Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

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The Ethos
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby The Ethos » Thu Sep 04, 2008 3:19 am UTC

First look up why the hour of 3-4 PM has anything to do with Alzheimer's, then get back to me.
Also, if p<0.001 with only 70 people, what does that mean about the clinical significance?
K thx bai.

EDIT: Actually, this point right here is a good reason why despite the fact that all the information in the world is available on the internet, it's still wise to go to real doctors.

/Hint: It's exactly the reason why you see no effect 'from 10am-3pm' as you said
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Sep 04, 2008 1:33 pm UTC

The Ethos wrote:First look up why the hour of 3-4 PM has anything to do with Alzheimer's, then get back to me.

For the record, what's being referred to here is "sundowning", or late-day confusion. (Thanks to Hammer for that term, which I didn't know.)

The Ethos wrote:Also, if p<0.001 with only 70 people, what does that mean about the clinical significance?

Not a whole heck of a lot, since we still only have N=70, in an unblinded study. Repeat the study a few times, under more rigorous conditions, and continue getting significance (even if only during the sundowning period), and I'll start to believe there's something clinically significant going on.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby qetzal » Thu Sep 04, 2008 2:52 pm UTC

The Ethos wrote:First look up why the hour of 3-4 PM has anything to do with Alzheimer's, then get back to me.


So, a paper that claims aromatherapy + massage = massage alone, but both are better than aromatherapy + conversation supports your claim that aromatherapy works? What is that, LOLCat lojix?

Did you even read the paper itself, or what I described about it? I'm guessing not.

Regarding the timing of the supposed effect, sure it could be related to late day confusion. But it could also be that the authors are overinterpreting their data. They had 21 total dementia patients (NOT specifically Alzheimer's, BTW). Seven patients per group in three different treatment groups (random allocation, but no crossover), analyzed in four different time periods. They found an effect in one time period, right at the borderline of conventional statistical significance (p = 0.05).

Are you honestly going to insist that this is a robust result? (And even if you are, don't forget it's a result that suggests massage is the active factor, not aromatherapy.)

Also, if p<0.001 with only 70 people, what does that mean about the clinical significance?
K thx bai.


It's ONE STUDY!

Should Pfizer be given approval to market a new drug for the same indication, based on a single study comparable to that one? Would you prescribe such a drug? I notice you ignored that question in my last comment. Is that because you don't want to reveal your double standard?

In any case, statistical significance tells us squat about clinical significance. Statistical significance only means there is (probably) a measurable difference between the groups. It says absolutely nothing about whether the difference is clinically significant. I'm sure you understand the distinction.

EDIT: Actually, this point right here is a good reason why despite the fact that all the information in the world is available on the internet, it's still wise to go to real doctors.


More to the point, it's an example of how real doctors can be just as prone to bias as anyone else. You've decided that aromatherapy works for dementia patients, but the evidence you've provided is WAY below the standard that would be required to make a similar claim about some pill.

I've pointed out severe shortcomings of the evidence you've cited. An unbiased person would admit that the evidence is much weaker than they thought. Instead, you're still arguing in favor of a study that doesn't even support your claim!.

Let me make very clear that I'm not claiming aromatherapy doesn't work. For an indication like this, it certainly seems plausible to me that it could work. What I'm arguing is that we don't know if it works. The evidence is inadequate. Lin et al. suggests it may work, but it's insufficient for a conclusion. It's a single study, and it's not supported by any other adequately designed studies. At least, none that you've provided or that I could find on my own.

And herein lies one of the major problems with CAM. If a pharmaco had results like this for some investigational new drug, they'd have to perform probably two large, multicenter clinical studies in hundreds or thousands of patients before they could hope to gain FDA or EMEA approval and claim their drug really works. And yet you and other CAM proponents want to claim that lavendar aromatherapy works for agitation in dementia patients based on one unblinded single-center n=70 study. The double standard is staggering.

And this is actually one of the best-supported examples of CAM I've seen! At least in this case, there is at least one decent study to support the claim. Most of the time, CAM claims are based on nothing but anecdote, appeal to the ancients, appeal to naturalism, and various other fallacious woo.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Sep 24, 2008 3:22 am UTC

It's a study from last year, but I just heard about it last week: Acupuncture does not reduce radiotherapy-induced nausea, but patients believe it does.

Surprise surprise, when a study is actually blinded properly, the supposed chi-related effects of acupuncture vanish entirely.

In a blog, someone wrote:What is really interesting about this study is that it suggests a reason why so many people believe that alternative medicine, be it acupuncture, homeopathy, or whatever, works for them, even in the absence of any real objective evidence that it does anything. Here we have two groups of patients, one of which received "real" acupuncture and one did not, but who were truly blinded to which group they were in. Even though there was no objectively-measurable difference in the intensity or duration of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting among the groups, the overwhelming majority of both groups thought acupuncture helped them and would like to use it again.
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The Ethos
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby The Ethos » Thu Sep 25, 2008 2:21 am UTC

If this isn't the essence of science, I don't know what is.

Everything else is just bookkeeping. :D
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby drunken » Wed Oct 15, 2008 7:25 pm UTC

Here is something that backs up what I was saying before:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20026783.400

The idea of magnetic therapy has been seen as pseudoscience for a long time. It was part of the Penn & Teller: Bullshit episode about alternative medicine. They even got a 'real scientist' (read someone with a degree in science) to say "There is no way that magnetic therapy can work because nothing in the human body is magnetic." Conviniently forgetting that water is affected by magnetic fields. Also the human body contains iron, copper, magnesium and several other metals (are all metals magnetic?) not to mention magnetic fields having an effect on electrical charges which are present in every part of the human body in both ionic and static charges.

