Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why The Public Can't Tell What Is Valid And What Is Pseudoscience

Why, you asked? Because some time established facilities that one put trusts on also can't tell the difference and even promote quackery.

I can see if some fly-by-night operator or scam artist to fall for such a thing, but a "hospital"? A Sutter Lakeside Hospital somewhere in California is having its first Health and Wellness Expo, and it is a doosey, folks! Here are the attendees/participants/vendors that got highlighted.

Lucerne resident Margaret Rowson said she came to see Dr. Fred Allen Wolf, theoretical physicist, who was interviewed in the film "What the Bleep Do We Know." Wolf was one of the two keynote speakers.

What? A reputable physicist from UCLA, USC, Berkeley, UC-San Diego, UC-Santa Barbara, etc. were all busy? You had to find someone who appeared in a crackpot movie?

But it gets better...

A couple separately offering homeopathy and acupuncture had a booth as well, and spoke of their plans to make their services available at the Wellness Center in June.

Kinda expected, isn't it?

The problem here is that medical establishment like a hospital symbolizes what we know works in medicine, which presumably is based on solid science and clinical studies. When it endorses things like this which either have not been scientifically shown to be valid, or when it mixes dubious physics with valid ones, the public can't tell which is which and simply considers all of them to be on the SAME level of validity. "Hey, if my hospital endorses it, it must be OK". I'm just surprised they don't have an astrologer on hand to do medical screenings.

So shame on them for turning their backs on the very methodology that they exist on.



JC said...

We were fighting scurvy and rickets for years before linus pauling's science caught up with the medicine and explained what caused them.

Would you have had us wait until the 20th century for your science to catch up before allowing our hospitals to treat these diseases?

Personally, I think homeopathy is all in the head. Acupuncture on the other hand has a demonstrable effect on the nervous system. And from personal experience it dealt with a serious sleep disorder much better than any of the 'conventional' treatments you'd have recommended.

The real reason people believe pseudoscience is because self-declared 'rational' people like yourself keep getting it wrong.

ZapperZ said...

Er... come again? Where did we get things "wrong"?

We IMPROVE our understanding once we figure out what works, and WHEN it doesn't work. We then study what we don't know yet until we understand them and expand the boundary of our knowledge.

But NOTE: we IMPROVE on our understanding of something that is valid. We are not STILL STUCK at first base in trying to show the existence of such a phenomenon. Pseudosciences such as "homeopathy" etc., after so many years, are still stuck in the "discovery" phase and can't get past first base! Years and years, and one clinical study after another still can't show evidence convincingly that it works and it is valid.

Look, I really don't care what you do with your body or how you wish to treat it. If this was done at some private affair, I wouldn't have given it a second look. But for it to associate itself with valid, hard science will confuse the matter to people who don't know any better. If you think these things works and are NEVER WRONG, then sell it on its own merit rather than having it coattail on established science which you obviously have no respect for (try NOT flying in an aircraft using such "keep getting wrong" ideas).

It is really funny when science is accused of being wrong. Obviously, this is because pseudoscience, to paraphrase Peter Woit, is NOT EVEN WRONG!


JC said...

I'm not accusing science of being wrong.

I'm accusing the people who blindly follow conventional medicine without knowing why and disregard every type of alternative medicine as if that were some type of logical progression.

That kind of absolute thinking is what keeps people suspect of conventional wisdom.

ZapperZ said...

But that makes even LESS sense! Conventional medicine IS Science! What about people who "blindly" follow alternative medicine DESPITE it having even LESS of an evidence than conventional medicine? Alternative medicine managed to wiggle out of having the same level of evidence and clinical studies as conventional medicine. Yet, there are people here like you who somehow are championing their causes as IF they are on equal, solid grounds! If they seem to think that they work, why not subject it to the same rigorous studies as conventional medicine? Do I need to go into all the recent debacle with "natural" medicine that had resulted in severe health problems? How come you never worry about THAT, especially considering that no one is looking after the safety of these things in the first place?


Anonymous said...

JC makes an interesting point that ends up undermining his own position.

Sure, we were fighting scurvy and rickets before we even knew what caused them. However, the key point is there was an obvious causal relationship: eat citrus fruits and avoid scurvy, for example. Obviously there wasn't a rigorous scientific study about this, but the causal relationship was there, awaiting a theory.

The difference is, despite serious scientific studies, the case for acupuncture and homeopathy are nil to zero. That's pretty damning.

JC said...


It makes no sense to you that medicine has oft been ahead of science?

As the previous poster mentioned, it's about making use of observed causal relationships before understanding them.


I guess you pulled that last comment out of the ether without checking it first.

Acupunture has a measurable effect on the nervous system and brain, and is particularly effective at treating pain, stress and sleep related disorders. the chinese knew this at least 2000 years ago, and what we have in common with them is that we still don't understand why it works.

Science hasn't quite caught up with medicine yet.

ZapperZ said...

Er.. investigating causal relationship IS science! Why are you differentiating between the two? Or don't you know that is what science does?

Do you think there is CONVINCING causal relationship in homeopathy? If there is, show a scientific consensus that this has been established. All we have are weak, anecdotal "evidence", which is NOT science.

The issue here, which has been muddled in all of this, and which I stated in my blog, is NOT trying to convince people of the validity (or not) of alternative medicine and all these crackpottery. The issue here is confusing people that established medicine and these so-called alternative medicine are on the SAME level of certainty, as if they are on equal ground. THEY ARE NOT!

So far nothing that what you've said here has changed or even challenged that. So why are you even wasting your time?


JC said...

"investigating causal relationship IS science! Why are you differentiating between the two?"

I said "making use of causal relationships", not investigating them. Science is both, or don't you know what science does?

"Do you think there is CONVINCING causal relationship in homeopathy?"

No, not at all. And I've already said as much. Have you been reading my posts or not?

"The issue here is confusing people that established medicine and these so-called alternative medicine are on the SAME level of certainty"

Much conventional medicine is hit-and-miss, and unexplained. No-one knows why lithium works in treating depression, for example.

The mistake you're making is to assume that all conventional medicine is on the same level, it is not, and neither is all alternative medicine.

None of this is a revelation to those who work in conventional, or alternative medicine, btw.

ZapperZ said...

And where does alternative medicine make use of causal relationship? Where are those clinical research on the SAME level of scrutiny done as conventional medicine? In fact, whenever many of these alternative medicine are put under such scrutiny, they fail!

And you should talk about lumping everything under one roof since you are basically doing the same thing with conventional science.

I still say that there are MORE proper clinical studies and proper causal relationship established in conventional medicine than there are in alternative medicine. As Bob Park has often mentioned, if alternative medicine works, they wouldn't be called "alternative". You have not given any evidence that this isn't the case.

Again, I have NO idea on why you initiated this comment based on what I've written in my blog. Unless you got bored and simply wish to engage in mindless and pointless discussion.....