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« The Demarcation Problem | Main | The Dangers of Pseudoscience --II »

November 14, 2013


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Bill Kleine

There is so much science does not know. A friend and scientist recently observed to me that one doesn't "believe" in science, but he very much values the scientific method. For example, while not a metaphysical issue, the "magic" of laetrile [nicknamed vitamin B17] captured the spotlight in a big way a number of years ago and it still sends people to Mexico on occasion. I never remember them actually talking about the science of it all when it was in the headlines. While I've never told anyone "don't do that!!!" I always calmly explain, when asked, the effective mechanism of ground peach pit is that it metabolizes into cyanide... Interestingly, it was used here and in Russia and did occasionally work but was finally banned in the 1920's as too poisonous--even for us cancer patients!

Evidence based medicine is so painstakingly slow; but such care is only there to protect us. Over the years the FDA has done much to fast-track and give special Orphan protection to drugs, but they also have to carefully consider the profit motive behind some promotions. There are a lot of people out there more than willing to steal from the desperate. It remains hard for me to "believe" folks lie without shame to profit from another's pain. But I've seen the evidence of it.

The others, those who genuinely believe in this or that but are not scientific, are worthy of a listen. But one of the tenants of Statistical Analysis is that a correlation is not proof--it was recently shown that there is a strong relationship to sunspots and the Red Soxs win record. Maybe as good method as any for gambling, but I wouldn't bet my life on it. I always urge great caution towards people who want to stick their hands deep into your pockets... The NCI [] has some useful observations on alternative treatments.

Lisa Allen

In reference to the comment above, I find it ironic that the author warns about those "who want to stick their hands deep into your pockets". Does he think that pharmaceutical companies are in business for the humanitarian aspect? Are you aware that there have never been any "gold standard" double blind, placebo controlled studies on vaccinations, yet this is the law of the land? In fact, most of what is considered "standard of care" in medicine today has no hard, unbiased science to back it up. I'm certainly not opposed to medical treatment, but I think people are also fooling themselves if they think that just because it's mainstream it's automatically better than alternative treatment.

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