Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Strawman on the yellow brick road to Oz

This morning I watched a youtube clip of Steve Novella talking about alternative health on the Dr. Oz show. Steve, a famous skeptic and buster of woo, was attempting to to explain why many medical professionals  -like himself - don't approve of many alternative health practices.

Steve put forward the argument very well - that many, many studies have been done and there is little to no efficacy shown in any proper, sceintifically sound trials of things such as acupuncture, (certain) herbal remedies, chiropracty etc. Moreover, many risk vs benefit studies of some alternative health treatments show a much higher risk than possible benefit. His point was made using plain language, it was uncomplicated, it was succinct.

Dr. Oz countered Steve's statement of  "...multi-million, multi-billion dollar turns out they dont work" with his own statement of "I totally disagree that these have not been studied".

WTF? How is that what he said in any way?

Dr. Oz goes on to promote the idea that because lots of people like using alternative health it must mean that it is effective (despite what science may say). He also mentions that science does not know how to test the efficacy of many alternative medicine treatments. And because things like acupuncture have been used for thousands of years, its efficacy has been proven.

Argumentum ad populum
Appeal to authority
maybe a little deductive fallacy?

Tim Minchin said it best in 'Storm'
"By definition alternative medicine has either not been proved to work, or been proved not to work. Know what they call alternative medicine that has been proved to work? 'Medicine.'"

I'm not going to say anything more (I'm technically at work, and should not be blogging), except to recommend everyone go watch the clip and judge the different arguments for themselves.

I'm off to prepare my talk for SkeptiCamp, where i'm sure someone will bring up this clip.

The Reverend Doktor Bob

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