Re: [asa] Consensus science

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Fri Aug 28 2009 - 16:52:18 EDT

Heya Iain,

I share that skepticism. On the other hand, I'm skeptical about mainstream
medicine too - just in different ways.

That said, I think there is a vast gulf of difference between "Folk
treatment (x) is a bunch of nonsense mumbo-jumbo" and "Folk treatment (x)
works, but probably not for the reasons they think it does". As I said, I
think there are better examples of experts/consensus being dismissive of an
alternative idea to their detriment, even if the alternative has shown some
promising results or reasonable theoretical justification. - An
interesting, recent article about the placebo effect. Though in this article
it's more about the effect's confounding of mainstream medicine.

On Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 4:26 PM, Iain Strachan <>wrote:

> Hi,
> I think the point about acupuncture is that there is no scientific evidence
> for the reasons it is traditionally supposed to work (meridians, chi etc).
> However, I did read somewhere about an interesting study into the effect of
> acupuncture on migraine. There were three treatments given to migraine
> sufferers, conventional drug therapy, acupuncture, and "sham acupuncture",
> where the needles were inserted into the wrong places - ie not where they're
> supposed to be placed according to the traditional understanding of it.
> There were two interesting results. The first was that the sham
> acupuncture worked just as well as the genuine acupuncture. This certainly
> blows a big hole in the traditional understanding of meridians and chi.
> However also both acupuncture treatments did better than the drug
> treatments.
> From this it would be possible to conclude that acupuncture works but not
> for the reason it's supposed to, and that the "traditional" form is wrapped
> up in a load of irrelevant mumbo-jumbo. But I suppose you could also
> conclude that those who received either of the acupuncture treatments had a
> placebo effect that was not present when drugs were taken; possibly due to
> the perception of being cared for.
> I'm afraid I can't remember the reference to the study.
> In general, I'm extremely sceptical about alternative medicine.
> Iain
> On Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 8:56 PM, Schwarzwald <>wrote:
>> Heya Jack,
>> A note: I'm not all that enthused with "alternative medical practices"
>> myself, whatever they may be. I've heard some interesting anecdotes, but for
>> my own part I tend to put at least a bit more stock into mainstream
>> therapies.
>> That said, I don't think the issue is as clear-cut as you say. I decided
>> to check out if there have been any studies indicating acupuncture actually
>> works. Sure enough:
>> "The study showed that acupuncture increases the binding availability of
>> mu-opioid receptors in regions of the brain that process and weaken pain
>> signals -- specifically the cingulate, insula, caudate, thalamus and
>> amygdala. By directly stimulating these chemicals<>,
>> acupuncture can affect the brain's long-term ability to regulate pain, the
>> study found."
>> Now, I'm not a big fan of science journalism (and I have a healthy
>> skepticism of scientists reporting on their research too), so take this with
>> a grain of salt - at least if you trust the reports about that helping. But
>> at the glance I took, it seems that there's at least recognition that
>> acupuncture could honestly be achieving some valid results. (Chiropractors,
>> I didn't look into much.) I could care less what chi is or what mystical
>> principles acupuncture is based on - if it works, it works. And if it seems
>> to work, it warrants investigation. Even use.
>> I think Cameron could have picked some better and less controversial
>> examples to drive his point home, but I don't think he's completely off-base
>> on this.
>>> There are so many things wrong with this paragraph it is hard to know
>>> where to begin. Chiropractic and acupuncture are considered "alternative"
>>> medical practices, for good reasons. First there is no scientific basis to
>>> them. I have never seen an electronmicrospy of Chi, nor a Chi gel, or fMRI
>>> of Chi states. Western Medicine, for all its flaws, is based on science;
>>> anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, etc. Acupuncture is based on mystical
>>> principles. Chiropractic is based on a philsophy that almost all modern
>>> chiropractic practioners have abandoned. The other difficulty is a lack of
>>> clear definitions. When someone does a study of chiropractic techniques,
>>> they are rarely rigourous in defining exactly what the manipulation is.
>>> There are just about as many manipulations as there are practitioners. I
>>> find it surprising that you place higher authority in the general public,
>>> "everyone goes to chiropracters", and congressman, than you do on the
>>> "consensus" medical opinion. I guess that tells us a lot about you.
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Received on Fri Aug 28 16:53:12 2009

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