Recent posts on this blog have addressed the scientific process in different degrees. A cornerstone in science is not only how to know what is true, but also how to identify false claims.
Brian Dunning, host and producer of the Skeptoid podcast, presents invaluable tools to assess the truthfullness of different claims in his video “Here Be Dragons: An Introduction to Critical Thinking”. A video well worth the watch.
The video mainly focuses on the new age and alternative medicine phenomena, but also touches on subjects already discussed here at Truth is a Woman.
Tyson here: I also think this is a very good video (you will have to be patient though, it’s 40 mins. long), but I would also like to mention a few things that the narrator does not discuss fully or might be somewhat dismissive of.
When dealing with the issue of Alternative Medicine, we have to keep in mind the power of that we bring to the healing process. Every new clinical trial always includes a control or placebo group for a reason. When someone really believes that a remedy is going to work, depending on the person and depending on the condition — there is a significant chance that whatever the remedy is, it will work. This is and interesting and important phenomena and one that should be studied. I should also mention that even though it is not fully-understood, it is nevertheless a question of science.
The effect of a placebo treatment is further enhanced by delivery methods. If you enter a “wellness” center — and if you have been under stress, eating poorly, emotionally disorganized — and you are set into a place and state of calm and relaxation, if you are allowed to sort your thoughts and to feel at ease… then you may very well feel better — emotionally and physically! This is not magic or “chi,” it is the effect of stress-reduction, a well-known and scientifically supported phenomenon.
So my point is this: Although the mechanisms of Alternative Therapies may be completely fallacious, the claims inaccurate, and the science just wrong… some people may benefit from them under some conditions… and that benefit is known by science. Though it is extraordinarily difficult to quantify, test, and “bottle,” it deserves study, and people are studying it. I will post later about some researchers dedicated entirely to understanding the placebo or other psycho-somatic effects, but for now — enjoy the video!