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April 7, 2002
Get Your Miracle Elixir
For Monday, I'm just going to send everyone to a wonderful article from the Washington Monthly. (I came across this one over at Arts and Letters Daily.)
It's a strongly worded look at the alternative/holistic medicine area, with particular emphasis on the recent attempts to subject these treatments to clinical proof. Many of the practicioners are simply ignoring the studies if they don't give them the answers they want to hear (which, as you can well imagine, they generally don't.)
I can tell you that my blood heats up when I hear the radio ads for potions - excuse me, dietary supplements - to "cleanse your liver" or "sharpen your memory." Not to mention all the miracle weight-loss or hair-growing pills. I feel like I've slipped through some wormhole and ended up in 1910.
Just look at the ancient shucks that are still in business: magnet therapy, iridology, reflexology...you can read all about this stuff in Martin Gardner's first "Fads and Fallacies" book, which is nearly 50 years old. The true and inescapable mark of a pseudoscience is that it doesn't learn a thing. It never changes; the theory is never overthrown; it just keeps on plugging away obliviously. Who cares about facts?
And while I'm on the subject of pedigreed nonsense: if I see another gaudy display of homeopathic dishwater near the checkout of a pharmacy again, I may do something quite reckless. I can only imagine what my medical colleague over at Medpundit thinks about that stuff; I know the herbal supplements really get on his nerves. As they should.
I'll come back later to the subject of the Hatch-Waxman Act, which is one of the things that got us into this fix. For now, check out that article link for a table-pounding good time.
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