Say you have some idea, and you really like the idea for any combination of reasons like: it makes you shitloads of money, you really believe it’s true, you really want it to be true, etc. But darn it–there’s this thing called Science that allows us to test and see if things are true are not. Well, gosh! That pesky Science keeps coming back with a big ol’, “NO,” When you ask it whether your idea works. So what can you do? Well a lot of people end up taking the route I like to call, “Fuck Science!”
Fortunately, it’s not so easy. Many recognize the results that the scientific method produces, because it works. It makes accurate predictions and gives us knowledge useful in tangible applications such as the computer on which I type this. So when someone, in so many words says, “Hey. Ya know what? Fuck Science,” many people will ask, “Uhh. Why?”
So, what is the person who says “Fuck Science,” to do? Well. Two of the more common approaches are as follows:
- Surround yourself with a (probably relatively small) group of people who will buy your “Fuck Science,” philosophy. (Cults, conspiracy theorists, etc)
- Make it sound like you’re not actually saying “Fuck Science.” Wrap your fucking of Science into a more attractive package so it doesn’t look like you’re rejecting science. In fact, you can even make it look like your “Fuck Science,” idea is Science itself! (Pseudoscience).
I’d like to talk to you today about strategy number 2 (an appropriate label). Specifically how this strategy is used to promote the ideas of creationism and “alternative medicine.” Creationism and “alternative medicine” are both denials of wide, well-established scientific fields, namely biology and medicine. Because the backlash against both of these ideas has been pretty strong in the past, both have been forced to evolve their approach, to soften their sell, so to speak.
Creationism has gone with the “intelligent design” strategy, which claims to be non-religious and attempts to co-opt scientific language and presentation in order to appear as if it’s based on science rather than religion. It’s a sort of conceptual Batesian Mimicry, if you will.
“Alternative medicine” proponents have been using this strategy, too. We can safely say that no common “alternative medicine” practice has a specific effect (an effect that is not the placebo effect) because almost all of them have been subjected to scientific evaluation numerous times with that result. So… if it looks like using your ineffective treatment instead of real medicine might be ineffective and dangerous, why not suggest using both!?
This is where the word “complementary” that’s often used alongside “alternative medicine” these days comes from. The term “Integrated medicine” has now grown popular as well and is meeting with great success in muddying the waters among otherwise respectable academic institutions and care providers.
“Integrative medicine” and “intelligent design” are both what Skeptics call “wedge” strategies. They are PR or marketing tools used to change and soften up the language of their assertions in order to get their collective feet in the door. The soft-sell language is the thin edge of the wedge that allows them to jam their ideas (the not-thin edge of the wedge) into places where they’re not otherwise welcome.
What’s the harm if patients aren’t forgoing real medical care for the “alternative” bullshit? Well. For one, they’re being conned out of money. If that’s not enough, many therapies that Naturopaths, for example, like to use are either less safe and effective than pharmacology (herbalism) or unscientifically proven in clinical trials (any number of “alternative medicine” therapies), which means they could have potentially dangerous side-effects with no guaranteed benefits. Sounds like a lose-lose situation to me.
In addition as mentioned in the article by Scott Gavura (which I also linked above), it’s pointed out that medical professionals need to work together to provide care. This mixing of real medical professionals with “alternative medicine practitioners”, according to Gavura, could dilute the overall standards of medical care and even hamper the efficient operation of a care provider’s system. I’m sorry, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to let a bunch of clowns run around a hospital, potentially screwing with the people who are actually providing real care.
It’s fine with me if this doctor and this clown want to hang out together like this, but the clown shouldn’t be getting in the doctor’s way when they’re working.
A lot of people might say I’m biased, but to say someone is biased toward science is not saying anything at all. Science, by its very nature, is unbiased. The reason why “alternative medicine” is “alternative” is quite simply because the stuff that worked became real medicine, while the voodoo was left out in the cold where it belonged. So when I hear someone say, “Fuck Science,” it sounds like a load of horse shit to me, no matter what kind of language it’s couched in.
More on this topic:
Integrative Medicine: A Brand, Not a Speciality