the point of anonymous anger.

    I did want to clarify a few things as my lame attempts in writing short posts that obviously went flat. So I’ll zero in on the keywords/phrases some folks had an issue with.

    “it’s a wash” – I should have been more clear. The “wash” occurs where the patient experiences benefits from both Western and/or Alt medicine, or personal empirical (inductive) data. I hope no one mis-read my own experiences of Alt medicine and Western medicine: acupuncture only *helped* alleviate my *symptoms* and provided a better diet plan than Western Medicines doctrine of the food pyramid. BUT western medicine was able to *CURE* the issue and provided the necessary feedback (posture, 25+ pounds of visceral fat pushing against my intestine, bad diet and stress) that acupuncture couldn’t provide. From a scientific view of curing, Science wins. But until more research is conducted between acupuncture and acupressure, it may be a good aid for those who may have poor reactions to prescriptions or the processes of western medicine. (see the cancer.gov link below). I always find it interesting when a placebo works just as well.

    In my then-acupuncturist’s defense: he recommended doctor visits and freely admitted he didn’t have answers beyond the limits of acupuncture. He used to work for Ames/NASA as a scientist which is why I chose him: he knew the scientific process and was happy to explain my skeptical questions. While I don’t agree with much he said (except that the Giants would win the superbowl last year), he’d be awesome to have on this board.

    “Thousands of years of Chinese medicine” Yup. Confirmed:

    http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/acupuncture

    or

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acupuncture#Antiquity

    I’m not defending CAM as a cure at all, but I hope we’re not saying in the same breath that Western medicine doesn’t have it’s own malpractice issues or inadvertently causes death through its treatments. Anybody here allergic to penicillin? And I agree: at least those scientific treatments have been tested, have data to back them up, etc.

    “Science is faith based” – Alright, alright, I’ll change it to “Science can be faith based.” My bad there. I should have stated that as more opinion than statement because going into it would be a really long(er) winded post and best discussed over bourbon and a warm fire. That’s the downside of these comment boards: a real discussion with all of us would have gone till 3 am, but instead for some, it has taken all weekend :^(

    Thanks for insightful comments and look forward to agreeing with you all on a more regular basis :^)

  60. @GossamerS: From a scientific view of curing, Science wins. But until more research is conducted between acupuncture and acupressure, it may be a good aid for those who may have poor reactions to prescriptions or the processes of western medicine.

    —————

    So, by “wash” you mean that on the one hand, science actually works, and on the other, acupuncture might not be completely useless?

    If I understand you correctly, you realize that if you put CAM to the same tests as SBM (that’s “science based medicine”), CAM is an epic fail. But if you allow for cases where CAM works “just as well” as placebo, CAM is just great? And you consider that to be “a wash”?

    Wow. Well, I can’t imagine how I didn’t get that one.

    Well, here’s what you aren’t getting: Yes, some people are allergic to penicillin. They might even die if they are given penicillin. However, penicillin actually saves lives. With CAM, you have the death and malpractice part, but not the saving lives part.

    See the difference?

  61. There have been some good studies about acupuncture that show that it is no better than placebo. The most recent Skeptic Mag. has a good article about this. I found it interesting that this method is not even mentioned in Chinese text until about 400 (I don’t have the article in front of me so this number may be off) years ago. That’s not all that ancient.

    Science itself is not and cannot be faith based or it’s not science. Only those who do not understand it take it on faith. Doctors use science to diagnose, not faith. The patient may take it on faith because they don’t understand how the science was applied and are dependent on the doctor. Science should always be evidence based and if it’s not, then it’s called pseudoscience, thereby rendering useless and unreliable.

  62. @Kimbo Jones: A clever choice of words is required. You can say it’s Humbug, Hogwash or Rot without any trouble.

    George Galloway (who to be frank has, hmm, an interesting relationship with sanity) is the past master of “insults you can use without being sued”. He called Blair a “Toadying lickspittle monteback” for example

  63. @GossamerS:
    NO acupuncture is NOT thousands of years old.

    Sorry the wiki article is not complete, contains conjecture and unreliable souorces and statements with no source noted, and does not contain the necessary information to assert that acupuncture (as we know it today) has been around thousands of years. Please READ the articles I posted above. They are informative and contain actual facts and research. Also the wiki article contains some of the “false stories” and inaccuracies that are debunked in the research contained the articles I mentioned. I reference them again for your convenience.

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=252
    http://drspinello.com/altmed/acuvet/acuvet_files/frame.htm
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?cat=8

    Also the cancer dot gov site is replete with the claims of CAM and Alt/med supporters and does not reflect the current research and findings from proper double blinded studies. It should also be noted that if a web site, even a government one, says something is true that is not an argument that supports the assertion. That is an argument from authority and has no merit.

    @DNAmom: In fact some studies have shown that in fact placebo is more effective then acupuncture. Hard to imagine what could be more discrediting than that.

  64. I could laugh at all the alt medicine silliness, but that creativity crack really hurt my feelings. To treat that, perhaps I can find someone to compliment my acting; dilute that compliment in a large amount of distilled water; drink same and have my feelings cured.

