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David & Goliath: A Dramatic Role Reversal Spurred On By The Media

The Internet is teeming with false health claims and a long line of celebrities willing to throw their media weight behind every new flavor of snake oil. The irony is that alternative medicine proponents see themselves as a persecuted minority – the victims of some nebulous health industry conspiracy. But in reality, they have ingratiated themselves with the media to such an extent that they may in fact have the upper hand.

Pseudoscience has become Goliath, and physicians have never faced a more pernicious foe. With patients’ lives hanging in the balance, some of us are waging the war for hearts and minds with gumption, zeal, and a little help from a brave minority of media who have finally woken up and realized that alternative medicine is not as soft and cuddly as they once thought.

Take for example those who wrongly believe that vaccines cause autism. Many of them subject their children to unproven and harmful therapies, diets, and regimens – some of which are tantamount to child abuse. Consider the cases described most recently by David Gorski here. One child underwent repeated IV chelation therapy for years followed by the invasive injection of “stem cells” into her cerebrospinal fluid.

The Huffington Post publishes some of the most bizarre and pseudoscientific medical advice on the Internet. Some recommend ozonated water, blood electrification, deep cleansing enemas, or garlic instead of vaccines to prevent H1N1 influenza. The challenge with interpreting some of these posts is that they blend unproven and potentially harmful treatments with reasonable diet and exercise advice. The average consumer has a hard time teasing out fact from fiction, all the while being influenced to doubt the safety and efficacy of tried and true medical treatments. I would argue that when a media outlet with an audience as large as the Huffington Post intentionally posts misleading and false health information – they become a public health threat.

There is a bit of good news. Some media outlets are beginning to tire of the fantastical claims of the snake oil community, and seem to be hungering for some objective truth. Or at the very least, they finally seem to be seeking the scientific counter point to the celebrities and pitch men who pose as medical experts.

Lately Newsweek, the Associated Press, Salon, and even Forbes have taken a more critical look at some of the misinformation being spread by Oprah, Jenny McCarthy, and the Huffington Post. One comedian commented on the media’s over-emphasis on alternative perspectives in medicine (supposedly for “balance” purposes) this way:

“You never see the media using the ‘balance’ rule on hard science like physics. You never see them interviewing a guy from NASA about space stations, and then for balance they turn to a guy named Barry who believes that the sky is a carpet painted by God – Gary, what do you think of this space station plan?…”

But this same comedian hit on an interesting point about human nature. He also said,

“Most people would just as soon believe a relative about miraculous disease treatments. Like you’d rather believe your mum when she tells you she rubbed a cat on her face to make her headache go away.”

Just yesterday I was explaining how frustrating the Goliath misinformation problem is to a business acquaintance. I told him that I was contributing to a blog called Science-Based Medicine in an effort to combat some of the medical quackery that is being promoted online. He looked at me and said I’d never be a success with that message. He said that people like Oprah and Mehmet Oz were successful because they “went with the flow” and gave people what they wanted.

“Most people don’t want to think critically about things – they want to hear about miracle cures, self-help, and vitamins. They already have the media they ‘deserve.’ You’ll never appeal to a mass audience with your skeptical message.”

So I responded that maybe the critical thinking movement would never have as many followers as Oprah – just as NPR doesn’t have the reach of CNN. But NPR is a brand that appeals to a certain educated segment of the population.

“Well, if you want to be NPR then you better figure out how to aggregate your audience as successfully as possible,” he said.

And so I wonder how we can come together in a more organized way around our common desire to seek truth in medicine, using science to further our understanding of the human body? Can we help mainstream America to develop an appetite for critical thinking, or is that about as likely as getting folks to stop eating fast food? I’m not sure, but I’m proud of the few things we have accomplished by raising our concerned voices through our blogs – and hats off to Harriet Hall for being invited to write a regular column in O-Magazine to provide a 200 word counter point to the rest of the 100’s of pages of content.

May that little sling shot do some damage!

Posted in: Science and the Media

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40 thoughts on “David & Goliath: A Dramatic Role Reversal Spurred On By The Media

  1. Richard says:

    Good for Dr. Hall!

