I just can’t help it, I am always extremely disappointed whenever I find an atheist that is not also a skeptic. I mean, once a belief in the big ticket myth is thrown out that window, what in the world is preventing someone from tossing out all unfounded beliefs?
The only real justifiable reason that I can see would be access to information. Or, bombardment with misinformation. And with all the intense marketing and heavily biased reviews, there is a lot confusing data out there.
For the field of complimentary or alternative medicine (CAM), Trick or Treatment can fix that. Popular science writer Simon Singh and (often unnamed) co-author Edzard Ernst, M.D. wrote a very easy to read but very informative book that doesn’t preach or belittle. The subtitle The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine is not just marketing. The book does not set out just to bad mouth CAM, but to let people know the belief systems behind the practices. Did you know that chiropractors that fully accept their own practice (known as straights) deny the germ theory of medicine?
The book starts off with an overview of evidence based medicine, then dedicates a chapter each to acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, and herbal medicine. There is also an appendix giving a quick rundown on a myriad of other alternative therapies.
Singh doesn’t belittle any of the questionable procedures, though I feel he would be justified with many of them. Instead, he gives the history of the treatments, including the reasons why someone might have believed that they worked, and details on the current practices. He mentions the medical studies that the treatments have gone through, including ones that are often touted to support the practices. He does this for two very good reason: 1-honesty and 2- to educate about medical studies that are not properly interpreted. Not all studies, after all, are created equal. I test products for a living, believe me, I know. Many tests are just not conducted properly. And, if not properly analyzed with a critical eye, they can lead to erroneous results. For instance, did you know that in Japan, there hasn’t been a single negative medical review published! Tell me how bias isn’t involved there.
But, with good meta analyses, even bad studies can provide useful information. And that is were we are today. We are in a world in which there are so many studies, good, bad, and terrible, that, in order to get any truthful results, we must conduct a study of the studies. And that is what Science Based Medicine does. And that, is what Trick or Treatment can tell us that watching Dr Oz can’t.
Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in CAM or just medical studies in general.