Monday, March 7, 2011

Let's start from the beginning

I feel like I'm repeating myself.  Okay, maybe it isn't a feeling.  I'm repeating myself.  I'm repeating myself.

Often when someone brings up Homeopathy, Prayer, Healing Touch, Psychics, etc., a "believer" in the item being discussed will argue a couple ways:

1.) Quantum mechanics/Quantum physics explains how it works
2.) We don't have instruments to test how it works so we shouldn't dismiss it/As instruments get more precise, we'll see how it works

But, they will forget to argue about the most important point.

It is true that there are a number of things that "happen" or "work" but we don't know how they happen or work even though we know that they work.  We may not know, precisely, how a particular medicine works but that is not the first part to be discussed. 

There are many things about our world and the human body that we know and there are many things that we do not know but that doesn't mean we should simply accept or reject claims based on our current knowledge (or lack of knowledge).  We use our current knowledge and models to come up with potential methods of action for new drugs/treatments and then do studies to determine effectiveness/usefulness BUT not everything that we expect to work, works and not everything that seems slightly implausible, fails to work. 

Things that work, we try to figure out how they work so we can apply this knowledge to other potential drugs or treatments.  Things that don't work, however, we don't give a shit how it is supposed to work. 

In other words - present the evidence (real evidence, not just stories) that it works, FIRST.

So, for people who claim 1 or 2 above, let me say this.  You're wrong.  Quantum physics/mechanics does not explain Homeopathy, Prayer, Healing Touch, Psychics, etc. because they don't work and there is nothing to explain.
Quantum physics doesn't explain how Homeopathy works because Homeopathy doesn't work.
Quantum physics doesn't explain how prayer works because prayer doesn't work.
Quantum physics doesn't explain how Healing/Therapeutic Touch (TT) works because TT doesn't work.
Quantum physics doesn't explain how Psychics work because Psychics are lying scumbags (
Quantum physics doesn't explain how anything works if it doesn't work. (Quantum physics might explain why something doesn't work, however! But only if it doesn't work!)

Before you argue about or claim 'evidence' for how something works, please, please, please, please present the evidence that it actually works.

We know why Homeopathy doesn't work (no possible method of action, no active ingredient left, biologically implausible).  We know why prayer doesn't work (too many non-existent gods to choose from). We know why TT doesn't work (no possible method of action - it's not even f'ing touching!). We know why Psychics don't work (dead people are mute). 

(And, to deal, in advance, with the standard arguments:
1.) I've tried it, and it didn't work for me. It's stupid.
2.) It didn't work for you.  You need to learn about logical fallacies ('post hoc ergo propter hoc', 'argument from authority', 'argument from antiquity', 'argument from popularity' for sure), regression to the mean, the natural history of the disease and learn about spontaneous remission, misdiagnoses of the initial condition (thanks Tim Minchin), confirmation bias, anecdotes vs. data, proper blinding, placebo, etc.
3.) I'm not a Big Pharma shill.  I don't get paid to do what I do here - helping to stop the abuse of others is payment enough.)

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