My point is if you ridicule alternative medicines without a real scientific basis for your disagreement then be prepared to look like a fool if they are ever shown to be true.
Yes I am aware of the huge number of total charlatans that have claimed to use the healing powers of magnets to scam people out of their money for many years. But if someone send you a virus in an email we don't assume emails are bad, just the person abusing them.

edit: On the subject of acupuncture, I have had it before and it feels totally different from just sticking a needle in yourself. Mostly you barely feel it going in and when there is pain it is often not in the place where the needle was inserted at all. I once had a needle stuck in my arm and got what felt like an electric shock in the foot on the opposite side. This evidence doesn't prove that anything that acupuncturists say about acupuncture is true. But what it does prove is that acupuncture affects my nervous system in ways that I personally don't understand. This means my opinion about what is happening is less scientifically valid than the opinon of the acupuncturist. Therefore if they say X is causing Y because of Z I might as well take their word for it until someone else can tell me a better explanation.
***This post is my own opinion and no claim is being made that it is in any way scientific nor intended to be construed as such by any reader***

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby seladore » Wed Oct 15, 2008 7:55 pm UTC

drunken wrote:Here is something that backs up what I was saying before:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20026783.400

The idea of magnetic therapy has been seen as pseudoscience for a long time. It was part of the Penn & Teller: Bullshit episode about alternative medicine. They even got a 'real scientist' (read someone with a degree in science) to say "There is no way that magnetic therapy can work because nothing in the human body is magnetic." Conviniently forgetting that water is affected by magnetic fields. Also the human body contains iron, copper, magnesium and several other metals (are all metals magnetic?) not to mention magnetic fields having an effect on electrical charges which are present in every part of the human body in both ionic and static charges.

My point is if you ridicule alternative medicines without a real scientific basis for your disagreement then be prepared to look like a fool if they are ever shown to be true.
Yes I am aware of the huge number of total charlatans that have claimed to use the healing powers of magnets to scam people out of their money for many years. But if someone send you a virus in an email we don't assume emails are bad, just the person abusing them.


It is wrong to simply ridicule a belief without actually addressing the issues involved.

For example, when Randi just laughs at homeopathy for the level of dilution involved - if I was a homeopath, I would feel that my points weren't being addressed properly. Homeopaths believe that the structure of the water itself is altered, providing the effect. The way to debunk this is to show that scientific data show that the effect is no different from a placebo, not just to point and laugh- that just breeds animosity towards the scientific community.

It is difficult, however, to check the validity of every claim. There are only finite resources available for verifying claims, and when a huge number of claims with a certain identifying theme are shown to be fallacious (like biomagnetism), saying that all biomagnetism experiments are pseudoscientific is a sensible time saving technique. Like in your example above, if e-mail was only one of 100 ways you receive messages, you got 1000 messages a day, and 99% of e-mails contained viruses, you would - to save time - assume all e-mails are bad.

drunken wrote:[...] This evidence doesn't prove that anything that acupuncturists say about acupuncture is true. But what it does prove is that acupuncture affects my nervous system in ways that I personally don't understand. This means my opinion about what is happening is less scientifically valid than the opinon of the acupuncturist.


This doesn't follow. Say a crazy person on the street corner is shouting about economics. I don't understand economics. But this doesn't make his opinion more scientifically valid than mine. Likewise, the fact that you don't understand biology doesn't make the assertions of a charlatan more valid. And even if it did, surely the assertions of scientific professionals saying 'it's all bunk' should be taken even more seriously still?

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby SJ Zero » Wed Oct 15, 2008 8:26 pm UTC

seladore wrote:It is wrong to simply ridicule a belief without actually addressing the issues involved.

For example, when Randi just laughs at homoeopathy for the level of dilution involved - if I was a homoeopath, I would feel that my points weren't being addressed properly. Homoeopaths believe that the structure of the water itself is altered, providing the effect. The way to debunk this is to show that scientific data show that the effect is no different from a placebo, not just to point and laugh- that just breeds animosity towards the scientific community.


Did you know that about a century ago, entrepreneurs made millions selling radiation infused water, radium amulets, uranium filled blankets, and thorium-filled pills? Radiation was the "new science" that nobody understood, filled with mystery, and quacks used it to sell products which we know today will kill you.

Eben Byers was a well-known playboy, and drank 3 bottles a day of the radium infused water, until he died a gruesome death of radiation poisoning, leading to the Wall Street Journal headline: "The Radium Water Worked Fine until His Jaw Came Off."

Radiation was a great marketing tool, because nobody understood it. Any claims made about the action of radiation would be irrefutable by the layman.

Homoeopaths use quantum physics as a similar false appeal to authority using a science that isn't commonly understood outside of doctorate circles. Talk of quantum entanglement is part of the cutting edge of science, and thus any claims are irrefutable by the layman, but easily refutable by any quantum scientist.

These methods of marketing using false or misleading rhetoric, along with the fact that studies completed by real scientists have shown no benefit to homoeopathy, make real scientists seriously doubt the efficacy of such treatments, and rightfully so.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby drunken » Wed Oct 15, 2008 8:28 pm UTC

seladore wrote:
drunken wrote:[...] This evidence doesn't prove that anything that acupuncturists say about acupuncture is true. But what it does prove is that acupuncture affects my nervous system in ways that I personally don't understand. This means my opinion about what is happening is less scientifically valid than the opinon of the acupuncturist.


This doesn't follow. Say a crazy person on the street corner is shouting about economics. I don't understand economics. But this doesn't make his opinion more scientifically valid than mine. Likewise, the fact that you don't understand biology doesn't make the assertions of a charlatan more valid. And even if it did, surely the assertions of scientific professionals saying 'it's all bunk' should be taken even more seriously still?


The key sentence here is left out of your quote
me wrote:I might as well take their word for it until someone else can tell me a better explanation.

If a crazy person on the street corner is shouting about economics. I don't understand economics, and no one ever tells me anything about economics that contradicts the crazy person, then yes I will most likely believe him. This is important. Actually I studied biology (mostly plant biology though) at university. There are phenomena I can't explain myself. Someone offers an explanation. There are no obvious flaws in their explanation, assuming you have no problem believing in something that some people refer to as chi and is described as channels of energy of a nonspecified type in your body. My knowledge of biology is that there are channels of chemical and also electrical energy in your body (oh and kinetic and heat energy too), but that they are somewhat more complicated than how I just described them. Now given all that, we must further assume that no one else in my life has ever given me a coherent reason why acupuncture cannot possibly work in the way described by the accupunturist. Given all the preceding I think the only avenue left to me is to spend several years studying the phenomena personally or accept the only explanation I am offered.

