ASStronomically Bad Science

in Debunking EBM by

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Regret the poor pun already, but if you are a BMJ-Christmas edition fan like me, you will have eagerly awaited the brilliant series of enjoyable scientific reads they bring forth as a year end extravaganza that they spew each December. I was pleasantly exhilarated to read this article which takes on the pseudoscince of Integrative Medicine, which is just a nom de plume for the much debated Complementary and Applied Medicine (CAM).

Now, in this article,  Professor John C. McLachlan, Professor of Medical Education at the Durham SOM, describes how he managed to get an abstract about a “new” method of reflexology about needling one’s buttocks (pun intended) could be “scientificated” by his discovery of a homunculus on the buttocks. he goes on to say:

I have discovered a new version of reflexology, which identifies a homunculus represented in the human body, over the area of the buttocks. The homunculus is inverted, such that the head is represented in the inferior position, the left buttock corresponds to the right hand side of the body, and the lateral aspect is represented medially. As with reflexology, the “map” responds to needling, as in acupuncture, and to gentle suction, such as cupping.

I was wondering that not only did the organizers of The Jerusalem International Conference on Integrative Medicine have poor scientific judgment (they accepted a perfectly freak paper) but also, had severely impaired sense of humor. Sucking on the buttocks? Seriously? Makes my head spin with the possible number of puns I could make out of that. Would have saved me a lot of hard thinking. Sigh…

Head Up YOUR ASS! 🙂

I completely agree with the good professor when he says:

I do not believe that rational medicine could have been fooled with something so intrinsically ridiculous as in this case. Minimum standards of common sense should, I think, have led to a polite but firm rejection—or at least further inquiry. Alternative medicine is not noted for rigorous inquiry, for research designed to prove the null hypothesis, but rather accepts notions on face value. Therefore a face value test is fair.

It is indeed an ominous sign that the conference organizers could not call a hoax. It was a form of deceit, true, one which undermines the good faith which functions at the base of all human scientific inquiry. But at the same time, the ends possibly justify the means. What is more serious is that these alternative medicine methods are far more vociferous than the scientific community and have an instant appeal to the lay person who feel the scientific skepticism of conventional medicine to be an alienating force. And the case of Kim Tinkham, making an informed decision to forego conventional medical treatment to succumb to breast cancer untimely (here I have touched upon it before) is just an example. An educated, smart, informed woman, chose to renounce conventional medicine because it could not answer her questions satisfactorily. Instead, she chose a voodoo healing, advocating the use of an “alkalinizing lifestyle” (based on the presumption that cancer was caused by acid, which damaged normal cells, pushing them towards cancer. WTFery at its best!) because they gave answers to her queries. No matter how bull-excrement-like they were, they catered to the fancies of an afraid woman.

Things like these make my blood boil over. While I spend the best years of my life, toiling in pursuit of the scientific truth and how to find them, charlatans come along, and by the dint of their gift-of-gab, combined with the layman’s fear of a disease or the consequences thereof, makes a fortune.

People in Britain, USA, etc. are at least making an effort to unmask these posers. There is an outcry against ridiculous assumptions of Homeopathy and Naturopathy (not to be confised with Naturalism, which is a far more logical, and enjoyable pursuit, IMHO) in those countries. But here, in India, we are getting ready to breed a bunch of certified quacks (by promoting the Bachelor of Rural Health diploma) and are officially certifying other “allied medical practitioners” with the power to “help” people.

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Skeptic Oslerphile, Scientist at the Indian Council of Medical Research, National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases. Interests include: Emerging Infections, Public Health, Antimicrobial Resistance, One Health and Zoonoses, Diarrheal Diseases, Medical Education, Medical History, Open Access, Healthcare Social Media and Health2.0. Opinions are my own!

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