Last week I gave you a refresher course on the invalid arguments used by altmed boosters. The Turf Battle Fallacy and Pharma Shill Gambit are classics for a number of reasons. The most amusing thing about these gambits is their hypocrisy. The alternative medicine movement is essentially a collection of businesses selling unproven supplements and interventions (not “therapies”, as Steven Novella aptly observes).
Of course, that’s an incomplete analysis. Altmed is also a religion, with zealous adherents. The arguments made by these adherents are never about the data, but about beliefs. When asked for data, they often resort to two more of my favorite gambits: moving the goalposts, and the argumentum ex culo. I’m going make an example out of a recent commenter, not because I have anything against him, but because he’s just that hilarious.
Our commenter, in defending alternative medicine (but giving few specific examples) states that:
In mentioning diet, I was referring to Pal’s own admission that he does not normally bring up diet with his diabetes patients.
I mention this as being ex culo as I have written frequently about lifestyle modification, which is not in any way “alternative”, but a normal part of medical practice. I have many times written that advising lifestyle modification is often insufficient. For example (since Nathan gives none):
The truth is that diabetes can, and often is, well-controlled by medicine alone. This isn’t because real doctors prefer it that way; it is because many diabetics cannot adhere to diet and exercise programs, and many diabetics do not have enough pancreatic beta cell function left to avoid medications.
When called out on his pulling a “fact” out of the vacuum, he backpedals—and the picks up his goalposts and starts to run:
Pal: I may have inferred wrongly from what you wrote earlier.
Dietary adjustments that effectively treat illnesses are rarely mentioned by physicians, in my experience, and are routinely downplayed. If your experience differs, I’m interested to hear about it. Do you ask H. simplex patients about their diet?
“In my experience” is of course a placeholder for, “wait, my rectum is still full of unsupported assertions.” Dietary modification is the mainstay for the treatment of many common diseases: coronary heart disease, hypertension, sleep apnea, obesity, type II diabetes, hyperlipidemia, just to name a few. It is not “downplayed” but real doctors recognize that real patients should not be punished for their inability to make significant enough lifestyle changes.