Thursday, February 13, 2014

What's the Harm?

What's the harm?
That's a question I hear a lot when discussing alternative medicine and all the included disciplines, like chiropractic, homeopathy, naturopathy, traditional "medicine" (including Chinese medicine), acupuncture, and many others.

I always point out that the harm comes from two sides. One side is the actual lack of medicinal and therapeutic value in all those alt-med offshoots. The other side is the fact that when we suspend our critical thinking in one area, we tend to stop using our brains across the board, and that can lead to more problems with rational decision making.

From time to time I catch a news on the interwebs, that illustrates the first issue so clearly, it is hard to read.

The original link is here (in Polish):
6-latka operowana po "leczeniu" u bioenergoterapeuty
which means: "A six year old undergoes a surgery after being treated by a naturopath" (I'm not sure if there is a better word in English than naturopath).

Let me explain...

In the town of ToruĊ„, in central Poland, a local court ordered a naturopath to close down his "bioenergy" therapy business and pay a fine, after he treated a six-year old for a cold. After the initial session, in which he diagnosed the child with pneumonia, he continued to treat her for a month and a half, prescribing strong steroids (which he's not allowed to do) and treating her fever over the phone. When the parents noticed a large lump between the girl's ribs, they finally took her to a hospital, where she had to have a major surgery to treat her deteriorated lungs and where she spent more than five weeks, some of it in the intensive care unit.

The judge also said that she is planning to bring the case against the parents for failing to provide adequate care to their daughter, which seems to be reasonable, as they refused to take the child to a real doctor for weeks and almost killed their daughter in the process.

Unfortunately, one thing that bothers me is the fact that the naturopath is only required to close down his business for three years! Since the article mentions that he's been doing it for 20 years and that his mother was also a "famous" healer, I bet he'll be back treating people with magic and woo in no time.

Another point that stands out from this article is the fact that the guy has a "bioenergy healer" license. There is a lot of discussion in various states in the US about licensing alt-med "doctors". The opposition usually brings up one great point: any kind of license, legitimizes the profession, which, in case of alt-med is based on magic, wishful thinking and general woo-woo. For a lay person, a license makes the potential therapy look real and puts it on the same level as evidence-based medicine. Licensing alt-med scams might be a way to earn some extra tax dollars, but it creates a false sense of security for the general public.

Friday, February 7, 2014

I Don't Understand Creationism

I have never understood creationism... it is so out of touch with reality and so disconnected from any logic that it defies any explanation. Yes, it might have been somehow compelling 500 years ago, when scientific evidence for pretty much anything around us was scarce, but by the last century, there were no reasons to stick with it. One has to have some really strong cognitive dissonance going in order to remain in the pure creationism camp (the earth being 6000 years old, geological strata deposited by a great flood, etc). Even the newer incarnation of creationism, Intelligent Design (ID), does not pass logical and scientific analysis, because it bases itself on faulty understanding of physics and biology.

To illustrate my point I give you the latest Science vs. Nonsense Debate:

What's even more interesting than the debate itself, was an "experiment" done right before it took place, when a reporter asked a bunch of people coming to see the debate to write questions for Bill Nye. Here is the result:

22 Messages From Creationists To People Who Believe In Evolution

Some of those questions are pure gold... and for most of the people who have even the basic understanding of science, they are either nonsensical, or very easy to answer, but there are two sources that are worth reading:

Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy Blog: Answers for Creationists
Steven Novella's NeuroLogica: Questions from the Nye-Ham Debate