A crazy man on the street once told me that I was a sinner and I was going to hell. I didn't believe him.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Mane » Wed Oct 15, 2008 8:41 pm UTC

drunken wrote:Here is something that backs up what I was saying before:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20026783.400

The idea of magnetic therapy has been seen as pseudoscience for a long time.

And still is. This study used electromagnets, not rare Earth Magnets, further more it's pointed out within the article that such a change in condition isn't all that rare for coma patients even months after they're put into a coma.

But all this study does not, in the lease, give any sort of creed to these people who go on about 'magnetic therapy' because A) they've done zero studies to prove their arguments, and B) they promise what is more or less magic.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby seladore » Wed Oct 15, 2008 9:35 pm UTC

SJ Zero wrote:
seladore wrote:It is wrong to simply ridicule a belief without actually addressing the issues involved.

For example, when Randi just laughs at homoeopathy for the level of dilution involved - if I was a homoeopath, I would feel that my points weren't being addressed properly. Homoeopaths believe that the structure of the water itself is altered, providing the effect. The way to debunk this is to show that scientific data show that the effect is no different from a placebo, not just to point and laugh- that just breeds animosity towards the scientific community.


Did you know that about a century ago, entrepreneurs made millions selling radiation infused water, radium amulets, uranium filled blankets, and thorium-filled pills? Radiation was the "new science" that nobody understood, filled with mystery, and quacks used it to sell products which we know today will kill you.

Eben Byers was a well-known playboy, and drank 3 bottles a day of the radium infused water, until he died a gruesome death of radiation poisoning, leading to the Wall Street Journal headline: "The Radium Water Worked Fine until His Jaw Came Off."

Radiation was a great marketing tool, because nobody understood it. Any claims made about the action of radiation would be irrefutable by the layman.

Homoeopaths use quantum physics as a similar false appeal to authority using a science that isn't commonly understood outside of doctorate circles. Talk of quantum entanglement is part of the cutting edge of science, and thus any claims are irrefutable by the layman, but easily refutable by any quantum scientist.

These methods of marketing using false or misleading rhetoric, along with the fact that studies completed by real scientists have shown no benefit to homoeopathy, make real scientists seriously doubt the efficacy of such treatments, and rightfully so.


From your response, I'm not sure if I came across as tentatively supporting homeopathy, and you are arguing against me. To be clear, I feel that homeopathy is bunk science with no supporting evidence.

However, the way to debunk it isn't to laugh at it, but to point out the real flaws - that was my only point.

drunken wrote:
seladore wrote:
drunken wrote:[...] This evidence doesn't prove that anything that acupuncturists say about acupuncture is true. But what it does prove is that acupuncture affects my nervous system in ways that I personally don't understand. This means my opinion about what is happening is less scientifically valid than the opinon of the acupuncturist.


This doesn't follow. Say a crazy person on the street corner is shouting about economics. I don't understand economics. But this doesn't make his opinion more scientifically valid than mine. Likewise, the fact that you don't understand biology doesn't make the assertions of a charlatan more valid. And even if it did, surely the assertions of scientific professionals saying 'it's all bunk' should be taken even more seriously still?


The key sentence here is left out of your quote
me wrote:I might as well take their word for it until someone else can tell me a better explanation.

If a crazy person on the street corner is shouting about economics. I don't understand economics, and no one ever tells me anything about economics that contradicts the crazy person, then yes I will most likely believe him. This is important. Actually I studied biology (mostly plant biology though) at university. There are phenomena I can't explain myself. Someone offers an explanation. There are no obvious flaws in their explanation, assuming you have no problem believing in something that some people refer to as chi and is described as channels of energy of a nonspecified type in your body. My knowledge of biology is that there are channels of chemical and also electrical energy in your body (oh and kinetic and heat energy too), but that they are somewhat more complicated than how I just described them. Now given all that, we must further assume that no one else in my life has ever given me a coherent reason why acupuncture cannot possibly work in the way described by the accupunturist. Given all the preceding I think the only avenue left to me is to spend several years studying the phenomena personally or accept the only explanation I am offered.

A crazy man on the street once told me that I was a sinner and I was going to hell. I didn't believe him.


Apologies for the misleading quote. And further apologies for assuming that you didn't know any biology.

I agree with what you are saying, as that is how we all have to act about almost all subjects - no-one can spend the years in science needed to understand all phenomena. But in this instance, the acupuncurist is not the only source of 'expert information' - there are also the medical scientists who claim that acupuncture is useless. What is it that makes you accept the view of the acupuncurist rather than the scientists?

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby SJ Zero » Wed Oct 15, 2008 9:43 pm UTC

From your response, I'm not sure if I came across as tentatively supporting homeopathy, and you are arguing against me. To be clear, I feel that homeopathy is bunk science with no supporting evidence.

However, the way to debunk it isn't to laugh at it, but to point out the real flaws - that was my only point.


You did come off as tentatively supporting it in that paragraph, but in the process of responding, I decided the post should continue because it gives important historical context for the "persecution" of homoeopathy.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby seladore » Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:04 pm UTC

SJ Zero wrote:
From your response, I'm not sure if I came across as tentatively supporting homeopathy, and you are arguing against me. To be clear, I feel that homeopathy is bunk science with no supporting evidence.

However, the way to debunk it isn't to laugh at it, but to point out the real flaws - that was my only point.


You did come off as tentatively supporting it in that paragraph, but in the process of responding, I decided the post should continue because it gives important historical context for the "persecution" of homoeopathy.


I'm glad you did, they are really interesting and I didn't know about them before. It's way too easy to imagine that pseudoscience is a new phenomenon.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby drunken » Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:24 pm UTC

@ Mane: What I am saying is that the theory that magnetic fields could be used as a form of new medicine is not impossible or disproven.

What I was saying earlier in this thread was that sometimes 1000 years of experimenting in a non scientific way is often as good a way of coming up with ways of doing things as any scientific method (this applies to alternative medicine in general not to magnetic therapy which is relatively new as far as anyone knows).

When you say "A) they've done zero studies to prove their arguments, and B) they promise what is more or less magic." What you should have said was there has been too little research into this question, it's the fault of the scientific community at large, individual practitioners don't have the resources to do such studies alone. As for B) you should have said "they promise what seems to me to be highly improbable". Unless you want to quote us all here exactly what they claim and then dispute it in a scientific way you are voicing your opinon and to put it across as science means that you are practicing pseudoscience.

