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Feb 04 2012

A poll with a stupid question

Should universities teach alternative medicine?

Yes 36%

No 64%

Universities should teach medicine that has been shown to work.

28 comments

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  1. 1
    Doubting Thomas

    But they should teach about ‘alternative’ medicine and why it’s not medicine, it’s bullshit.

  2. 2
    littlejohn

    Done. It isn’t moving in the right direction yet, but atheists sleep late. Give it time.

  3. 3
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I wouldn’t mind if they taught a bit about alternative medicine and why it doesn’t work.
    A friend finished pharmacy, but knows nothing about homeopathy. When I told her a bit about extreme dilutions, she thought I was exaggerating and didn’t believe me. She claims that she can’t say for sure homeopathy is bad, because she doesn’t know enough about it.
    At some point she admitted that some professor mentioned homeopathy once, but didn’t explain anything about it. I would be much happier if they had debunked it. After all, homeopathic medicine has slowly crept into our pharmacies. It seems that little fact is being ignored or quietly approved off.

  4. 4
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Addendum : Since the author of the stupid poll obviously didn’t mean it in the way I’d like them to, I voted NO.

  5. 5
    Zeno

    Well, of course schools should teach alternative medicine. They should teach that it’s “alternative” because (a) it’s wrong or (b) unproven. The stuff that is shown to work by the preponderance of the evidence is called plain old “medicine.”

  6. 6
    Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion

    Voted. Having attended a prenatal class today and had to endure the pushing of yet more woo (aromatherapy. Seriously?), I cannot stress enough that this widely held acceptance of alt med has to stop NOW. For US residents – is it just as big a problem over there? Do you have ads on TV that stress ‘natural’ remedies/ingredients as being good, wholesome, expensive yuppie fodder whilst proper medicine is relegated as something you fall back on when you have either A. Real problems (you know, like you NEED a breast augmentation) or B. Don’t have the cash to spend on ‘natural’ remedies?

    It’s disgusting and insidious, and the degree to which it’s accepted by pretty much everyone is more than a little alarming. Chiropractors are more commonly used than physiotherapists. Physio is seen as something that you only have when you’ve got a sports injury or are in need of rehab after surgery. Even the midwife running the course today was trying to get a lady to go see a chiro – “Oh, your back pain might not be related to the nasty injury you sustained years ago, it’s probably a spinal misalignment!”
    The amount of restraint it took not to jump in with a few choice statements of fact – despite my crippling anxiety – was phenomenal. I swear my ears were steaming.

  7. 7
    unbound

    Alternatively, they should teach medicine…

  8. 8
    unbound

    Sophia (#6) – It is becoming an increasing problem in the states too. Many pharmacies now carry homeopathic “medicines” sitting right besides actual medicine on the shelf. A law was passed a few years ago allowing manufacturers to put whatever claim they want on products as long as they have a single person with any credentials that is willing to state the claim (i.e. they don’t need scientific consensus, just one “scientist” will do)…which is why we have breakfast cereals claiming to improve cholesterol, et al.

  9. 9
    Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion

    Yack. Yes, we have the same problem. I went to a pharmacy to see if they had anything to help me sleep. I asked if they had something based on melatonin, curiously more than anything, and was astonished to hear that they had indeed! When the nice lady pointed me to a small bottle on the shelf I enthusiastically read the label and as soon as I came across the word ‘homeopathic’ I couldn’t get it out of my hands quickly enough. The only other item available was some kind of useless ‘natural sleep aid’ herbal nonsense. The lady couldn’t understand why I was so put off. The scary part is that I think she was the pharmacist, not just some regular working the counter. Sad.

  10. 10
    RFW

    The issues are (as always) more complex than one might think at first glance.

    Simply put, some alternative therapies work on some ailments in some people some of the time. However, accepted standards for the adoption of a given medical treatment demand more than “some-some-some-some”. More like most-most-most-most.

    Further, belief in alternative medicine is driven by a number of factors. Among these, the high price of mainstream medicine in the US, thanks to the absence of any decent universal health insurance scheme; bad education, so the rubes don’t understand that Aunt Fannie’s improvement after she took X amounts to little more than anecdotal evidence, validated via the post hoc, propter hoc fallacy.

    Add to this the lucrative nature of alternative medical practices and widespread distrust of corporations, including those manufacturing drugs, and you should have no surprise that lots of people turn away from orthodox allopathic medicine, the alternative medicine industry egging them on all the while.

    Here is BC, our medical coverage includes chiropractic and (iirc) naturopathic treatment, thanks to a vocal contingent of Earth Mothers and a supine government happy to garner Earth Mother votes by pandering to them. There are any number of silly women (and, yes, the Earth Mother Brigade seems to be mostly made up of women) who gush about their chiropractor and how wonderful he is.

    Never mind that the better grade of physiotherapist know and perform chiropractic manipulations if appropriate, but they don’t do so while setting themselves up as opposition to the orthodox medical community and they don’t smear the surgeons with a “we won’t cut you” line. (As though surgeons get their jollies at the thought of slicing someone open!)

    Once again, uninformed and disinformed pols taint our whole way of life with nonsense.

  11. 11
    joshnankivel

    It’s certainly tipped the other way now! Yes 24%, No 76%

  12. 12
    michelemanion

    What’s the old joke? Q.’What do you call alternative medicine that’s been shown to actually work? A. Medicine.’