  65. Sorry that this is a little irrelevant, but as someone who is currently living in china I felt that I should point out that I’ve come across quite a few clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies, but in the three or four months I’ve lived here I’ve yet to come across an acupuncturist (though some pharmacies also seem to sell traditional medicines alongside the western.)
    If that system is supposed to be gaining some sort of legitimacy through its status as a Chinese tradition, does it lose that authority when the Chinese themselves are replacing it with western medicine?

  66. @RevChas:
    But don’t worry. Even though the final product won’t contain a single molecule of the original water, it will retain a “memory” of the water…

    Wait a minute, shouldn’t t a homeopathic water treatment actually make you thirsty, since your body is supposed to react contrary to the usual effect of the “treatment?”

  67. I realize that I’m coming in a bit late on this thread, but it’s worth pointing out that several varieties of cancer, (that dread disease that modern medicine doesn’t want cured because they make so much money from keeping people ill) are now curable, where they were uniformly fatal just a few years ago.

  68. Most studies have shown minimal effect with acupuncture, and even some better effect with a sham (placebo) acupuncture ( episode 8 [maybe iTunes?] or http://www.quackcast.com/epodcasts/files/4c72791d47f917028917742d14ddaaee-23.html or http://www.quackcast.com/epodcasts/files/d9245bf07ad6d889d1367d7d81dd9db5-29.html)

    Sorry, I’m not sure where the info is, you could also go to the references page (http://www.quackcast.com/page8/page8.html).

    I too would like to hear of all the diseases cured by the SCAMs. I mean, actual verified illness, not some guy saying he had cancer but was cured by foot pads.

  69. Get a load of this article:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/13/health/13auti.html?_r=1&8dpc

    The poor guy gets death threats from the anti-vaccine kooks who can’t accept that sometimes terribly thing happen to perfectly innocent people (i.e. their kids are born with autism) for no good reason other than bad luck.

    Even a fictitious soap opera pimp like me knows better than to blame autism on vaccines. Suck it up people and stop chasing a red herring.

    BCT………….

  70. Umm, before spending time and money on studies of “how and why acupunture works”, wouldn’t it be wise first to determine whether it does work and if so, for what ailments and under what conditions?

    Scientific medicine has more than once incorporated treatments that were demonstrated to be effective even though knowledge of how and why they worked was lacking. Examples:

    Jenner’s experiments provided good evidence that cowpox infection produced immunity to smallpox by the beginning of the 19th Century, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that a pure virus (not the smallpox virus) was isolated. Before that, we had no more hope of understanding cross-immunity to pox viruses than we had of understanding just what the causative agent in smallpox really was.

    Clinical trials proved that penicillin could cure a variety of bacterial infections by the early 1840s, but knowledge of the structure of the penicillin molecule and understanding of how it killed harmful bacteria and why it didn’t harm eukaryotic cells came later.

    Prove that it does work and real medicine will adopt it- and then figure out how and why it works. Spend your time hypothesizing about the “how and why” of a pet unsupported treatment and you’re just going to get left.

  71. @somethingwitty: some of the benefits of meditation are benefits of the relaxation it introduces. For these benefits, anything that relaxes you will likely have similar results — however, the relaxation one can experience while meditating is profoundly greater than any other relaxation technique I know of.

    Specifically, it seems that meditation has many of the same benefits as a deep sleep, with the advantage that meditation can be better controlled.

    Additionally, there are other benefits of meditation as related to mental function (focus, memory, etc.) that aren’t entirely explained by the relaxation aspect. I seem to recall that research is being done on the topic using fMRI, hopefully I’ll be able to actually understand the results. ;-)

    Unfortunately, because such things (reduced stress, physical rest) do so often contribute to our natural recovery abilities, the CAM kooks like to think of it as a miracle cure. Things like this are pernicious because there’s an inch of truth that makes the lie easier to believe.

  72. What is it that makes people so trusting of any institution that wears the mantle of science? After all, you can’t test everything yourself and a lot of your information is going to be based on trusting the character and integrity of whatever source you get it from. We know from politics that this is hardly wise. From an early age, people are indoctrinated not just into science but also into the *culture* of scientific institutions. A knee-jerk conflation of the high ideals of verification and testability with these quite fallible establishments leads to a lack of questioning simply because most people cannot be experts in everything, but seem to need to trust that *somebody* knows what they are doing, ignoring all of the times that popular science has had to reverse its positions. Ridiculous.

    If you want to defend science, learn its principles and test things yourself. If you trust *only* the word of self-professed experts, you are not a skeptic, but a sycophant of bureaucracy, and unworthy of that title…

    The average person is unaware that _lack_ of consensus in the scientific community even exists, and ignorant of the all-too-human rancor among competing theories and scientific philosophies which lobby for quite selfish reasons at times to make sure their views are put into public policy. We have made a religion–not of science–but of scientists and doctors, as if questioning their game is the same as questioning science itself. I do not defend crude methods and assumptions but I do defend skepticism when it comes to human nature and the status quo.

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