  2. jmm says:

    I agree the challenge is to foster a mainstream appetite for critical thinking. The lack of one hurts not only medicine, but perhaps every important issue today: think of climate change rejectionists.

    This is supposed be fostered by the education system, and we are failing badly. In many K-12 schools, almost nothing is learned. I teach at the college level, and find that the more successful high school students who make it as far as college, have already developed a deep resistance to critical thinking. In math and science, they have succeeded academically by memorizing facts and algorithms and repeating undigested material back to the instructor. In their attempts at essays, they feel that having an “opinion” is enough, and do not understand what is required to back it up. OK, it is our job to teach them better. But most students are intensely hostile to courses that require critical thinking and problem solving. They crave “predictability” in exams, and savage instructors who do not provide this through student evaluation surveys. They consider a requirement for critical thinking and problem solving “unfair” because they have not been told the answer in advance, and should therefore not be examined on it. And I am afraid to say that premed students can be amongst the worst offendors on this count… On top of that, large public universities such as mine face an unprecedented budget crisis, with growing class sizes sometimes even exceeding 500, making effective education close to impossible.

  3. Scott says:

    jmm,

    An additional problem lies with parents. Many educators are unable to actually push or challenge students, for fear of being sued (or, less drastically but still enough to deter, screamed at and harassed) by an irate parent whose perfect little darling got a B.

    I know of one case where the mother threatened to file suit over an academic misconduct charge. Showing her the website from which the daughter’s essay was taken (word for word) didn’t faze her – the daughter told the mother that she didn’t cheat, and she’d know if she’d been lied to! It must have been a coincidence!

  4. Archangl508 says:

    “And I am afraid to say that premed students can be amongst the worst offendors on this count…”

    No offense to any of the doctors who read or post here, but I definitely have to agree with this. In my college biology classes, especially the lab practicals, this was definitely true. The worst lab partners were the pre-med students.

    I know its over-generalizing, but in general they were more interested in what the answer was than actually understanding how you got to the answer in the first place. But this could probably be blamed, at least partially, on the medical school entrance exams that demand memorization of multitudes of facts (as being a doctor does as well), with little emphasis on critical thinking. But I imagine that the best doctors, like the best students, can take those facts and use them to critically analyze any given situation.

  5. adriang63 says:

    The problem is that most people handle abstract belief, unconsciously, as an act of loyalty. The choose beliefs the same way they might choose clothing, as an affirmation of their social context. Oh, they probably believe what their eyes tell them, much of the time, regardless of their social context. But when forming opinions about things outside of what their senses can tell them, their process for forming opinions is a rather social process. On specific issues, they choose the side they think they should choose.

    I think the best thing we can do for most people is to help them understand that it’s very natural for our species simply to choose sides when it comes to beliefs, and that there’s some value in trying to rise above choosing beliefs by choosing sides. We should encourage them to think about what it might be like if stepped back and tried to take a more principled approach to assessing the possible things that we might choose to believe. We should point out that all of us are biased and discuss the things we might do to be careful not to let our biases limit us too much. Once we get an individual thinking about how to step back from our preconceptions and biases, we can point out that science seems to incorporate the techniques that we might choose to rise above these perfectly human habits of choosing beliefs for socially based reasons rather than reality based reasons.

    The real message we should try to get across is that science is not simply another side in these debates. Science is the embodiment of this idea that we should try to make principled decisions about beliefs. It comes from the understanding that we are all intellectually imperfect and that we need to exercise caution to avoid letting our flaws from getting too much in our way. It comes from understanding that unjustified confidence really isn’t a sign of strength. It comes from recognizing that it takes strength and courage to invite all comers to criticize our ideas.

    It’s tempting to try to teach people that our side is best. But what they really need to understand is that belief by taking sides is not the answer. They need to understand that, if they can’t do the research, themselves, they should look for guidance from people who have the courage to admit their uncertainty. They should should seek answers from people who respect their audience enough to show their work, so that the audience can examine their work for errors. They should learn to recognize the arrogance of the these self-proclaimed prophets in the alternative medicine business. With this kind of understanding, the people we are trying to reach can make better decisions about what to believe in many different areas.