    I think the poll taker is too late. A lot of otherwise credible, top-notch medical schools (including our own U of MN) are already dabbling in the magical arts for credit.

  13. 13
    jaredwilkins

    I somewhat disagree. I have found that of my friends that believe in homeopathy, chakras and the like are all entirely ignorant of the truth claims bbehind them. When I explain that homeopathy is based on the “principal” like cures like, and that on top of that its just water with no active ingedient and that japanese professor who claims to have imprinted water with emotion is a quack, they realize its all bullsheiza. So maybe it wouldn’t be bad to have a course, or 1 hour seminar, in the auditorium where alternative medicine is explained why it is considered alternative…

  14. 14
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    As I like reiterating, wooism is one of the biggest problems in largely secularised Europe today.

    There is a tenured professor of psychology at a German university who is trying to justify homeopathy by using the theory of quantum entanglement, and has published several journal articles on it.

    Apparently some of his supporters also suggested that the physicist from Vienna who has worked a lot on this, also supports its application to homeopathy.

    Two days ago a German newspaper wrote a very critical article about homeopathy, and also gave the Austrian professor the opportunity to clarify that he thinks that homeopathy is utter nonsense.

    We need more stories like that!

    (http://euroatheist.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/quantum-entanglement-professor-speaks-out-against-wooists-misusing-his-name/)

  15. 15
    montanto

    Only if it’s an anthropology course discussing what primitive societies believe.

  16. 16
    OldEd

    well, it’s 80% NO and 20% YES at this time. I voted NO – but then upon reading the preceding comments, I realize that I was biased in my voting… I should have voted YES, TO EXPLAIN THAT IT IS GARBAGE. Otherwise…

  17. 17
    a3kr0n

    That was easy. Now back to Anoka…

  18. 18
    Monsanto

    Should seminaries teach alternative religion?

  19. 19
    bardurarantsson

    Hey! “Alternative” is great, right!

    No, wait, is isn’.t

  20. 20
    peterwhite

    I read the articles pertaining to the poll and was shocked. A surgeon was in favor of teaching woo in university. Her rationale – alternative medicine has been around for a long time so there must be something to it. How did this nutbar get a degree in science? The only other one in favor was someone who was part of the alternative medicine industry. Those in favor of alternative therapies had the opinion that anyone who disagreed must have closed their minds to other possibilities.

    The other two articles came from a real doctor and a medical student. Both seemed to think testing was a better way to determine if a drug or procedure had some value. I guess their minds must have been closed.

  21. 21
    tielserrath

    Fuck me, but that surgeon’s a complete arse.

    The most dispiriting thing I find is that you can spend decades teaching people about evidence based medicine, and they still turn round and spout shit like that.

    The med student gives me hope, however.

  22. 22
    robp

    So I went to bed last night and the poll was evenly split 2/3 against and 1/3 for, and woke up this morning and what do you know!
    I figured some evil athiest plot must have been at work behind the scenes, but having been too busy to read pharyngula regularly for the last couple of years it took me a little while to twig as to what might have been up.
    PZ Myers strikes again.
    As the student that contributed to that article, thanks for voting!

  23. 23
    Aurora_Belle

    If you’re in a program like pharmacy or medicine where you are going to be dealing with patients who are taking these medications and believe in them, then yes. It is important to know what effects they have on the body and how they interact with other medications/disease states, because even though they probably don’t have the intended effect, they will have some effect on the body. Herbal medications are a big source of problems in pharmacy because many of these are metabolized through the same pathways that prescription medicines are, and that opens up the potential for a host of problems in patients taking herbals.
    As far as learning about products with no evidence to back them up so that they can be recommended to patients, that would just be poor practice.

  24. 24
    linearised

    I believe this was prompted by a recent article on RMIT’s courses on complementary medicine:

    http://www.transformingthenation.com.au/2012/02/alternative-medicine-can-be-scientific-say-besieged-academics/

    Unfortunately there are a number of universities in Australia that have such courses eg.

    Charles Sturt University http://www.csu.edu.au/courses/undergraduate/complementary_medicine/course-overview

    CSU also has a “research cluster” in complementary medicine which publishes in such distinguished venues as the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

    Southern Cross University http://www.scu.edu.au/schools/hahs/index.php/4 is proud of the fact that it was the “first Australian university to offer a degree course in naturopathy”.

    I read the article in the Sydney Morning Herald over the weekend and the “pro” comments from surgeon Dr Valerie Melka are simply breathtaking:

    “There is no better than modern medicine when it comes to surgery, emergency and trauma, but for almost everything else, traditional, natural or alternative medicine is far more effective – particularly for chronic illness which modern medicine is completely unable to treat or cure.”

  25. 25
    snarkmatter

    Heh. The poll has 3 more days left and it’s currently 50/50.

  26. 26
    carbonbasedlifeform

    It’s now at 40% yes, 60% no.

  27. 27
  28. 28
    lansellion

    PZ I didn’t know you possessed the “Dark arts of the internet” and have been using them to victimize polls!

    http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/vote-on-alternative-medicine-falls-victim-to-dark-arts-of-the-internet-20120210-1skv6.html

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