@Selador: Could you tell me what the scientists say about acupuncture? I have read most of this thread and there don't appear to be any studies I am comfortable with the rigour of. I would rather trust my own opinion than a scientist who has no evidence. I find scientists to be very closed minded and unimaginative so if they say something without very hard evidence usually dismiss it out of hand. A scientist without evidence is just one guys opinion and it's usually an old closed minded guy with a total inability to face the fact that there are things in the universe that we will never understand.
Oh and your name is a subtle reference to Donnie Darko right? Or the linguist they are quoting in it.
***This post is my own opinion and no claim is being made that it is in any way scientific nor intended to be construed as such by any reader***

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby SJ Zero » Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:29 pm UTC

A scientist without evidence is just one guys opinion and it's usually an old closed minded guy with a total inability to face the fact that there are things in the universe that we will never understand.


Reading this line made filled me with a cacophony of my inner scientists telling me to smack you upside the head.

Regardless of what the studies say, a line like "there are things in the universe we will never understand" is a cop-out. Considering everything we've learned in just the past 100 or 200 years, it's the worst cop-out imaginable. It's closed-minded to believe we can't possibly understand something happening as close to us as our own bodies.

For the record, I recall a number of studies on Homoeopathy which showed no therapeutic effect. In every case, the snake-oil salesmen claimed the simple formulas were mis-applied and the study was invalid.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby seladore » Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:42 pm UTC

drunken wrote:@Seladore: Could you tell me what the scientists say about acupuncture? I have read most of this thread and there don't appear to be any studies I am comfortable with the rigour of. I would rather trust my own opinion than a scientist who has no evidence. I find scientists to be very closed minded and unimaginative so if they say something without very hard evidence usually dismiss it out of hand. A scientist without evidence is just one guys opinion and it's usually an old closed minded guy with a total inability to face the fact that there are things in the universe that we will never understand.


So you are saying that, in the absence of evidence, the fact that someone has been professionally trained to assess facts logically, and effectively assess the evidence for claims makes them less credible? Really?

You are saying that spending a lifetime trying to understand the workings of the universe using logic and reason gives them "a total inability to face the fact that there are things in the universe that we will never understand"? Really?

I'll dig up some studies tomorrow, it's late. There was a meta-analysis of several homeopathic trials which I found (it may even be linked a few pages back), which concluded that there was no evidence for any effect other than placebo. I'll look for it later.

drunken wrote:Oh and your name is a subtle reference to Donnie Darko right? Or the linguist they are quoting in it.

Yes, and I think the linguist was Tolkien.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby drunken » Wed Oct 15, 2008 11:12 pm UTC

seladore wrote:So you are saying that, in the absence of evidence, the fact that someone has been professionally trained to assess facts logically, and effectively assess the evidence for claims makes them less credible? Really?

You are saying that spending a lifetime trying to understand the workings of the universe using logic and reason gives them "a total inability to face the fact that there are things in the universe that we will never understand"? Really?


Yes I am saying exactly that (as my opinon not fact of course). Have you seen what passes for training these days. The education system is a laughable tool of big business.
Everyone spends their lifetime trying to understand the workings of the universe. Scientists are very good at some aspects of the universe, quite stunningly good in fact. Medicine is a subject where scientists are less stunningly good than in physics and maths, but still pretty good. There are areas where scientists really don't perform very well at all.

SJ Zero wrote:
Reading this line made filled me with a cacophony of my inner scientists telling me to smack you upside the head.

Regardless of what the studies say, a line like "there are things in the universe we will never understand" is a cop-out. Considering everything we've learned in just the past 100 or 200 years, it's the worst cop-out imaginable. It's closed-minded to believe we can't possibly understand something happening as close to us as our own bodies.


Yes it is closed minded, isn't it actually a generally accepted scientific theory though? I think it's called computational irreducibilty. We can't understand the full complexity of our own bodies when our only tool of understanding is our own bodies. I didn't say "there are things in the universe we will never understand" as an unavoidable fact, it's more a of a practical reality. In theory I believe it may be possible for us to understand everything, but I still believe that the sentence has a relevant and useable meaning. Anyway I hope it's true. The world would be boring if there was ntohing left to learn. I would probably just kill myself if there was ntohing left to learn. On the onther hand I probably wouldn't becuase I would already know what would happen if I did and I imagine it's just as boring as staying alive if you can't learn something new while doing it.
***This post is my own opinion and no claim is being made that it is in any way scientific nor intended to be construed as such by any reader***

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby SJ Zero » Thu Oct 16, 2008 5:36 am UTC

In the context of this discussion, it just comes across like "We'll never understand radiation, just drink the radium water".

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby seladore » Thu Oct 16, 2008 7:35 am UTC

drunken wrote:
seladore wrote:So you are saying that, in the absence of evidence, the fact that someone has been professionally trained to assess facts logically, and effectively assess the evidence for claims makes them less credible? Really?

You are saying that spending a lifetime trying to understand the workings of the universe using logic and reason gives them "a total inability to face the fact that there are things in the universe that we will never understand"? Really?


Yes I am saying exactly that (as my opinon not fact of course). Have you seen what passes for training these days. The education system is a laughable tool of big business.


I have to disagree with this. In what sense is the education system a tool of big business?
Also, I don't feel that Ph.D. programmes (which are the standard training for professional scientists) are much related to 'the education system', as they are entirely managed by the autonomous universities.

I just can't get my head around what you are saying, so apologies for re-hashing this yet again. There are three sides involved here:

  • Yourself - you admit that you lack the evidence and knowledge to distinguish claims about acupuncture.
  • The 'scientific' viewpoint - claims, on the basis of repeated medical trials and evidence, that acupuncture is a sham. Makes no difference to the individual whether the claim comes out true or not, it's all research to be published. (If anything, a valid study demonstrating that it works would be big news. So there is a small incentive to prove it true.)
  • The acupuncturist - claims that acupuncture works, on the basis of anecdotal evidence and non-rigourous trials. Has a strong financial incentive to get you to believe that acupuncture works.

