Monday, March 2, 2009


Thanks to Spiny Norman, I read this little item. Tom Harkin is upset: the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has been uncovering too much quackery. Established by the good senator (among others), with the intention that it would look into woo and crazy sh*t and find it wasn't woo and crazy sh*t, they've been going all sciencey and debunky. Water doesn't have memory? Magnets don't cure headaches? What good is legitimate research if it leads to conclusions like that?

As a proud liberal, I must say this is one aspect of (some of) my brethren and cistern that embarrasses me: credulity in the face of crazy. "Alternative Medicine" is an oxymoron: if it can be proven to work, it's called "Medicine." "Alternative" and "Complementary" in the context of medicine, mean "Discredited" and "Bullsh*t." As much as I am troubled by wingnuts who reject the science of evolution, age of the earth, and climate change (not to mention continuing to insist on trickle-down economics), I am no less appalled by Senator Harkin in his love of CAM, and Robert Kennedy, Jr, in his riding of the antivaccination bandwagon. As much as I like reading The Huffington Post I find a little too much credence given there to unproved or disproved medical woo.

It seems to be a liberal lacuna.



  1. Tell me about it. Mrs. Spade goes to a doctor who I am told is quite good, a fellow here in Seattle by the name of Mozaffarian. He told her something she didn't want to hear so off she goes to this Chinese Medicine woman. We're told her blood is weak and all this other shite. Naturally she needed hundreds of dollars worth of noxious brown stuff, lord knows what's in it. Chinese medicine seems always to be noxious, no doubt this is the signature of efficacy. The sister-in-law prefers to have her chi adjusted with needles.

    Anyway, my pet peeve about liberals is that every reasonable movement attracts a band of fringe players. For instance, if I were to organize a march for universal health care, no doubt the Free Mumia and PETA set would make their appearance.

    Sam Spade

  2. I've got 6 inches of Climate Change for ya on my Atlanta. I just always thought that Global Warming would be..I don't know, WARM!?!?!


  3. Frank,

    I realize that this may sound like crazy talk, but your March snow doesn't disprove global warming. Nor would a very hot day prove it. What you are looking for is a change in average temperature.

    In point of fact, very few credentialed scientists doubt anthropocentric global warming. Fewer yet deny global warming period, I guess about the same ratio as biologists who disbelieve evolution.

    Curiously one Virgil Griffith just determined that people who say the Holy Bible is their favorite book have low SAT scores The world needs a little more faith, right? I guess that's what you have to call support for Sarah Palin, or Sara as you prefer to spell it. Her list of accomplishments is none too impressive.

    -Sam Spade

  4. What Tom Harkin doesn't say is that his top political contributer in 2008 campaign was Herbalife, and that herbal medicines are big business in his buddy Orrin Hatch's state of Utah.

    I for one am very glad to see the CAM dept turning out real research - I had been worried there for awhile that the whole place was nothing but a front for the herbal and compounding industries.

  5. The liberal nuts have company: The really crazy alternative medicine people I run into on the internets are mostly self-described libertarians. (Oddly enough, they had nothing to say while Bush bloated the federal government and shredded the Constitution. And it turns out that these "libertarians" often get their paychecks from the federal government, happily take advantage of WIC and SCHIP programs, complain when state park fees increase, etc. Huh. I guess my understanding of "libertarian" has been wrong all these years!)

  6. I prefer the term "sCAM" - so-called complementary and alternative medicine.

  7. Well, this is what happens when a researcher sets out to "prove" something rather than test a hypothesis. Of course he will be disappointed.

    You are no doubt aware of the quote by Fontanarosa (JAMA 1998) in which he said, “There is no alternative medicine. There is only scientifically proven, evidence-based medicine supported by solid data or unproven medicine, for which scientific evidence is lacking.”

    I find that statement an exaggeration to be sure but the take home point is well illustrated.


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