Modern Crusaders – Intellectual Fascists

A group calling themselves Friends of Science in Medicine have taken it upon themselves to tell us what we can study, what therapies we can and can’t use and what our health insurance should be spent on. Apparently we are not to be trusted to make these decisions for ourselves. No doubt they believe they’re our knights in shining armour saving us from ourselves but I seriously question their motives and their understanding of their own science.

This group has written to universities warning them against offering courses in complementary or alternative therapies including traditional Chinese herbal medicine, chiropractics, homeopathy, naturopathy, reflexology and aromatherapy. They also want to stop private health insurance funds from providing rebates for these types of therapies.

When scientists disagree with something, the scientific approach is to do some research and publish papers providing evidence for their point of view. However in this case, their actions are tactics in a political strategy designed to rock the foundations of these therapies. Like the crusaders of the middle ages, they want to suppress independent and alternative thought. Make no mistake, these guys are at war.

They present themselves as defenders of evidence based science but I wonder if one of the group’s co-founders, Emeritus Professor John Dwyer, of the University of NSW, understands what this means. He describes these therapies as “quackery” and “nonsense”. Really Professor? Where’s your evidence? There is a phrase that goes, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. Scientifically speaking there is no evidence that these therapies do not work. The bottom line is that western science doesn’t know if they work or not.

ADDENDUM: As Karen has pointed out in the comments below, there is actually a growing body of research “confirming that herbal medicine and nutritional therapies (amongst other things) do Work.” In which case, the Friends of Science in Medicine must be either speaking in ignorance or out of a desire to hide the truth.

One wonders if these might be the same people that claimed that acupuncture doesn’t work when there was no scientific evidence for that. Now that there is scientific evidence and The World Health Organisation lists diseases and disorders that can be treated with acupuncture, they’re using the same arguments to make the same unjustified claims. They’ve just changed the target, slightly.

Let’s for a moment run with their notion that there is no evidence for these therapies while not forgetting that they’re speaking about a specific type of evidence. There’s actually thousands of years of evidence but they dismiss that as irrelevant. So we’re a bunch of scientists saying, “hey there’s no evidence for this and it’s growing in popularity, what do we do?” Why of course that answer is to dismiss it, discredit it and insult the intelligence of the people that have used it for generations. That guy down the back of the room suggesting we should apply our scientific method to it should shut-up or leave now.

The fact is that these alternative and/or complimentary therapies are growing in popularity. Universities didn’t just decide for no reason to offer these courses. Health insurance companies didn’t include these therapies in their cover just for a giggle. People want this. People are using it and have come to their own conclusion that it works for them. So how do the Friends of Science in Medicine respond to that? “Well you shouldn’t have it and we’re going to try to stop you because we know best.”

So why do they want to stop this? For our own good, no doubt. Well thank-you very much. However I prefer to decide for myself what’s good for me but please do continue to tell me what you think that is. I happen to believe that evidence based science is one of the greatest and most valuable intellectual tools we have in our toolbox and thank goodness that we have it. But, as a tool it is there to serve us, not to dictate to us. These scientists have set themselves up as the new orthodoxy and now they’re raining down their wrath on those who would dissent.

We all know that the knights of the crusades were pious defenders of the faith. Their wars had nothing to do with wealth or power whatsoever. Honestly.

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  1. “Alternative medicine has either not been proved to work,
    Or been proved not to work.
    Do you know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work?
    … MEDICINE.”
    – from ‘Storm’ by Tim Minchin.

    1. Thanks T.A. I love Tim Minchin.

      The problem in this case is that, scientifically speaking, (I’m talking about western science here) these therapies are neither proven nor dis-proven and these scientists are trying to use this to suggest they don’t work. In fact they don’t know if they work or not. If they wanted to know they could start by asking the millions of people around the world who use these therapies.

  2. Hi Pete
    thanks for coming out in defence of logic and reason….very scientific of you LOL.
    just wanted to say that your statement…..”The bottom line is that western science doesn’t know if they work or not” is not entirely accurate. There are actually tonnes of research papers now confirming that herbal medicine and nutritional therapies (amongst other things) do Work.
    But really it is like we have lost all common sense now and we need a research to prove that vegetables are good for us. I mean, come on – just because there isn’t a randomised controlled trial into something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any merit.

    1. Thanks Karen;

      I knew there be research out there but it’s difficult to make simple statements about such a broad topic.

      I love your point about common sense. It’s so true. One of my favourite giggles is when you hear in the news, “scientists have discovered something everyone else has always known.”

  3. Great response by Pete to this Sydney Morning Herald article.
    If science based medicine was so good let them find cures for ms, alzheimers, arthritis, autism, allergies, asthma etc.
    Everything shouldn’t need to be reduced to the rigours of scientific testing. There are too many of these skeptic and scientific groups who think that no other methods have any validity, yet holistic medicine often does better long-term than conventional medicine.

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