I can't fathom why you give more weight to the arguments of the acupuncturist here than the scientists, based on some wild idea about the quality of the educational system. Haven't the acupuncturists been through the same system anyway?

I'd like to know how much contact you have had with professional scientists. The whole 'old closed minded guy' stereotype is thrown around whenever people want to discredit a scientific result, but it is overwhelmingly (I'd almost say universally) untrue. I work in science, and have daily contact with scientific professionals, and they are the most open minded people I have ever met. Any scientist could tell you countless tales of people who held on to a pet theory for years, only to happily abandon it in the face of contradictory evidence.

I doubt you would find any acupuncturist, homeopath, crystal healer or reiki practitioner who would happily say "well, this evidence is compelling - I have been wrong all these years".

drunken wrote:Everyone spends their lifetime trying to understand the workings of the universe. Scientists are very good at some aspects of the universe, quite stunningly good in fact. Medicine is a subject where scientists are less stunningly good than in physics and maths, but still pretty good. There are areas where scientists really don't perform very well at all.


Such as (out of interest?)

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby qetzal » Thu Oct 16, 2008 2:52 pm UTC

drunken wrote:Could you tell me what the scientists say about acupuncture?


You could start here and follow to links therein: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/08/the_largest_randomized_acupuncture_study.php#more. Note that the author is a surgeon/scientist who initially thought maybe acupuncture might have some real effects. After reviewing many scientific studies, he concluded that it does not. Any apparent benefits of acupuncture can almost certainly be attributed to placebo-like effects, bias, and/or poorly designed and controlled studies.

I have read most of this thread and there don't appear to be any studies I am comfortable with the rigour of. I would rather trust my own opinion than a scientist who has no evidence.


But that's not the case here. There's a lot of evidence that acupuncture is primarily, if not exclusively, placebo effects and the like. "Real" acupuncture is generally no better than sham acupuncture (done in such a way that the patient thinks needles are being inserted, but they aren't). "Real" acupuncture at "known" acupuncture points is also no better than "real" acupuncture at random points. Finally, the studies that do seem to show benefits from acupucture tend to be smaller, less well designed, less well controlled, and not properly blinded. Well-designed, well-controlled, well-blinded studies are much less likely to show benefit. That's exactly what you'd predict if acupuncture "works" through placebo effects, unconscious bias, etc.

***

Some related comments:

Your example of magnetic therapy doesn't really support your point very well. There's an enormous difference between a rapidly oscillating magnetic field, as is used in TCM, and a static magnetic field, as with magnetic bracelets and the like. Scientists understand this very well. If Penn & Teller really said that there is no way that a magnetic field could ever affect the human body, they were wrong. But Penn & Teller aren't scientists. And they're still right that "magnet therapy" as the public understands it is bunk.

Also, just because I say that acupuncture doesn't really work, doesn't mean I doubt your personal experiences with it. I accept that you have experienced reduced pain after acupuncture, and that you felt something in your foot once when a needle was placed in your arm.

The issue is whether those were actually effects of inserting needles into specified acupuncture points. How do you know your pain didn't subside simple because you lay still in a quiet room for 20 min after the needles were inserted? How do you know that the shock-like feeling in your foot wasn't just coincidental with the needle insertion? You don't seem to get that effect every time. Just once, right? Besides, you probably pay closer attention to your body during your sessions than at other times. I don't know about you, but I get twinges, cramps, and twitches in different parts of my body fairly frequently. I normally wouldn't remember them unless they happened to coincide with some more memorable event. That's called recall bias.

It's wrong to conclude any of that proves "acupuncture affects my nervous system in ways that I personally don't understand." My alternate explanations don't disprove it either. They merely show that it takes a well-designed, well-controlled study to determine with confidence whether acupuncture works. Such studies strongly indicate it does not.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby drunken » Thu Oct 16, 2008 5:07 pm UTC

@Saladore: I was talking about when scientists make claims that aren't based on facts. You seem to have taken it in a much more general sense. I agree with you however that some of the things I have said about scientist were uneccesarily inflammatory and also unfairly general. I used to spend a lot of time with the physics students when I was at university and I thought they were a great bunch. The ones I hung out with were less sceptical than the average scientist though.

I found it a bit unfair that you say "The 'scientific' viewpoint - claims, on the basis of repeated medical trials and evidence, that acupuncture is a sham. Makes no difference to the individual whether the claim comes out true or not, it's all research to be published. (If anything, a valid study demonstrating that it works would be big news. So there is a small incentive to prove it true.)" as I had just asked for details on these studies and said I had not seen any that I was satisfied with the rigour of. Also it is not strictly true that it makes no difference to the individual whether the claim comes out true or not. It would be nice if all scientisis were perfectly objective, but that is simply not possible. The fact that double blind trials get different results from single blind trials supports this.

Luckily for both of us qetzal was kind enough to link some things.

@qetzal: Thanks for the links. Before I discuss them I wish to clarify a point. If you read my previous post carefully you will note that I never claimed that my acupuncture session reduced my pain. I had no pain. I was not unwell in any way when I went into the session. I did not notice any effects after the acupuncture at all except for being a bit drowsy, which happens to me every time I lie down for twenty minutes in a warm room and listen to soothing music. The reason for getting the acupuncture was simply to experience it for the purposes of understanding better.

You said "How do you know that the shock-like feeling in your foot wasn't just coincidental with the needle insertion? You don't seem to get that effect every time. Just once, right?". The shock like feeling was very strong and I have never had a comparable feeling without an obvious cause. It was enough to make me flinch and cry out. Also i wasn't just once, roughly 10% of the needles caused this feeling and it was almost never in the same region as the actual skin penetration.
I am really just trying to learn and understand. I am also trying to be the devils advocate as I know there are no shortage of people here to argue the other side.

