courtesy of fellow ScienceBlogger Jake Young.

Two money quotes:

  • “First, what is CAM bringing to the table that science and medicine didn’t have? Good feelings. Acquaintance with the ways ignorance. Newer, better superstitions. Frankly, you can keep them.”
  • “Science complemented by non-science ceases to be science, and there are no alternatives to the truth.”

I may have to steal that last one, perhaps with the addition of a flourish or two of my own. For example, I’d add that science “integrated” with nonscience runs a very high risk of ceasing to be science.

We need more medical students like Jake to prevent the overthrow of science-based medicine by quackademic medicine.


  1. #1 scote
    February 1, 2008

    good data + bad data != better data

    Science + “alternative science” != science, just facts and ignorance indiscriminately coo-mingled such than one cannot be discerned from the other. Science is supposed to separate what is true from what merely appears to be true. The idea of mixing them back together is a ludicrous, nonsensical and plainly antiscientific on its face.

  2. #2 Brendan
    February 2, 2008

    Be pretty g*dd*mn (if you’ll pardon the pun) careful about how you use that truth line, is my advice. Anyone who happens to disagree with you will use it as an example of intolerance and self-righteousness. Even if it is accurate it cedes a dangerous rhetorical ground, insofar as “truth” these days is not considered in many popular uses to be a unitary thing; more an article of faith and the province of religion. I’d stick to “accuracy”, “reality” and the like.

    Your version is much better, since science is an actual method with definable necessities. The T word is where problems arise.

  3. #3 scote
    February 2, 2008

    I’d agree that “truth” is one of those loaded words that is also used by religious and woo-woos to their own ends, such as “The Lord is Truth,” generally truth by assertion or revelation. Trying to use the word “truth” is poor framing for a science argument because of this metaphysical use of the word and it would be impossible to take back the word an get it to apply only to the objective truth as revealed by scientific evidence.

  4. #4 David Ratnasabapathy
    February 2, 2008

    “Truth” is what science is about, surely? That is why evidence trumps theory — if the evidence contradicts the theory, then the theory is wrong.

    I think ceding “truth” to the woo meisters is a mistake. What they do is lie. Demonstrably. Why not say so?

  5. #5 marcia
    February 2, 2008

    Is it not true that most National Academy of Sciences scientists who believed in God as children subsequently abandoned their faith as adults, because of their training in science?

    If that’s so, then a little bit of education about QAM (Quackery and other Alternative Modalities) will go a long way toward changing individual beliefs.

    I may not be able to stop large medical institutions from offering QAM, but I know I reach many individuals who are changing their minds about QAM. I forward links to this blog. I write letters in response to QAM articles in my local newspaper.

    Now, it will be interesting to see how QAM grows in response to a National Health Insurance Program. I imagine that the British alties, unhappy with the NHS, saw a growing market for homeopathy services. Yet, consumers there are less religious they we are here in the States.

    Education about QAM, cost and benefit, even for the less religious, must be more widespread, otherwise I see an unhappy health consumer looking for “alternatives” as we head toward a national program.

  6. #6 Scote
    February 3, 2008

    “I think ceding “truth” to the woo meisters is a mistake. What they do is lie. Demonstrably. Why not say so

    Because not all of what they say is demonstrably false, rather it is non-falsifiable.

    While it would be lovely to try and “take back” the word “truth,” it is already twisted beyond recognition. Should we “cede it” to woo meisters? No, but. Neither is it worth our time to try and frame a clear message in words that are ambiguous to the general public–and I’m very sorry to say that “truth” is one of those words.

  7. #7 David Ratnasabapathy
    February 3, 2008

    Creationism is built on the premise that science is about truth. Woo practioners use scientific words to disguise their folly. By their tactics the enemies of science agree that science is about truth. IMO, they do that because the public thinks so too.

    As for much of woo claims being non-falsifiable: it doesn’t matter. ‘Non-falsifiable’ is a technical point, of little relevance in the day-to-day world. The idea that the world was created last Thursday is nonfalsifiable. But no-one would claim it is true. Not, at least, in ordinary conversation. Abstruse points of philosophy lose to common sense: even when woo is unfalsifiable, that doesn’t matter. The point is that the claims of woo are denied by science; science is about truth; therefore woo is a lie.

    ‘Truth’ is a perfectly good word, whose meaning is agreed to by all, which describes, to the public, what science is about. The public agree. The enemies of science agree. So should we.

  8. #8 Niteen
    February 3, 2008

    Going back to original post. The question isn’t whether other remedies that don’t have Latin origin names are science? But are they effective and how do we get the info on effectiveness. Here are my thoughts on this —

    – CAM brings to the table therapies that are not solely domain of western medicine

    – In modern times we should ask for proof – both along the lines of scientific trials and on the personal level, i.e. user feedback. These remedies are personal medicine that’s becoming fad now.

    – There is science behind most of the remedies, it’s just that they don’t have medline data for all for e.g. Dr. Mehmet Oz talks about effects of meditation on Vegus nerves and helping us with modern chronic conditions (see my blog at We are just scratching the surface on proving effectiveness of these

    – Having said that, there are “snake oil” vendors out there, how do we separate science it is the question, which is exactly what we are trying to solve

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