1. Sastra says

    Excellent video.
    In addition to money and power, the acceptance of alternative or integrative medicine also seems to me to be underwritten by the blanket pass culturally granted routinely to matters of faith. It’s good to believe on subjective, personal evidence chosen for its ability to comfort, soothe, convince, and elevate. It’s also good to believe in supernatural or occult powers and forces hidden to the cold methods of materialist science. Combine the two and we’ve created a system of medicine which requires the gentle tiptoeing habits we give to religion.

    Friends of mine who value and promote alt med make no bones at all about it being a form of Spirituality. They would find this video distressing and insulting because of its judgmental stance against what should only be treated with respect for “differences.”

  2. grumpyoldfart says

    Bee pollen! So no good taking pollen directly from the plants – you have to shake it off a bee’s legs before it works!

  3. wcorvi says

    I don’t have the bandwidth to view the video, but I did go to the NIH webpage for alternative medicine (the results of the $billions). You can click on your favorite alternative, and get a complete summary of what the proponents claim for it (as if all true). But there is nowhere to be found whether (or not) it works – the results of spending the $billions.
    You can get the same information from thousands of ‘woo’ sites around the web. So it isn’t different, and it isn’t educational. But it does come across as though the ‘research’ concluded the information given.
    Thanks, Tom.

  4. andyo says

    Look at the title, though. This is Reason after all, Libertarian Central. A glance at the comments, and someone is already telling another (presumably Libertarian) that science is biased, or what, does he think global warming is real?

    This video seems to be framing the issue as if the government at large is funding quackery, when it really is a bunch of individual congressmen that enable this bullshit.

  5. gijoel says

    I was on a holiday with my cousin, and she started talking about getting her father to some naturopath or something. Even though he was dying from colon cancer. I said she’d be better off saving her money and spending more time with him. There was an argy-bargy about alternative medicine which ended with her screaming, ‘Science doesn’t know everything.’

    As long as people keep saying that, alternative medicine will thrive.

  6. azpaul3 says

    #3 wcorvi

    But there is nowhere to be found whether (or not) it works …

    If it’s listed as “alternative medicine” then you can assume it does not work.

    If it worked it would be listed as “medicine”.

  7. leerudolph says

    But there is nowhere to be found whether (or not) it works …

    If it’s listed as “alternative medicine” then you can assume it does not work.

    Right. The correct (and important) question to ask is, whether (or not) it does more harm than a placebo. I hope that nothing on that list actually does active harm (but I wouldn’t bet the house on it, either).

  8. says

    Possibly my primary focus of loathing is on faith healing, into which basket I toss so-called alternative medicine. I wish I could have worked for Randi and taken down a few faith healers, even though they returned to gain more followers. In the interest of disclosure, I come from a science family – a few nurses, a lot of doctors, a microbiologist, three geologists, and a molecular biologist. I am none of them, just a computer nerd. But I was brought up to know that all chiropractic stuff is quackery, so that when they began receiving health insurance reimbursement my family went berserk. Some family members have passed on, but when the remainder learned that Reiki, acupuncture, and other such nonsense was covered by some insurance companies, they went even more berserk. That it’s become part of the ACA is abominable.

    The fact is that no one talks about the terrible increase in health insurance and medical care that this bullshit has wrought. I wish there were a valid, well-designed study on that, but I’m not qualified to get such a grant even if a teaching hospital or company would give anyone one. Yet it wouldn’t change anything, since believers will deny the truth (look at the anti-vaxxers) no matter what, and politicians are cowards.

    I did call CPS on a woman I met at an afternoon party who’d put a cayenne pepper mixture in her infant’s eyes. (The baby had a “cold,” and that was routine practice in her group). A few others were shocked, but they walked away as though nothing had happened. CPS did investigate, but she was only warned about it and didn’t lose custody. If she thought that was okay to do in public, dear fuckingchrist what was she doing in the privacy of her home?

    Thanks for letting me rant. I feel helpless about this entire subject.

  9. komarov says

    Re: leerudolph (#7):

    Right. The correct (and important) question to ask is, whether (or not) it does more harm than a placebo. I hope that nothing on that list actually does active harm (but I wouldn’t bet the house on it, either).

