Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Are new age therapies leading us away from evidence and reason?

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Professor Richard Dawkins, writer and biologist, says that "we live in dangerous times when superstition is gaining ground and rational science is under attack."

We have all heard the conspiracy theories about how the scientific community and our health care professionals want to hide the cure for cancer in order to make money. They don't want a cure, they say. Isn't that just a bit ridiculous when all of the people in those industries most certainly knows or loves someone who has gone through a cancer diagnosis. Does that make any sense?

The professor also says that "There are two ways of looking at the world - through faith and superstition, or through the rigours of logic, observation and evidence, through reason".

For example -- Homeopathy treatment has received significant criticism and skepticism from the scientific community. This kind of therapy is used by 500 million people worldwide even though much of the evidence on homeopathy is anecdotal, which means its unscientific because it cannot be investigated by the scientific method.

Under the rules of science, those that make claims bear the burden of proof. It is their responsibility to conduct suitable studies and report them in sufficient detail to permit evaluation and confirmation by others.

If you could prove that chemotherapy does more harm than good -- that still does not mean that alternative treatments are the answer. This is called a fallacy - because lack of evidence for a contrary viewpoint cannot be taken as evidence in favour of another viewpoint.

I recently had a debate with a commenter about my post called Be wary of alternative health methods. His logic was that alternative medicine is "a field of medical practice that is accepted in many more countries, has more history, and is treating more people than western medicine."

Ok, so what? What does that prove?. Not a thing. This is another fallacy called Arguement from popularity.

Another commenter said something I do agree with:

What (another commenter, I won't name names) does is employ the Argumentum ad Hominem argument: 'argument directed to the man.' This occurs when one attacks the other person rather than the other persons argument. Barrett's site, Quackwatch is a clearinghouse of excellent research and opinion on the "alternative medicine" community.

I agree with Kristina that quackery can harm cancer patients. Quacks love to switch the burden of proof:

For the quack, the source of the fallacy is the assumption that something (quack treatment) is true UNLESS proven otherwise.
But, the quack cancer "treatments" are NOT true because you attack chemotherapy and the scientific method. The quack cancer "treatments" are NOT true because you have not proven them to be beneficial.

Ghosts must exist because you say I haven't proven they don't?

It doesn't work that way.

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