    Adrian

  6. jmorrison says:

    SBM is preaching to the choir, and often doesn’t have much of a bedside manner.

    There’s clearly a market for various “prevention” or enhancement oriented products, and SBM can address it without understanding the psychology/risk taking behavior aspects. When one perceives no or little risk (If I spend $20 dollars, at most I may lose $20 dollars) versus a large potential upside (I may not get a cold, I may not get cancer, I may lose weight etc.) SBM can quantify the risk/benefit more accurately or shift the behavior to something more desirable.

    There’s a similar market for “complementary” products, where health consumers don’t feel conventional medicine is meeting their needs. If there’s a way to make a 15 minute consult with a physician as warm and fuzzy as some quack therapy, then that would go a long way. Up-selling some of the non-psychoactive properties of anti-depressants might resonate better and take away negative perceptions eg. – immunomodulatory, anti-nociceptive properties, lower A1c, or even how fluoxetine was developed from insight into antihistamines.

    Science has its hands tied behind its back. There’s a market for quick fixes and cures, but it isn’t selling any.

    You can promote harm reduction to those who are prevention minded – Roizen’s Real Age approach might be amenable to this. The approach is (or was) to take the science – as imperfect as it is – and quantify benefits in terms of age reduction in a menu of options.

    If there are any quick fixes left for science to discover, then finding them would make a major dent. Continuing to fund and execute poorly designed studies, then call for more studies doesn’t seem like the way forward.

  7. Dr Benway says:

    I think before we sell SBM to Joe the Plumber we need to be more than 12 dudes.

  8. Scott says:

    Science has its hands tied behind its back. There’s a market for quick fixes and cures, but it isn’t selling any.

    The unfortunate point is that science knows that there aren’t quick fixes or cures in most cases, and is too honest to sell them anyway.

  9. mckenzievmd says:

    Of course I love the metaphor, so much that I used it my own post, The David & Goliath Myth. (http://skeptvet.com/Blog/2009/07/the-david-and-goliath-myth/).

    Sadly, there is some truth to the argument that truth isn’t as strong a selling point as we might wish, and that we may have a built-in disadvantage in promoting science and reason becaiuse it is less emotionally satisfying to many than the simplistic, comforting nonsense sevred up by the CAM community. Still, all we can do is improve our technique and marketing without undermining the core of our position, which is that the truth matters and science is the best way to find it. Maybe we need a post titled Tilting at Windmills? :-)

  10. mckenzievmd says:

    Of course I love the metaphor, as I used in myself in a similar post The David and Goliath Myth (http://skeptvet.com/Blog/2009/07/the-david-and-goliath-myth/).

    Sadly, there is some truth to the argument that truth isn’t as strong a selling point as we’d like, and we may have a built-in disadvantage in the marketplace of ideas. Some people find the complex and messy realities of scientific reasponing less satisfying than the simplistic, comforting mythology of CAM. All we can do is refine our technique and try to be more effective marketers without losing site of the core principle; the truth matters and science is the best way to get to it.

    Maybe now we need a post entitled “Tilting at Windmills?” :-)

  11. Rogue Medic says:

    Part of what we need to do is to educate people when they are young. Children love Mythbusters. A show that uses the scientific method.

    This is more than a small influence. We need to get people to look at questions, have them tell us what they think the answer is, commit to that answer (not because that is what science does, it doesn’t, but because that is what they do anyway), then show them how to find out if they are correct. Enough of the time they will be wrong, that having them commit to their answer should get many of them to realize just how fallible non-scientific answers are.

    We need to find more ways to show children that we perceive things imperfectly. We use science to improve our perception.

  12. pmoran says:

    I cannot see AM being made to go away by any sort of persuasion and education. It is a sweet comfort to be able to blame the problem wholly on the deficiencies of OTHER minds, but should not that make the skeptic somewhat wary? .