So on to the repeated medical trials and evidence:
The studies posted (thank you again) seemed to have the same results as have been discussed earlier in this thread. Here is what my impressions are:
(If anyone has more studies to link to contradict any of these I would be very grateful)
*It is very difficult to do testing on acupuncture as blinding is almost impossible.
*No long term studies of acupuncture have been done in terms of prevention and general health, eg. heart, liver, lung and other organ diseases, cancer etc.
*No phychological studies have been done with acupuncture, ie depression, mental illness etc.
*Some claims by acupuncturists have been shown in clinical trials to be false, the example here was nausea caused by radio/chemotherapy. (It may be worth remembering that neither of these causes of nausea were around for most of the developement of acupuncture)
*Some claims by acupuncturists have been vindicated by clinical trials, most notably in the field of pain relief (one of the areas where the placebo effect is most pronounced).
*The most common form of blinding used in acupuncture trials is "sham acupuncture" this is done by using a needle that retracts into itself.
*In trials using sham acupuncture both types of acupuncture had almost the same amount of success, in the studies linked though almost meant that in general real acupuncture was a little bit better.
*Sham acupuncture uses the same points on the same lines of energy in the body as real acupuncture. From what acupuncturists have told me (not in response to any mention of these trials but simply as a passing comment when I showed curiosity about the process) that piercing the skin is not strictly necessary for activation of the points, it is simply an easier, stronger and more reliable way.
*The "acu" part of acupuncture is simply the study of these points and lines and there is some evidence that activating the points with electrical charges or other non "puncture" can actually have a as great or greater affect than needles.

If it is true that acupuncture is just a placebo effect in the pain relief studies, why is it that it works better than conventional treatments? It also works better than the classic sugar pill as a placebo. The answer seems to me to be that If it is true that acupuncture is just a placebo effect it must be a better placebo effect. Surely this is a valuable medical tool if this is the case. I don't believe the studies prove that this is the case but they suggest that it is and that is interesting to me.

@ SJ Zero: In the context of this discussion, you just come across like "I don't like your opinion and rather than argue with it coherently it I will just try and insult you with a pointless comment about your intelligence".
There is very good evidence that radioactive substances do huge amounts of damage to living tissue so lets not ok?

@Everyone If you go back to my earliest postsin this thread (don't bother I'll give you the gist) what I really want to talk about is pseudoscience. I use alternative medicine purely as examples, this is why I play devils advocate for them. My main point is that most people who argue the scientific case neglect to supply proof. A true objective scientific study would be everyone here bringing as much evidence to the group as they can find and then everyone discussing the evidence. A huge percentage of the people here arguing the scientific side are just stating their opinions and then saying that such opinions are proven scientific fact. This is called pseudoscience, this is what alternative medicine charlatans do. As soon as this thread turns into a scientific discussion about the evidence I will avidly read it and stop posting altogether.

I have said this in various ways many times in previous posts and this one, but it seems to not be acknowledged by many as my primary piont:

A large percentage of the scientific side of this argument in this thread entitled "Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc." are pseudoscientific claims.
I am trying to point out hypocrisy amongst scientific sceptics nothing more, I am part of the way to being a scientist myself (Bsc, although I don't intend to actually ever get a doctorate so i will never be a real scientist).
***This post is my own opinion and no claim is being made that it is in any way scientific nor intended to be construed as such by any reader***

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby SJ Zero » Thu Oct 16, 2008 5:51 pm UTC

@ SJ Zero: In the context of this discussion, you just come across like "I don't like your opinion and rather than argue with it coherently it I will just try and insult you with a pointless comment about your intelligence".
There is very good evidence that radioactive substances do huge amounts of damage to living tissue so lets not ok?


Sure, NOW. Hindsight is 20/20. There wasn't all that evidence in 1920, so the marketing folks created fake science. Did you know that radiation is a natural part of water, and without this essential element, you're less healthy? You know that's a load of crap today, I know that's a load of crap today, but the same argument about "we can't know about this! It's mysterious!" was used back then to justify feeding people radium water. There was the same haze of the unknown around radiation as there is around things like homoeopathy today.

By the way, awesome work, taking someone drawing a historical parallel between two forms of 'alternative' medicine separated by time but eerily similar in situation and rhetoric and turning it into "waaaah, you're attacking my intelligence!". It really makes me realise the folly of the argument I wasn't making.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby qetzal » Thu Oct 16, 2008 6:22 pm UTC

drunken,

Sorry about my pain assumption. Should have read more closely.

As for the shock-like feeling, I appreciate the clarification on the frequency, but it still tells us next to nothing about whether acupuncture works. At most, it suggests acupuncture was indeed causing you to have sensations remote from the site of the inserted needle. That's a long, long way from concluding that needles inserted in these spots here, but not those there, will have real efficacy against any medical condition.

I agree that it's very difficult to properly test acupuncture. Of course, that cuts two ways. If it's so difficult to determine whether it works or not scientifically, why should we believe that the ancient Chinese could do so unscientifically?

I'm not surprised there are no long term studies of acupuncture for general health and disease prevention. Such studies are extremely difficult to do even with something relatively simple like a drug pill versus and indistinguishable placebo pill. Properly controlling such a study on acupuncture would be virtually impossible, IMO.

So again, given that's the case, why should we believe anyone who makes such claims?

Acupuncture has NOT (to my knowledge) been vindicated in the field of pain relief. Patients who visit acupuncturists for pain very often do experience pain relief. But pain is one of the conditions that's most susceptible to the placebo effect. This has been shown many many times in studies comparing pain medications to placebo pills.

The importance of specific acupuncture points is even less vindicated, since needles inserted in random spots have shown the same effects as needles inserted in the "right" spots.

Now, it may be true that acupuncture is a more effective placebo than a sugar pill. It's known that for conditions like pain, the magnitude of the placebo effect can greatly depend on what the placebo treatment is. However, even if acupuncture really is a better placebo, I'm not ready to agree it's a valuable medical tool. IMO, that's a difficult ethical and philosophical issue. For a placebo to work, the patient usually has to believe it will work. It's one thing to tell all patients in a clinical trial that they'll get either the "real" treatment or a placebo. It's a different matter to tell an individual patient "acupuncture works for pain" if we know that it's really placebo.

A large percentage of the scientific side of this argument in this thread entitled "Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc." are pseudoscientific claims.
I am trying to point out hypocrisy amongst scientific sceptics nothing more, I am part of the way to being a scientist myself (Bsc, although I don't intend to actually ever get a doctorate so i will never be a real scientist).


