Thursday, 26 January 2017

Is it fair to compare "Alternative Facts" with "Alternative Medicine"

I came across this “meme” on Facebook today:

“The very concept of alternative medicine exists to create a double standard where the rules of science and evidence are stood on their head specifically to manufacture the result that is desired by cranks, charlatans, snake-oil salesmen, and self-proclaimed gurus. There is no alternative medicine. There is just medicine. Either it works or it doesn’t work.”
-Steven Novella

The inevitable retort was: but what about some “natural/traditional” medicines that have not been thoroughly studied. These might work. So, surely it’s an unfair comparison?

My response to that is this:

When people bullshit based on their gut feelings, they can also be right sometimes. It’s only when someone looks into it do we know whether it is actually fact or fiction. “Folk medicine” and natural products may have good (or bad!) effects but it is wrong to imply that they are medicine until we know whether/when they work.

In the same way that an opinion is not an “alternative fact”, a natural product that somebody thinks might do something is not “alternative medicine”.

Then, of course, there is the less generous - but even more apt - comparison of bare-faced lies with bare-faced fraudulent treatments like homeopathy - things demonstrably false that are being badged at truth under the label “alternative”.

I just hope that the war on “Alternative Facts” is more successful than the war on “Alternative Medicine”. The real problem with taking action based on made up stuff is that reality doesn’t care how well-meaning you are, or how much you want it to be true. Hopefully, America will not suffer too much at the hands of reality before Trump and/or his cronies realise this.

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