    I suspect AM has actually plateaued or is in decline in my country, perhaps because the public generally has considerable trust in doctors and “the system”.

    However I expect quackery to thrive to some extent while other potent forces apply. They include high public expectations of medicine, the presence of a lot of unmet medical need, real deficiencies in what EBM can provide, and a part-truth concerning the individuality of patient reactions to medical interventions that constantly throws up compelling testimonial.

    Looked at this way the retreat of medicine into an SBM-based shell over this last century can be seen to be one of the causes of the problem in the first place. EBM was a logical and necessary progression for medicine, but an upsurge in folk medicine, fraud and quackery may yet prove to be an unintended consequence.

    Once we doctors stopped offering the quackery, others stepped in.

  13. James Fox says:

    Perhaps it’s time a SBM organization was formed with a position paper and membership options with no obligation to blog or engage in activities, just a commitment to advocate for SBM principles in their practice and in public health discussions. The yearly SBM conference has already begun, it seems more organization is the next logical step.

  14. jmm says:

    adriang63, beautifully said. I do see two distinct kinds of barriers, however. One is socially-based as you say (eg accepting evolution means my family and friends will think I am evil and then I will go to hell). The other that I see a lot in students is sheer intellectual laziness and apathy.

    For the first, I think one of the best ways to communicate this is to do some careful self-examination, find our own personal hangups where we have socially-based beliefs of our own, and challenge ourselves in this uncomfortable cognitive space that we avoid visiting. Then we can communicate what it takes with more authenticity and compassion, and avoid coming across as overly-arrogant prophets ourselves.

    Not so sure how to handle the second. The technique Rogue Medic describes is a good one central to education, but getting ever-harder as class sizes keep rising.

  15. DVMKurmes says:

    When is Dr. Hall’s first column appearing? That is quite good news. Perhaps if we could all write letters to the editor of “O” in support of her first few columns that would help to make an impression as well.

  16. Harriet Hall says:

    DVM Kurmes asked “When is Dr. Hall’s first column appearing?”

    I’m still corresponding with the Health editor. I think my first column will be in the January issue. They mainly want light info covering popular myths like “you lose 90% of your body heat through your head.” And 200 words is not much. But it’s a start and will give me a chance to show how to approach such claims scientifically.

  17. keleton says:

    I also think SBM is preaching to the choir, unfortunately. I have tried to show friends and family who are very entrenched in alternative medicine, some who have autistic children and are using DAN! doctors, and am met with much hostility. One cousin is not speaking to me at the moment because I tried to show her evidence against her views on vaccines and autism, as well as genuine concern about the treatments she is using for her child.

    I agree that critical thinking is the main problem. I am 30 years old now and have spent the last year taking various biology classes in preparation for a Med Tech degree, and I value critical thinking very highly. I don’t think high school prepared me for this at all, rather it came from life experience/maturity, reading, and child rearing.

    Not all of my classmates even vaguely understand the concept of critical thinking, especially the younger ones. The more recently they were in high school, the worse it seems to be, at least for American students. I hate to stereotype but the students who went to high school in many parts of Asia seem to be the best when it comes to actually understanding stuff and not just learning by rote. I wonder how different their basic education structure is there as compared to a typical American youth.

  18. Dr Benway says:

    Marketing boys anticipating a downturn in the woo market? Dr. Hall as hedge fund?

  19. skepchick says:

    @ Dr. Benway

    “I think we before we sell SBM to Joe the Plumber we need to be more than 12 dudes.”

    Dude: We are more than 12 dudes. But we are health care professionals and not salespersons or marketing professionals. If someone could offer me advice on how to sell the science, I would hit the bricks and knock on doors.

  20. caoimh says:

    I’m reminded of the article “Bridging the Chasm between Two Cultures” by Karla McLaren.

    http://www.csicop.org/si/show/bridging_the_chasm_between_two_cultures/

    Perhaps she has a point about the (perceived) inflammatory rhetoric we see on sceptical sites such as this one.

    Any thoughts?

