|Comments on Thursday 8 December 2011:|
|I was having an argument about whether, if someone really had a working alternative medicine for something, they would be famous and we would all know about it - my position being "of course we wouldn't necessarily - how would they transition from being considered a crackpot with a crazy out-there theory to being taken seriously enough that it would undergo a clinical study?"|
As evidence for my position, I dug up some stuff about "black salve" (warning, link has gross pictures), an alternative treatment for skin cancer, combined with what cancer.org has to say about it. The information I was pointing at was "there have been no controlled clinical studies of cancer salves published in the medical literature". So basically, it's been around for ages and it hasn't been tested in a way that would satisfy a skeptic. Point proven. But then I noticed this phrasing:
"There have been no controlled clinical studies of cancer salves published in the medical literature, and available scientific evidence does not support claims that cancer salves can cure cancer or any other disease."
Now I realize that this is true (if you don't consider people's personal experience to be scientific evidence), but that phrasing is outrageous to me. Why? Because it carries a strong implication of "science says this doesn't work". But it would be equally true to say "available scientific evidence does not support claims that cancer salves can't cure cancer" or "available scientific evidence does not support claims that cancer salves can burn your skin" (they can, it's not in question, but there is no clinical study proving it). I'm reasonably sure that it's not their intent to imply that things don't work, they're just meaning it in a "cover your ass" sort of way, but, well, here's the power of that phrasing to be applied as a positive statement, over at quackwatch on another alt cancer treatment:
"The American Cancer Society reviewed the "Grape Cure" in 1965, 1971, 1974, and 2000. and found no evidence of benefit against human cancer or any other disease."
Oh well obviously it doesn't work then, right? But wait, that's not what it says. It doesn't say they performed a study. They didn't try it. They read the book, and determined that it didn't contain any clinical trials. Then they did the same thing again three other times. Here's a little analogy; the Raven Society Of Official Soundingness reviewed Grey's Anatomy, and found no evidence that removing an appendix can help with any illness. Debunked, motherfroggers!
(Note: not endorsing either of these things, my point here is just two things. 1. "if alternative medicine worked it would be called medicine" is retarded, because a thing can evidently work or not work for a long long time without ever being tested (the grape cure is at least 90 years old and still scientifically untested) and 2. "available scientific evidence does not support (whatever)" is a horrible misleading phrase, because it implies that there is available scientific evidence, and that it fails to support something (which would be a synonym of disproving it in clinical trials), rather than just saying "we did not find any scientific evidence on this subject".) [01:53]