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Integrative Medicine Invades the U.S. Military: Part One

Integrative medicine proponents claim superiority over physicians practicing “conventional” medicine. (Which I will refer to as “medicine” so as not to buy into integrative medicine’s implied claim that medicine can be practiced with two separate standards.) While conceding that medicine is good for treating conditions like broken arms and heart attacks, physicians who purport to practice integrative medicine argue it ignores “the whole person, including all aspects of lifestyle.” Their vision of a new, improved practice of medicine “emphasizes the therapeutic relationship between practitioner and patient, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapies.””

But, as we know, the practice of medicine already takes into account “the whole person, including all aspects of lifestyle,” is “informed by evidence” and uses “all appropriate therapies.” This includes recommendations regarding diet, exercise, relaxation and vitamin and dietary supplement use, which are often erroneously labeled “CAM.” Medicine appears to be well aware of problems in the current model of health care delivery and is actively seeking ways to improve it. If integrative medical practitioners and their proponents were simply directing their time, energy and resources toward facilitating a better model for delivering health care I suppose no one would have any problem.

But they aren’t. They are claiming rights to an entirely new specialty in medicine. Proponents do this by advancing two dubious arguments. First, integrative medicine alone can deliver on this “whole person” model of care. Second, inclusion of alternative medicine is essential to good patient care.

From a consumer protection standpoint, I find integrative medicine troubling. Proponents are unfairly misrepresenting medical practice as inferior and offering themselves as the solution when there is no evidence that they can deliver on these claims. Unfortunately, despite this lack of evidence, integrative medicine has seized the imagination of public policy makers and legislative bodies. It is included in the Affordable Care Act and continues to metastasize throughout the military health care system, which together will soon control delivery of the vast majority of health care in this country.

In the next two weeks we will examine one unfortunate example of this process in the making. This week, we look at recent testimony of Wayne Jonas, M.D., before a Senate Committee and how it exemplifies the unconvincing arguments in favor of integrative medicine. Next week we will consider the proposed legislation Dr. Jonas supports.

Senate hearing

In May, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, chaired by that champion of alternative medicine, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), heard testimony on Senate Bill 422 and 852, which would, respectively, increase veterans’ access to chiropractors in particular and to complementary and alternative medicine in general.

Apparently, no proponents of science-based medicine were invited to testify. Only an emissary from integrative medicine, Wayne Jonas, M.D., made an appearance. (His testimony begins at about 1:09 on the video. He also submitted written testimony.) Dr. Jonas is currently the President of the Samueli Institute. The Institute’s revenues for 2012 were about $13 million, approximately half of which (about $6,750,000) came from the federal government. In his testimony, he described Samueli as a nonprofit research institute “that examines the inherent healing capacity of individuals with a scientific lens in order to determine how they can be implemented into whole systems.” Dr. Jonas is past Director of the U.S. Office of Alternative Medicine, the predecessor of NCCAM. (You can read more on Dr. Jonas here.)

Dr. Jonas’s short testimony was interesting indeed. As is typical of integrative medicine proponents, he began with criticism of medicine as currently practiced. The solution?

We need a whole system, whole person approach to dealing with these things the way people experience them, not a divided disintegrated system. Thus, we need practices that can help them reset, re-heal, tap into their inherent healing processes, and more importantly teach them the skills that they need in order to build resilience for the long run . . . We want . . . a life time of optimal healing and functioning. These practices have the potential, if they’re properly evaluated and integrated, not just simply to treat a disease, but in fact to provide that resetting.

I am sure you noted that his testimony starts off with two of the signature, but wholly unproven (in fact, wholly implausible), claims of alternative medicine: it taps into the body’s inherent healing capacity and it doesn’t just treat the disease, but the whole person.

Dr. Jonas then referred to three studies which I presume he feels support his notion that the practice of integrative medicine is superior and that this superiority stems, in part, from the inclusion of alternative treatments. We will first look at what Dr. Jonas said about each study and then take a look at the actual studies.

Study 1: chiropractic

Jonas’ testimony:

We just published actually – one of our funders that we publish – the first randomized control trial published in Spine of low back pain with chiropractic, demonstrating that chiropractic added on to usual care significantly improved chiropractic in active duty populations who have carried big loads for many years.

