Re: [asa] Consensus science

From: Jack <>
Date: Sat Aug 29 2009 - 23:12:15 EDT

I guess I need to be more clear about what my point is. The efficacy of
acupuncture is not the issue, it is the theory behind it. Cameron impugned
the medical profession, implying that alternative medicine has not been
accepted for political reasons. My point is that is that alternative
medicine has not been accepted by the medical profession because there is no
sound scientific theory behind these treatments. Any of us would be willing
to accept it if it clearly is beneficial. I am a neurologist, and do a lot
of pain managment. I refer people for chiropractic and acupuncture. I am
not convinced however that the benefit is more than the placebo effect.
But, that is a benefit nevertheless. It is simply not the case that the
medical profession has shunned these treatments only to be proven wrong by
the general public, this is what Cameron was saying. He is wrong on this
point, it is not a good example of the consensus being wrong.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Bill Powers" <>
To: "Jack" <>
Cc: "Schwarzwald" <>; <>
Sent: Saturday, August 29, 2009 9:30 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] Consensus science

I have no recent research regarding acupuncture, but there was an
interesting article pulished in 1996 by Douglas Allchin, titled Points
East and West: Acupuncture and Comparitive Philosophy of Science, in
which he affirms that acupuncture does indeed "work." For example, in
really does have anesthetic properites. There may be other capabilities
for which it has been confirmed.

His main point, of course, was not to discuss the efficaciouness of
acupuncture, apparently something that was widely accepted, but the
divergent and inconsistent theories of why it works. It apparently took
some time for the West be able to even understand how to approach an
explanation. The ancient Chinese explanations were "incommensurable" to
anything that the West would employ in trying to understand it.

What interested the author was the radically different views of what
science looks like, ontology, and aims of science. Why, he asks, did it
take the West over 2000 years to discover this effect? And that when it
did, it was totally dumbfounded?

I still don't know if the West has an "appropriate" explanation for
acupuncture, but it is not a placebo effect.


On Sat, 29 Aug 2009, Jack

> It is possible, that the effect you report here is what is behind the
> placebo effect. It is not enough to say, "if it works, it works," there
> needs to be an explanatory mechanism behind it for it to be scientific. I
> am not trying to imply in anything that I said that acupuncture or
> chiropractic is dangerous or useless. Cameron was using the increasing
> popularity of these practices as an example of how the consensus opinion
> is wrong, but in my opinion this was a very bad example because the
> consensus is based on scientific opinion, and the popular opinion is
> pseudoscientific, for lack of a better term.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Schwarzwald
> To:
> Sent: Friday, August 28, 2009 3:56 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] Consensus science
> 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.
> To unsubscribe, send a message to with
> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Sat Aug 29 23:12:59 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sat Aug 29 2009 - 23:13:00 EDT