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Snake Oil Science: The Truth About Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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Description: discussion of article on homeopathy and CAM research
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« on: March 21, 2008, 11:04:45 AM »

Finally got to this week's eSkeptic featuring a review of R. Barker Bausell's book Snake Oil Science: The Truth About Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

A few excerpts:
Quote from: Harriet Hall, M.D
Bausell’s thorough discussion of the placebo phenomenon is illuminating and invaluable. He covers the history of research on placebos and tells some fascinating anecdotes. He argues that placebo response is not just imagination. It is a learned phenomenon, a conditioned response. You respond to a placebo pill because you have previous experience of being helped by pills. Morphine injections in dogs cause a side effect of salivation: after a while, you can inject water and they will respond with salivation. Physiologic effects from placebo are always smaller than with the real thing, but apparently they do occur. The evidence for objective physiologic effects may not be entirely convincing, but it is certain that pain and other subjective symptoms respond to placebos. And there is even research suggesting a mechanism: the release of endogenous opioids, pain-relieving chemicals produced by our own brains. If you counteract those chemicals with a narcotic antagonist like Narcan, you can block the placebo response.

Quote from: Harriet Hall, M.D
What all this amounts to is that advocates can point to plenty of “snake oil” science that apparently supports various CAM treatments; but when examined critically, the entire body of evidence is compatible with the hypothesis that no CAM method works any better than placebo. True believers will never give up their favorite treatment because of negative evidence; they will always want to try one more study in the hope that it will vindicate their belief. They see science as a method they can take advantage of to convince others that their treatment works. They don’t see it as a method of finding out whether their treatment works. Bausell says:
    "CAM therapists simply do not value (and most, in my experience, do not understand) the scientific process."
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« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2009, 22:23:05 PM »

Carte Blanche did a story tonight called Snake Oil where they discussed the claims of alternative medicine. They interviewed Dr Harris Steinman and Rhodes University's Professor Roy Jobson regarding the problem they have with alternative medicine. They interviewed Dr Alan Tomlinson, the head of Sportron, who was arguing for the use of alternative medicines. If you didn't see it you can read the script here - see how many logical fallacies you can spot in his arguments.
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