With the insertion of a new American President that actually wants scientists to be heard and (and to subsequently follow their advice), one can feel the winds of change blowing across the country and to a lesser extent, other countries as well. These breezes are bringing a breath of fresh realism to the people where science is no longer twisted or ignored to fit ideology, but rather it is being recognized as a legitimate source of information from which to base sound decisions.
Many skeptical organizations say that Education is the backbone of their activities, and if that’s true then now is the time for them to move out into the education frontier and start fighting the battles to win the minds of our youngest students.
Before I fling immature epithets at the world of alternative medicine, I need to give a brief overview of the regulations imposed on those who make real medicine. The medicines that do everything from saving lives to preventing gas. In America, these regulations are known as "Current Good Manufacturing Practices", or cGMPs for short. The best way to illustrate the thoroughness and complexity of these regulations is to use a narrative. The narrative won‘t even scratch the surface, but it will give you a general idea:
Let's say a company wants to make a new drug. What are some of the things it must it do?
In the current issue of Harper's Magazine, you'll find a long article by Rachel Aviv entitled "Like I Was Jesus," subtitled "How to bring a nine-year-old to Christ."
In it, Aviv writes of infiltrating - and that's an ugly word, but apropos - a chapter of a group called the Child Evangelism Fellowship during the summer of 2008. The chapter comprised 40 young missionaries who "roamed the housing projects of Connecticut," accosting unsupervised young children and pressuring them to accept Jesus into their hearts.
According to Aviv: "The goal was salvation, but the missionaries rarely used that long word. They employed monosyllabic language and avoided abstract concepts and homonyms. ‘Holy' was a problem, the missionaries said, as children thought it meant ‘full of holes.' ‘Christ rose from the dead' was also tricky because children mistook the verb for a flower."
As we discussed in the Anti-Anti-Vax Panel at TAM7, scientifically illiterate activists are endangering our public health. Now they have a new target: the fast-track program to develop a swine flu vaccine in time to prevent a possible pandemic.
A correspondent in the Netherlands wrote me, forwarding this article a friend in the UK had sent him: http://www.globalhealthfreedom.org/?p=3081 Briefly, it says we are going to be offered a dangerous, inadequately tested swine flu vaccine for a nonexistent threat.
This last Sunday I posted "We Should be Insulted," a commentary on the seeming endorsement of acupuncture by US agencies. Following that, I sent an inquiry to Ms. Cynthia Bass at the National Cancer Institute [NCI] - a division of the National Institutes of Health [NIH] - with this direct comment and question:
I have seen references in NCI literature to the use of acupuncture in cancer treatment, to relieve certain side-effects of chemotherapy. My question: Is there any scientific, double-blind research that shows acupuncture is effective?
Please note: I specified "double-blind" because many non-blinded tests of acupuncture have been done, with mixed results, but no such tests can be considered as evidential unless done that way, and I've never found any records of double-blinded tests of this claim. Ms. Bass did not answer the question. She referred me to a list of frequently-asked questions - and the official answers - on the NCI site; this is not unexpected, considering the volume of inquiries that the agency must receive. I have selected here those that almost respond to my inquiry.