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Alternative Medical Mythology

Discussion in 'General Issues and Discussion Forum' started by W J Liggins, Aug 3, 2011.

  1. W J Liggins

    W J Liggins Well-Known Member

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    Congratulations to the Moderators for closing down the thread from the aptly named 'sicknote' who promoted 'alternative' methods of treating malignancies. I am continually astonished at the number of people who have benefited from some education who fall for this drivel, and that includes homoeopathy which is another current thread. The word gullible pales into insignificance by comparison to the superstition of these people. If only those such as sicknote were affected, then we could all rest easy in our beds knowing that Darwinism would slowly weed their ilk from the population and the world would be a better, safer, place. The problem is that the twisted logic that they prattle convinces those who did not benefit from a decent education - and the latter can be forgiven for their credulity. The basis of 'selling' this dangerous nonsense is that 'it worked'. The recent thread on homoeopathy featured Simon Singh taking the President of the Society of Homoeopaths to task on their members recommending homoeopathic 'magic' prophylaxis against Malaria. It seems that the basis for the claim was that many people who travelled to sub-Saharan Africa did not contract malaria. Of course they didn't, and there are any number of reasons for that including the fact that they avoided infection! Others, took proven prophylaxis. Still others, ignoring the advice of their medical practitioners, have taken the homoeopathic 'remedy' and fallen gravely ill because they did become infected and the 'remedy' was, unsurprisingly, totally ineffective.

    It may be instructive to examine history and give a few examples of how the strange philosophy of 'it worked' came to be applied. The witch craze that swept Europe, although started by the Catholic Church did have some basis in fact. Old women (usually) who lived outside the villages of the time, and may have been affected by Altzheimer's, Tourette's syndrome or other conditions, or who were simply nasty and spiteful, were genuinely recorded as cursing their neighbours. If livestock became ill, or crops were blighted, then what better cause than the old woman who cursed you? When she was found guilty and executed then the next year the livestock would probably not sicken and the crops not fail, ergo, it worked! Earlier than this, the Saxons would treat illness with sympathetic magic. If you developed an infection, then carry a bag of dog's excrement around your neck and the infection would be driven away. In the vast majority of cases the patient survived, and so it worked! (Of course, if it didn't then you failed to demonstrate sufficient faith, which is another of the tricks used by alternative 'medicine' practitioners). Another example, away from the field of medicine is the practice of ringing church bells to frighten thunderstorms away. It worked!

    'It worked' is not sufficient reason for claiming that a particular method of treatment is effective. As Isaccs has reiterated on these pages, the placebo effect is poorly understood but undoubtedly exists and can now be factored in to statistical studies. Ideally RCTs should be carried out but other statistically valid studies are also useful. Indeed, case studies are of interest. But please, can we in future, avoid giving space to the sort of absurd gibberish posted by sicknote. It is now 2011, not 1411.

    Bill Liggins
  2. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    I am starting to understand why .... I have been following the MMR Vaccine and Autism bull**** for years and going over it with the students as a case study of how people fall for the nonsense; the way the internet and media can whip up a hysteria with false headlines; and how gullible people fall for it; etc. The best read on this is Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure by Paul A. Offit
    and this was published before all the recent expose of Wakefield's research and him being struck off the medical register as a fraudster and liar. If you have an interest in autism or vaccines or not, this is a awesome read.

    More recently there are some parallels with the claims about barefoot running and similar patterns in the way people fall for the nonsensical claims. That led me to follow up Offitt's book with recently reading these 3 books that I posted in the barefoot thread:
    I finally starting to understand why people fall for it.
  3. Admin2

    Admin2 Administrator Staff Member


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