Re: [asa] Consensus science

From: Bill Powers <>
Date: Sun Aug 30 2009 - 00:21:17 EDT


I am happy to hear of your expertise in this regard. You might,
therefore, find the article I referenced below of interest (if you can
find it). The suggestion of the article is that Chineses medicine and
Western medicine use vastly different medical paradigms.

So your comment that the explanations were "unscientific" are exactly
what one would expect. Modern science tends to believe that there must
be only one "scientific" explanation for a phenomena. This, however,
may not be the case.

I add, however, for completeness that the article suggests (it cannot
prove) that acupuncture was discovered by the Chinese long before it
developed a theory to explain it. The question we in the West would
have is whether the theory served certain epistemic values. Did it
suggest new phenomena? Did it provide a means of fruitful research?
The author says that the Chinese are more pragmatic in their approach to
science. They are less interested in a unified, truth-like
representation of the world, and more in its utility in obtaining
results. So the questions we ask, may simply not interest them.

Well, anyway I simply suggest that you may find the article of interest,
given your specialization.


On Sat, 29
Aug 2009, Jack wrote:

> 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.
> bill
> On Sat, 29 Aug 2009, Jack
> wrote:
>> 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.
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Received on Sun Aug 30 00:22:31 2009

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