Compromise vs. Medicine

Thursday, May 05, 2016

I ran across an old article on the alleged scientific study of "alternative medicine" funded by the federal government. It's over a decade old, but I feel safe betting that little has changed of the situation it describes, of quackery being given a veneer of scientific credibility and "academic institutions ... lulled into submission by millions of dollars in foundation grants."

Regarding the damage that the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health wreaks, Chris Mooney writes:

[I]n practice it hasn't worked out that way. After a decade of studies, the truth about CAM is proving much harder to pin down than anyone imagined. This uncertainty hasn't hurt proponents; indeed, it's probably helped them. They've made inroads at all the top medical schools. Philanthropic organizations have showered money on programs and scholarship to boost CAM's visibility. The simple fact that medical schools are taking it seriously has lent alternative and complementary medicine an air of legitimacy. But the benefit to traditional science is much less clear. While a few techniques have proven reasonably effective -- meditation, acupuncture, music and massage therapy, and some herbal remedies -- they're the exception. The trouble has been identifying, once and for all, what doesn't work. While it should be relatively easy to gauge the merits of, say, leech therapy, in many cases CAM proponents have quietly ensured that it isn't. Rather that submit to scientific testing, they're using CAM's ambiguity to their advantage, and have often been frustratingly circumspect about conceding their failures. Some fall back on the old mantra that "more testing" is necessary. Others try to bend science to their own specifications. Still others take a page from the Tibetan tumo master by claiming that scientific testing simply cannot measure some kinds of CAM effects -- claiming, in essence, that the scientific establishment should just take their word for it. [bold added]
See Ayn Rand on compromise, then apply to science.

Mooney notes that (as of 2002!), this has cost half a billion since this program was started in 1992. The program still exists, and now that we have ObamaCare, there are people calling for more integration of this quackery into the ACA. Even if the government supported only proven medical science, it would be wrong for it to force people to pay for medical research or treatment. The fact that quacks are hopping on to the gravy train simply underscores how damaging it can be for government force to replace your mind when the time comes to make medical decisions. Money that could go into actual medical research or effective medicine is being taken from you whether you use them or not.

-- CAV

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