  21. Eric Jackson says:

    Being a recent graduate of a public university, I agree completely with what JMM and Scott said. 300-500 person lectures are the norm with discussion groups led by graduate students being offered up as individual attention – though often in reality little more than an excuse to grade the class by attendance, and an hour or so of the teaching assistants being hounded to perform problem after problem out of the book. When test time came around, any problems not directly out of the book evoked cries out outrage and hysteria. In one 400 person lecture for a final exam they quite literally took the power point slides for the entire course and removed words from sentences. The test was to put those words back in. Exams with essay answers routinely resulted in infuriated emails being sent through class mailing lists.

    In another instance, a laboratory course, the TA running it was hounded for three weeks by a student after taking off 0.9% of a perfect score on one of the ten reports turned in. This particular student was not one who did very well on his own in the lab. He was too concerned with getting the right answer, as opposed to doing the labwork and learning the technique or how to apply it.

    Critical thinking skills and problem solving skills are not emphasized anywhere in the education system as a whole, from the high school on up to the bloated and straining undergraduate university system. What exists lurks in the smaller classroom, a few handfuls of unique and talented high school teachers, sometimes in the higher level coursework taught by the same professors who teach simply awful memorize and regurgitate lectures.

  22. Dr Benway says:

    skepchick:

    Dude: We are more than 12 dudes.

    Ok 13 dudes (I counted).

    Look at the other team:
    http://www.bravewell.org/transforming_healthcare/strategic_partnerships/

    And that’s just the non-profits. The serious money is Hearst-Harpo, Herbalife, and on and on.

    We need Bill Gates, for a start. He’s kinda skeptical, isn’t he?

    How ’bout that guy that runs Virgin. Or Warren Buffet.

    We should make a list of insanely rich people who might be sympathetic to the rationalist movement. Then we write to them, explaining what we’re up against, and ask for advice.

  23. beatis says:

    @ caoimh:

    “…I’m reminded of the article “Bridging the Chasm between Two Cultures” by Karla McLaren.

    http://www.csicop.org/si/show/bridging_the_chasm_between_two_cultures/

    Perhaps she has a point about the (perceived) inflammatory rhetoric we see on sceptical sites such as this one…”

    I’ve read this article several times, hoping I would find something that could help bridging the gap between the ‘two cultures’. But all she does in my opinion is telling us to be gentle with the believers, because they are not ready for the cold, unfuzzy world of science.

    My personal experience though is that no matter how gently you bring it to them, once the message gets through that the things they so passionately believe in are no more than wishful thinking, the shutters close with a bang and there’s no getting through to them anymore.

    I also doubt very much whether the main cause is lack of critical thinking skills. Critical thinking skills can be taught, but some people will simply refuse to be taught. I think there also is an important psychological component, of not being able to live with the fact that not all questions can be answered and not all problems can be solved.

  24. skepchick says:

    Dr. Benway:

    OK. Officially 13 dudes. Whatever. But there are many of us behind you who just want to know how to help.

    (Is Harriet Hall officially a dude?)

  25. Dacks says:

    @beatis
    I have several friends and family members who are CAM users to one degree or another. My approach is to let them know, when asked, that I do not believe in, say, reiki, and then ask respectfully for them to explain a little about it. After they “explain” for a while, I usually don’t say much of anything else.

    I think this establishes my skeptical point of view in a non-threatening way, and encourages them to give a bit of analytical thought to their beliefs. This doesn’t compel them to give up a cherished altmed practice on the spot, but I think it has been useful in getting them to look more critically at some of the claims.

  26. Harriet Hall says:

    Skepchick asks “(Is Harriet Hall officially a dude?)”

    I would be honored to be considered one of the dudes. Even just an honorary dude. Can I get a certificate? :-)

  27. Dr Aust says:

    “How ’bout that guy that runs Virgin.”

    I wouldn’t class him as a sceptic, Dr B. A while back he was strongly rumoured to be considering getting into running private (for profit) primary care clinics in the UK (though it never came to pass). The word was that these would be “integrated health centres” with in-house CAM practitioners:

    http://news.icm.ac.uk/business/a-virgin-in-the-uk-healthcare-market/207/

    “Word on the street” (trade gossip) speculated that the docs would likely refer in-house to the CAM people who would be in there as self-employed sub-contractors, paying rent to the company running the set-up, and maybe kicking back a percentage to the referrer (also the company).

