Thursday, October 22, 2009

Please stop believing woo-woo, we have better things to study

Recently the University of York released a study indicating that magnetic bracelets are inneffective at reducing arthritis pain.

In this scam alone, millions of dollars have been wasted by people hoping for a solution to their pain - swindled away from them by people falsely claiming the effectiveness of their woo-woo.

While the study's results are not surprising, it raises an interesting point regarding such studies and the need for them. When a study, like the University of York's, comes out that shows that there is no benefit (at least not greater than placebo) to a treatment, it reaffirms, for many of us, what we've already assumed. This particular study was the first done on these specific claims in about 30 years - so, until now, we've had little (as skeptics) to point to to confirm our suspicions.

However, for most other "alternative" therapies, there are already substantial and consistent studies showing the ineffectiveness (or dangers) yet people continue to subscribe to such irrationality. Countless studies have shown that reflexology, chiropractic, aromatherapy, homeopathy and most other alternative "medicines" or "therapies" are not effective and can be deadly/dangerous.

The problem is a difficult one to tackle but it is something that NEEDS to happen. I am not sure that doing the studies, however, solves much.

If a scientific study was all that was necessary to change the minds of people, chiropractic (at least as we know it), reflexology, homeopathy, ear candling, aromatherapy, acupuncture and many more services would be non-existent. Psychics, faith healers, preachers, dowsers, priests, sorcerers, witches and many others would be out of business.

Society needs to return to respecting and supporting science and change to a "prove it" attitude for positive assertions/claims. We are wasting (yes, WASTING) unimaginable amounts of money debunking woo-woo - these dollars could be better spent on solving the problems that cause the symptoms in the first place.

When someone makes a claim about something that just doesn't sound right - ask them for the evidence. You may just end up saving yourself some time and money - it could even save your life. (See the latest eSkeptic for information on How Chiropractic Kills)

Update: Since posting this, I visited and a recent article on Aggressive Quackery Marketing has some comments regarding people continuing to accept woo-woo even after science has shown it to be ineffective. View the comments - specifically by Dr. Benway (of Tufted Titmouse).

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