A colleague of mine asked a great question: if you have one question to ask a booster of so-called alternative medicine in a public forum, what should it be? I’ll give you my answer below the fold, then open the thread to see what you think.
My answer: “Can you please give specific examples of alternative medicine theories and modalities that have been abandoned because they have been found to be ineffective?”
I have information that some other skeptical doctor-bloggers seem to agree with this. Why? Why not ask, “can you give me specific evidence of a proven alternative theory/modality?”
The power of methodological naturalism is that it works. By ruling out supernatural causes as being irrelevant, thereby requiring testable and falsifiable hypotheses, we have developed the most powerful way of describing and predicting the universe around us. Nothing has ever come close to being as powerful. And a good deal of that power lies in being able to reject disproved hypotheses, rather than invoking a deus ex machina to hold on when the facts dispute our beliefs.
What separates science-based medicine from everything else is this willingness to reject a hypothesis. It is rarely seen in alternative medicine. When homeopathy is proved over and over to be nothing more than water, believers simply look for more excuses, even resorting to a “your science is inadequate to test my magic” argument.
So, when confronted with a cult medicine believer, this is the first question I will ask: “which of your beliefs has the evidence caused you abandon?”