    Speaking cynically, most businessmen are interested in whatever produces the biggest return. If the payin’ customers are buyin’ that thar Woo, that’s what the smart guy’ll be sellin’ em.

    No way would I see Branson as an exception.

  28. jmm says:

    Thanks for the link to “Bridging the Chasm between Two Cultures” by Karla McLaren.

    I spend a fair time walking across that chasm myself, as a skeptical scientist who is also an advanced yoga practitioner. I meet more than my fair share of New Agers that way, although there are also plenty of other skeptics in the yoga community.

    I think the most effective communication is to find something good in what a New Ager is trying to say, but then “clarify” or refine it so it becomes OK. Eg, if hyper-rationality is rejected as an imbalance, first agree that this is true in order to be a well-rounded person. Then “clarify” that the art is to use rationality for questions for which rationality is appropriate (ie scientifically answerable ones including SBM), and other aspects of the mind instead when they rather than rationality are appropriate (eg appreciating a work of art, loving one’s children). True “hyper”-rationality exists, but is not to go to extremes on scientific questions, but is instead to neglect or even deny that there are other non-rational aspects to the human condition. And yes, the whole lot should get set aside during deep states of meditation, but one doesn’t stay there all day, so that isn’t really the point.

  29. Peter Lipson says:

    James:

    Perhaps it’s time a SBM organization was formed with a position paper and membership options with no obligation to blog or engage in activities, just a commitment to advocate for SBM principles in their practice and in public health discussions. The yearly SBM conference has already begun, it seems more organization is the next logical step.

    Stay tuned

  30. pmoran says:

    ” — advice on how to sell the science”

    Is that even possible, to those not otherwise susceptible to this bug?

    Medical science is complex. Eyes glaze over well before we ever get to truly difficult concepts like prior plausibility, needed when studies are in conflict, as they seemingly always are to many people.

    Also, we wish to convey “critical thinking”. What is that? I take it to mean something more than merely some comprehension of scientific methods and their theoretical framework.

    We are actually seeking to induce within others such a confidence in their own ability to analyze the available information that they will elect to continue to suffer certain ills and not entirely satisfactory treatments, rather than try out other methods being urged upon them by well-meaning friends and relatives and strangers on the Internet.

    I still hold that the decision to do that is mostly not a conscious scientific one. It depends upon where a person is prepared to invest a little of their trust at a particular time, when faced with a particular medical problem.

    It is potentially a huge waste of resources to try and impart skeptical levels of critical thought to a whole population in the hope of covering those extremely rare instances where a sufficiently educatable person’s life hangs upon it. Most people never need those levels of medical knowledge — at least 95% of them already primarily use available conventional medical resources without such education.

    We may do better to see our task as mkaing information available in a dispassionate manner and fostering trust. Trust depends on many factors that are not under our control, but I agree with others that we skeptics can perform in such as way as to either erode it or favour it.

  31. tmac57 says:

    Congratulations to Dr. Hall . I would love to know how that came about. I would like to think that the Newsweek, and Readers Digest articles along with Dr. Gorski’s editorial , and all the letters to Oprah generated from those things had something to do with it.
    I really liked the comment posted by adriang63 above. Very insightful. As a matter of fact most of the comments on this thread are some of the best on this topic that I have seen in awhile.
    As far as marketing strategy goes, how about this: ‘ The Secrets Of Science That “They” Don’t Want You To Know About!!!’ Subtitled: ‘How The Power Of Critical Thinking Can Give You Your Best Life Ever!!!’

  32. jmm says:

    “It is potentially a huge waste of resources to try and impart skeptical levels of critical thought to a whole population in the hope of covering those extremely rare instances where a sufficiently educatable person’s life hangs upon it.”

    pmoran, that would be a valid calculation if benefitting from SBM were the only reason to learn critical thinking. But far from it, critical thinking is actually essential to the proper workings of a democracy. The argument for universal suffrage depends on the idea that all voters can think. SBM is only one front in an ongoing battle for the ideals of the Enlightenment, a battle I currently feel is not going our way.

