Yet more kookery, plus a little argumentation.

One of the courses that I’m taking at the moment has gone slightly downhill of late. First it was the trip to the homeopathy factory, now its 2-hour rambles from a ‘doctor of chinese medicine’.

One of the things that fascinates me about these guys is that they all know the side they’re on. They all hate western/conventional medicine and accuse real doctors of treating ‘symptoms not causes’. They all claim to be scientific, but then cloud their explanations with untestable jargon, inaccurate analogy and frivolous endorsement. They all hang around each other, united as a ‘movement’ who’s only unifying feature is that they all have a common enemy.

Luckily, there is an amazingly easy way to spot on correct for alt-med. Simply ask a believer if he or she would treat themselves for leukemia/necrotising fascitis/a compound fracture solely with it. Nearly all ‘believers’ in holistic medicine will suddenly feign agnosticism and claim that it really can only complement real medicine. And if even the believers don’t think it will work without help, how can they claim it works at all? If one half of your treatment is doing all the heavy lifting in terms of getting you better, what exactly does the other half do? Don’t expect joyful thanks when pointing this out, however. People like the idea of a doctor who doesn’t poke you with needles (except when you want them to and its aligning your chakra), always has time to talk to you and gives you spiritual advice into the bargain.

My other favourite is to get the person to explain, in the clearest possible language, how the alt-med treatment is supposed to work. Homeopathy, once stripped of all its pretensions concerning ‘biophysics’, suddenly becomes “take a substance that makes you sick and dilute it in water until none is left. The magic comes from knocking it as you do so.” Acupuncture becomes “Use a five-element wheel as an elaborate analogy for the body’s major organs. Assume that the next element up the chain is the treatment for the one you consider to be ‘blocked’. Use this, and a body plan built on yet another elaborate analogy, to tell you where to stick a needle.”

Seriously, its a great game (Medicine, in case you wondered, boils down to “use the scientific method to determine how disease works. Only use treatments proven by exhaustive studies to work. Always be prepared to change your treatment if someone else can prove that it doesn’t work. Rinse, repeat.”)

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