I think you're exaggerating here. Sure, it happens, and it's good to recognize that and try to minimize it. But to me, it sounds like your saying that overall, the scientific skeptics and disbelievers in various altie meds are on no firmer ground than the alt med promoters. That's incorrect.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Kachi » Thu Oct 16, 2008 10:52 pm UTC

I have to disagree with this. In what sense is the education system a tool of big business?
Also, I don't feel that Ph.D. programmes (which are the standard training for professional scientists) are much related to 'the education system', as they are entirely managed by the autonomous universities.


Well, in some senses it is, but to make the argument that science is in the tank for big business is a long, long stretch.

Having said that, in the U.S., the federal government does determine what allows a college program to be accredited, and does in a sense mandate what professors teach.

But if you were going to try to tie big business to medical "conspiracies" then you'd better be casting your attention to the FDA, because that would be where you'd make your case. Probably unsuccessfully, still, but you'd stand a much better chance.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby qetzal » Fri Oct 17, 2008 1:05 am UTC

Following up on what Kachi said, if you think that alt. medicine is being actively suppressed, you should take a look at what's been happening at major medical centers. A very large fraction now have CAM programs and even entire CAM centers. See here for more information and a long list of examples: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=28#more-28.

Big business loves CAM. It's currently trendy, lots of people are willing to pay out-of-pocket for it, and it doesn't typically require expensive equipment or supplies, so profit margins can be quite good.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Falmarri » Fri Oct 17, 2008 7:31 am UTC

drunken wrote:My point is if you ridicule alternative medicines without a real scientific basis for your disagreement then be prepared to look like a fool if they are ever shown to be true.


Umm, why is it the job of scientist's to debunk every claim to some miracle medicine? It's perfectly acceptable to ridicule alternative medicines with no scientific basis if there's no proof that those alternative medicines work. If they're shown to be true, why would anyone look like a fool? It's simply a case of "oh, look at that, this study DOES show that this shit works. Interesting because I would have never thought that this worked." And thus the medicine no longer becomes alternative.

I know those of you who believe in alternative medicine wouldn't watch something from Dawkins, but he did an excellent documentary about this exact topic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Enemies_of_Reason

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby mrandrewv » Fri Oct 17, 2008 8:19 am UTC

Firstly: I was under the impression that many aromatherapy oils have been shown to be effective in some ways (like tea tree being a good antifungal agent). I could be wrong.

But what I wanted to comment on is something I mentioned briefly in another thread and no one picked up on it, probably because they thought I was joking ;)

Here in South Africa you can get your health insurance to pay for a trip to a sangoma (what you foolish westerners would call a "witch doctor"). He will commune with your ancestors, check to see if someone has perhaps put a curse on you, and roll the bones to make a diagnosis.

Now before you start foaming at the mouth with scientific fervor let me explain. This practise has been legitimised for the following reasons:
1) It performs an important culural function, and provides a means of social support. Kinda like having the vicar over for tea so you can talk about lttle billy's problems in school.
2) The process is tightly controlled. In order to make use of your clients' insurance you need to be registered with the governments health professions council. They make sure that you have a proper lineage (in other words you aren't just some guy who thinks he talks to ghosts, you need to have a thorough understanding of the culture, and of what you can, and cannot do), you need to stick to a scope of practice (i.e. if the person has something medically wrong with them you must refer them to a doctor) and you need to have completed courses on human anatomy and first aid.
3) As I mentioned in another thread, can't remember which one, new research has shown that antidepressants simply do not work, unless they are combined with some kind of social support. Furthermore the social support alone seems to be more effective than drugs alone. So the value of SOME kind of social support structure can't be overlooked. These sangoma's, if they are any good, should at least be able to put their client's fears at rest and in a country that still has a large rural population who believe very strongly in this kind of stuff this can be a very important role.

The downside is of course a thriving market in complete and total scam artists, who I think should be burned at the stake (they sell people herbs that can "cure aids"....yeah.... :( ). And even though these guys are NOT registered with the council people still go to them because there isn't enough awareness about the process.

Anyway, thought that might be interesting.
It's all very interesting...

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby TheStranger » Fri Oct 17, 2008 10:30 am UTC

mrandrewv wrote:Firstly: I was under the impression that many aromatherapy oils have been shown to be effective in some ways (like tea tree being a good antifungal agent). I could be wrong.


That's just herbalism, it's relatively easy to verify using the scientific method (run a chemical analysis on the components to see if any of them inhibit fungal growth).

Here in South Africa you can get your health insurance to pay for a trip to a sangoma (what you foolish westerners would call a "witch doctor"). He will commune with your ancestors, check to see if someone has perhaps put a curse on you, and roll the bones to make a diagnosis.


No different from going to a priest or other religious figure for counseling here in the US.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby SJ Zero » Fri Oct 17, 2008 7:56 pm UTC

mrandrewv wrote:Firstly: I was under the impression that many aromatherapy oils have been shown to be effective in some ways (like tea tree being a good antifungal agent). I could be wrong.


It's entirely possible that you're right, but in that case, scientists don't just disregard it, they figure out WHY it works and take that information to make and sell an anti-fungal cream that's one-hundred times as effective as the original herb.

People using creams and pills don't seem to ever realise that's what is done. Some cures really do work, so scientists figure out WHY, and refine it.

Radiation, for example, didn't turn out to be a cure-all, but by killing cells with high growth rates, it turned out to be an effective treatment for cancer.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby qinwamascot » Sat Oct 18, 2008 7:19 am UTC

mrandrewv wrote:Here in South Africa you can get your health insurance to pay for a trip to a sangoma (what you foolish westerners would call a "witch doctor"). He will commune with your ancestors, check to see if someone has perhaps put a curse on you, and roll the bones to make a diagnosis.