  33. Harriet Hall says:

    tmac57 said “Congratulations to Dr. Hall . I would love to know how that came about”

    I don’t know what went on in the Oprah organization, but there is a new Health and Environment editor for the magazine who has only been on the job for 2 weeks. He said he contacted me based on reading my SkepDoc columns in Skeptic magazine.

  34. pmoran says:

    “pmoran, that would be a valid calculation if benefitting from SBM were the only reason to learn critical thinking. But far from it, critical thinking is actually essential to the proper workings of a democracy. The argument for universal suffrage depends on the idea that all voters can think. SBM is only one front in an ongoing battle for the ideals of the Enlightenment, a battle I currently feel is not going our way.”

    Point taken, but I think I implied that the public is already displaying a reasonable degree of discrimination in its use of cAM, and that it will not be easy to generally impove on that with such a complex and specialised field.

    But I am keen on hearing other viewpoints.

  35. Dr Benway says:

    Never mind getting Joe the Plumber to value clear thinking. We’ve got to clean house first. We’ve got to get our teaching hospitals to take a stand for science.

    Problem is, they’re starving for money and the integrative medicine scam is a funding stream.

    The bargain with the devil goes like this: “We’ll study CAM but we can’t promote it until there’s good evidence of efficacy.” But after the yoga room gets built and the naturopath and Reiki practitioners have offices, the “integration” is on and there’s no going back. The “studies” are “on-going.” Looks like science if you don’t look too close.

    So… is there a game plan that allows med schools to rape Bravewell and the Oshers for some physical plant improvements without any long-term pseudoscience commitments? That would have some appeal.

  36. Dr Benway says:

    Here’s my scam the scammers advice to US med school deans:

    1. Git de monies from Bravewell, Oshers, Oprah, etc.
    2. Build sexy new Department of Integrative Medicine.
    3. Let the IM faculty get NCCAM grants to study auromatherapy, yoga, meditation, whatever, so long as it’s relatively harmless and not totally stupid (e.g., naturopathy, homeopathy).
    4. Be smoove. Quietly and gradually re-define “integrative” to mean the ol’ “bio-psycho-social” model.
    5. Expand the vocational/recreation therapy departments. Then move the auromatherapy, yoga, etc., guys there.
    6. Profit!!

  37. yeahsurewhatever says:

    “But this could probably be blamed, at least partially, on the medical school entrance exams that demand memorization of multitudes of facts (as being a doctor does as well), with little emphasis on critical thinking.”

    Clearly you’ve never taken the MCAT.

  38. jmm says:

    yeahsurewhatever is right, see http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/319/5862/414 But this has not filtered into premed students’ expectations of the med school application process, which they translate into demands on the college curriculum.

  39. yeahsurewhatever says:

    Let me just go ahead and answer the horse shit accusations in that year-old article right now.

    “The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) has been accused of hindering efforts to introduce more critical thinking into introductory biology courses, and the Advanced Placement (AP) Biology course has come under fire for stressing rote memorization. Are these criticisms valid?”

    No. Furthermore, Bloom’s Taxonomy is a wad of crap as well.

    If premed students have unrealistic expectations, then the blame belongs to their academic advisers, and ultimately the university they attend.

  40. eshamysm says:

    The blogs from SBM have taught me a great deal. Not only have they provided reliable, transparent information and data, but they’ve also provided for me a source that I can refer my friends to when they have their own questions that I myself cannot properly address.

    I regularly share SBM articles through my google reader so even when others aren’t subscribed to your blog, they still are exposed to the articles. Your friend was right, Oprah and Dr. Oz will have a greater impact then this organization does at this moment, but don’t let that make you think you don’t have an impact. All of you at SBM provide us laymen with tremendous value and you should never forget that.

    Increasing your viewership can be difficult, but it is certainly still very possible and achievable. Good luck to you.

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