    Before worrying about actual harm or lack thereof from CAM-practices there is another question that needs to be asked: Do wee actually want to integrate placebos into routine medical care on a large scale? If not the follow-up question reverts back to, “Is it more effective than a placebo?” And if that isn’t the case the practice in question can be binned straight away.
    No need to check if a treatment is harmful if it didn’t do any good in the first place, at least not while you are not interested in new placebos. If some alternative practice were to turn out beneficial (above placebo effects) you could still go back and test the side-effects and then make the usual trade-offs between those, the benefits and other treatment options. And of course you’d already see some of the harmful side-effects during your study / early tests, if done properly.
    Going further than that would mean wasting even more resources testing something that, given it’s origins, had very low odds of success to begin with.

  10. says

    I was distressed when someone I graduated high school with started liking posts on facebook that promoted alt-medicine nonsense, such as a $400-$500 “chakra balancing” thing. It was worse because she also recently graduated from university as a nurse :/

  11. mickll says

    I hear you Brian, a friend of mine who’s been a nurse for a really long time just did a course in naturopathy. He’s been working in aged care wards for years and he’s good at it. Unfortunately being good at it means being “rewarded” by being called in to virtually manage the entire ward by yourself with only a handful of trainee nurses to assist.

    I hate to say it but I can see the attraction for nurses in particular from a purely selfish perspective, nurses typically get the shit end of the stick in terms of working conditions and workload compared to doctors and unlike doctors they don’t get the credit they deserve for practicing science based medicine or having to study it at length.

    Doesn’t mean I agree with the decision, but I understand it.

  12. zetopan says

    “with her screaming, ‘Science doesn’t know everything.’”

    A little suggestion. If you find yourself in a similar situation in the future, simply agree with [them] about those “limitations” of science and also point out that superstition doesn’t know anything. At least science advances over time while superstition simply stagnates. Homeopathy and other forms of quackery still have the same lack of supporting evidence that they had at their inceptions.

  13. Knight in Sour Armor says

    This is a core problem with the free market: ignoramuses and fools determine what products and services are available (so we collectively bankroll this crap in addition to not being able to buy cool stuff).

  14. David Eriksen says

    Given the source of this video, I probably shouldn’t be surprised by the things they left out. They mention the bee pollen thing but don’t mention that, for his entire career, Harkin was one of the top two recipients of campaign donations from the supplement industry. Seems to me that that might be relevant to legislation that he proposed advancing the supplement industry. It’s also interesting that they left out Sen Orrin Hatch (R, UT). He’s the other top recipient of sCAM money and has done just as much to promote bullshit instead of medicine. They worked together for decades to undermine the medical establishment in an amazing display of bipartisanship.

    Kinda weird how they ignore the influence of money and Republican involvement. Or not…

  15. andyo says

    #14 David,

    Exactly. No mention of DSHEA either, which is a huge enabler of medical quackery, and which left the FDA basically powerless against the supplement industry.

  16. David Eriksen says

    If they’d mentioned DSHEA, they would have had to mention Hatch since he sponsored the bill along with Harkin. That assumes a modicum of integrity on the part of

  17. llewelly says

    Two things are notable here.

    (0) This story leaves out the vital role of conservative Republican senator Orrin Hatch, who was essential in winning over Republican support for the bills Harkin wanted.

    (1) The same “news” organization carries several laudatory stories about Whole Foods.

    For Libertarians, it’s very important to bring up the science denialism of the alternative medicine characters when a Democrat is doing it, but it’s important to ignore it when a Libertarian is doing it.

  18. EvoMonkey says

    @ #8 mysteriousqfever

    I wish there were a valid, well-designed study on that, but I’m not qualified to get such a grant even if a teaching hospital or company would give anyone one.

    The NCCIH (previously NCCAM) has a booth set up at all the major scientific conferences in the US. I regularly see them at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. They are desperate to talk to researchers and get grant applications. The video points out that they have funded some studies and all of them have shown no positive results for these alternative therapies. I have talked to the NCCIH staff at these meetings and they are very much aware that most researchers have no interest in these studies because they don’t enhance your career and it is difficult to publish negative results. The studies that show negative (or at best, no effect) certainly do not sway any of the believers in these quack therapies. The money on most of these studies is completely wasted because these alternative medical therapies do not even have a plausible mechanism that underlies them. They can be essentially shot down with a thought experiment or logic.