Is there any evidence that this works better than just a placebo? I highly doubt it. Curses and other such nonsense are unscientific. Sure, you might get better, but science could do better (or at least the same by giving you sugar pills and calling it medicine). Personally I'm glad that we have real medicine, but if you want to go see your witch doctor (or sangoma if you prefer) then it's your choice.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby seladore » Sat Oct 18, 2008 8:56 am UTC

qinwamascot wrote: science could do better (or at least the same by giving you sugar pills and calling it medicine)


Only if the person receiving the scientific placebo believed that western medicine would make them better. Someone distrustful of western doctors but with a belief in witchdoctory-hoodoo would show a much better placebo response to the witch-doctor.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Falmarri » Sun Oct 19, 2008 9:47 pm UTC

seladore wrote:
qinwamascot wrote: science could do better (or at least the same by giving you sugar pills and calling it medicine)


Only if the person receiving the scientific placebo believed that western medicine would make them better. Someone distrustful of western doctors but with a belief in witchdoctory-hoodoo would show a much better placebo response to the witch-doctor.


And some people who don't' believe in witch doctors or western medicine but believe they get better by raping virgins or children will probably have a better placebo response to that. Should government health care cover that as well?

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby qetzal » Wed Oct 22, 2008 1:20 am UTC

People who wonder if acupuncture works (as anything other than placebo), are encouraged to read the following:

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=252

Besides reiterating points that have been made in this thread earlier (e.g. that sham acupuncture is as good as 'real' acupuncture, that acupuncture at random points is as good as acupuncture at 'qi' points, and that acupuncture works best in people who believe in it), I learned something new.

If the author and her citations are correct, acupuncture as we know it today isn't really based on ancient Chinese medicine at all. The idea of inserting needles at specific points to control the supposed flow of life energy ("qi") along meridians may not even predate the 20th century!

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby seladore » Wed Oct 22, 2008 6:31 am UTC

Falmarri wrote:
seladore wrote:
qinwamascot wrote: science could do better (or at least the same by giving you sugar pills and calling it medicine)


Only if the person receiving the scientific placebo believed that western medicine would make them better. Someone distrustful of western doctors but with a belief in witchdoctory-hoodoo would show a much better placebo response to the witch-doctor.


And some people who don't' believe in witch doctors or western medicine but believe they get better by raping virgins or children will probably have a better placebo response to that. Should government health care cover that as well?


Nope.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Oct 29, 2008 12:58 am UTC

seladore wrote:For example, when Randi just laughs at homoeopathy for the level of dilution involved - if I was a homoeopath, I would feel that my points weren't being addressed properly. Homoeopaths believe that the structure of the water itself is altered, providing the effect. The way to debunk this is to show that scientific data show that the effect is no different from a placebo, not just to point and laugh- that just breeds animosity towards the scientific community.

The thing is, people like Randi have properly debunked homeopathy, numerous times. So when people continue to tout it in spite of repeated debunkings, really the only thing left to do is laugh at them. It's not worth their time to expend the effort every single time to fully and completely cite all of the myriad studies showing homeopathy to be bunk, whenever another true believer comes along claiming it works.

drunken wrote:Could you tell me what the scientists say about acupuncture? I have read most of this thread and there don't appear to be any studies I am comfortable with the rigour of.

Really? So what's allegedly wrong with the rigor of the study I mentioned in this post, exactly? Unlike most other studies, this one used a large sample size and, unlike many other acupuncture studies, was actually properly blinded. So I'm curious as to what the supposed problem was...
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby drunken » Wed Nov 05, 2008 1:17 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:So what's allegedly wrong with the rigor of the study I mentioned in this post, exactly? Unlike most other studies, this one used a large sample size and, unlike many other acupuncture studies, was actually properly blinded. So I'm curious as to what the supposed problem was...


There is nothing wrong with that study. I found it very interesting. To be sure I would like to see a few more studies done properly like this for other ailments. We have: acupuncture and sham acupuncture have roughly the same effect on radiation induced nausea and we want: acupuncture and sham acumpuncture both have the same effect in a statistically significant number of cases and the we can move to: acupunture has no medicinal benefits other than being a good placebo. It shouldnt take too many studies, if we can get a few more links that all confirm one side then we dont need to test every single case.

Also I would really like to see the information for the control group in that study but the article doesnt mention this. Do you have a link to a fuller write up or another article? I would ideally like to see a control group with drugs and another with nothing but I doubt they did both. Either one would be good enough for me.
***This post is my own opinion and no claim is being made that it is in any way scientific nor intended to be construed as such by any reader***

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Elennaro » Thu Nov 20, 2008 7:08 pm UTC

drunken wrote:acupunture has no medicinal benefits other than being a good placebo.

The problem here is the word "placebo." Does acupuncture do better than placebo acupuncture? No it does not. That means that there's no real effect right? No it does not. Not when the placebo itself has a real effect. Placebo acupuncture still consists of putting needles in the skin. Putting needles in the skin may have an actual physiological effect to help with pain relief (which is just about the only thing acupuncture has a proven benefit for). Both acupuncture and sham acupuncture have been observed to perform better than a sort of sham acupuncture with retractable needles, where the skin is not penetrated. This might indicate that the placebo itself is active. However, the benefits are still relatively small and limited to pain relief. And there's a risk of infection from contaminated needles. Judging by that, I wouldn't call acupuncture a good intervention (and sham acupuncture is better, in fact, because it's cheaper). But the word "placebo" is one that should be used with care.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Kaiyas » Thu Nov 20, 2008 10:51 pm UTC

Elennaro wrote:sham acupuncture is better, in fact, because it's cheaper

Just as a note, price and legitimacy aren't correlated.
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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby Elennaro » Fri Nov 21, 2008 3:26 pm UTC

Whether or not something is better is not just determined by it's clinical effectiveness, but also by it's price. A cheap drug that cures 50% of patients is a better invention than a very expensibe one that cures 75%. Maybe not on an individual basis, but on collective importance.

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Re: Alternative Medicine, Psuedoscience, etc.

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Nov 22, 2008 2:58 am UTC

Elennaro wrote:Both acupuncture and sham acupuncture have been observed to perform better than a sort of sham acupuncture with retractable needles, where the skin is not penetrated.

Isn't that precisely what the study I linked to shows *doesn't* happen? In other words, that actual skin penetration isn't relevant to clinical effectiveness.

But yeah, you're right: even non-penetrative sham acupuncture is an active sort of placebo, and there's no way to make a blinded study comparing that with no treatment, since it'll be obvious to patients and those treating them alike whether you're (maybe) sticking needles in their backs, or doing nothing.
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