Friday, August 04, 2006

Alternative vs Conventional

Pseudoscience is nothing about advanced equipment, or anything of the sort. Science is using the scientific method. A theory will explain how something works, and then an experiment is used to back up the explanation. The experiments must be repeatable by anyone at all, and if performed correctly, will always show the expected results. Scientists must also be wary that the theory may be proved wrong, of course. Someone may argue that the experiment does not demonstrate the theory's validity, or they may find another experiment that shows flaws in the theory. Science is ever evolving, but it is more than just guesswork.

Equipment is nothing. Charles Babbage and George Boole invented the science of computing over 100 years before the first computer was built, yet they would recognise their work in the PC you are are using now, even though they had no concept how such a machine could be made. It's science that creates the real miracles in this world. They were convinced they were right, not because of a belief in gaia, but because of the definitive proof of mathematics. Science is a whole lot more reliable than pseudoscience, and to say otherwise is to show your ignorance.

I never said all complimentary medicine was crap, if you read back, I always said 'most', 'many' and 'some'. Never 'all'. You're making things up again, and putting words in my mouth. I'm not exactly going to be able to discount therapies I have never heard of. I'm sure sometimes people have stumbled accross things that work. You say that the definition of alternative medicine is not the narrow one I cited from a dictionary. Yet again, you're telling me what I'm saying. What I meant in my post was exactly the defintion in the dictionary. If you read between the lines and find things that aren't there, I can hardly be held accountable.

You pointed out many plants used in chinese medicine, and that studies have shown that substances in those plants are used to treat various illnesses. I have only a very limited knowledge of chemistry, but I know enough to see that many of the links you provided (fot example the the three links you provided for ginger) showed chemicals being extracted from these plants, concentrated massively, and then applied to cancerous cells in a petri dish. There is no indication from any of the studies that eating ginger would have the same effect. When these chemicals are consumed their effect is very much more complex than what you would see in a petri dish, and any positive or even negative effects on a real human would have to be studied before you could suggest this as a real treatment.

In fact, even the articles you linked too (for example, this one) don't suggest we go out and eat tons of ginger, licourice, or coffee, as they will have other effects, and perhaps some of them won't be beneficial. These studies merely suggest that the effect is in need of further study. This is an important step, but not really the miracle cure suggested by statements that 'Apple skin reduce liver cancer by 57%'. Eventually, if the effect is real, science will discover the effect these chemicals have, and the range of treatments you can buy in your local chemist will increase to include them. This is how it has always worked, and how you can buy pills like Aspirin, which is made from a extract of tree bark.

What you show by linking to these studies is conventional medicine in operation - research is being done to discover new ways of treating illness in ways science has been doing for a long time. This is nothing to do with alternative medicine. The fact that Chinese medicine uses ginger is lucky, but they can harly have given it to cancer patience, since cancer wasn't known about until a long time later.

You talk of the system of yin and yang to balance the human body - there is no reason to think this, as we now know the body doesn't work like that, just like there is no sense in believing the Earth is flat now that we know otherwise. Diagnosing illness like that is just like telling the future by looking at tea leaves or reading your horroscope in the paper.

As shown here, Ayurvedia says that disease is caused by demons, devils, and the influence of stars and planets. I doubt many of the people who suggest these treatments believe in demons. Ayurvedia also suggests bloodletting as a treatment for many diseases, including Cancer. Forced vomiting is also suggested as helpful. The thousands of years of knowledge that you so trust created these ideas. These are both very dangerous, and their use was originally suggested alongside with herbal treatments used today by Ayurvedic practitioners.

You also link to an article which is in fact a press release from the US Apple Association. I don't consider advertising to be a useful source of information. You said that drug companies had a vested interest and couln't be trusted, and so the same must be said of a trade organisation that exists soly to promote apples!

Studies of differing diets in various countries often find varying amounts of disease. For example, the mediterranean diet is thought to be very healthy. Other factors may be at work here, though, such as vitamin A production through the skin as these countries tend to be sunny. The Japanese tend to be quite healthy too, as they consume plenty of fish, which is very high in protein. There are also downsides to this though. These cultures almost always have high incidences of other diseased, for instance the death rate through suicide is very high in Japan, something which is partially cultural, but also could have a chemical cause.

Doctors shouldn't be prejudiced against anything - alternative or otherwise. They should be encouraged to look at the evidence, and make their own mind up. They also shouldn't be scared to voice the opinion that certain treatments don't work. Everyday food items no doubt have many effects on our health, good and bad, but tabloid-like suggestions that apples cure liver Cancer is misleading and creates false hope.