(As an attorney, I’ve winced many times at transcriptions of depositions I took or hearings in which I participated. Verbal stumbles are easy to make when you are speaking, even from prepared notes, so I am not going to be snarky about the occasional stumbles here. I think it is clear what he meant.)

The study: Adding chiropractic manipulative therapy to standard medical care for patients with acute low back pain: results of a pragmatic randomized comparative effectiveness study.

This study was headed by Christine Goertz, D.C., Ph.D., of the Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research. According to the journal article in Spine announcing its results, “Samueli Institute grant funds were received to support this work.” No other funding source is listed, but according to the Palmer chiropractic school website, Samueli funded the study out of a grant from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. The Palmer research facility has received $30 million in grants and other funds since 2000, a lot of it from the federal government. One of the research center’s three areas of study is:

mechanisms of care, which encompass normative data, spine lesions (e.g. vertebral subluxation complex) and spinal manipulation/adjustment.

Putting 2 and 2 together, it appears U.S. taxpayers are funding research into the “vertebral subluxation complex” and the “adjustment” of subluxations. As a taxpayer, I would be interested in knowing how they conduct research on something that doesn’t exist.

This was a prospective, 2-arm randomized controlled trial pilot study comparing Standard Medical Care (SMC) plus Chiropractic Manipulative Therapy (CMT). Participants were U.S. Active Duty Military Personnel. Median duration of participant current low back pain was 9 days and 43% had radicular signs. The primary outcome measures were changes in back-rated pain on a numerical rating scale and physical functioning at 4 weeks on a disability rating scale. There was no blinding of participants or practitioners. At the end, results from 32 SMC only and 41 SMC plus CMT patients were analyzed. According to the article, “participants had a higher expectation of helpfulness for SMC plus CMT compared to SMC.”

Now, to the interventions. The study didn’t restrict access to SMC or prescribe a SMC delivery protocol. Here is what actually occurred:

Standard care included any or all of the following: a focused history, diagnostic imaging as indicated, education about self-management including maintaining activity levels as tolerated, pharmacological management with the use of analgesics and anti-inflammatory agents, and physical therapy and modalities such as heat/ice and referral to a pain clinic.

In both groups, SMC was delivered by physician assistants, family practice physicians, physical therapists or aides, nurse practitioners, physical medicine practice physicians, athletic trainers and chiropractors. Yes, according to the study, chiropractors constituted 3% of the providers in the SMC group. Go figure. The mean number of visits for SMC was 1.4, although the majority had only 1 visit (range 0-8), in the SMC group and 1(range 0-4) in the SMC plus CMT group.

In the SMC plus CMT group, CMT included high velocity low amplitude spinal manipulation delivered to the lumbar spine or sacroiliac joint for all participants. In addition,

patients may have received 1 or more of the following services provided by the DC: mobilization, brief massage, use of ice in the lumbar area, stretching exercises, McKenzie exercise, advice for activities of daily living, postural/ergonomic advice. The median number of visits to the DC was 7 visits for CMT (range 2-8).

I e-mailed Cristine Goertz, D.C., the lead author, asking her to explain why the manipulation is described as “chiropractic,” and whether there was some way this manipulation was different than that performed by other providers. I also asked how the determination was made to manipulate at a particular location and whether that it involved the detection of a “subluxation.” Finally, I asked why visits for SMC were reported as a mean and visits for CMT were reported as a median number. I received an auto-reply that she is out of the office until early August so I will have to update this when and if she replies.

The authors’ conclusion:

The results of this trial suggest that CMT in conjunction with SMC offers a significant advantage for decreasing pain and improving physical function when compared with only standard care, for men and women between 18 and 35 years of age with acute LBP.

Well of course it did! If you want to do a study guaranteeing your results will show an added intervention will work better than standard care, make sure the group getting the additional intervention already expects it will work, give them eight times more treatments for back pain than the other group, give both groups a non-standardized mixture of (by my count) 18 different treatments so you don’t know what really worked and what didn’t, further confuse the issue by giving a few of the same treatments to both standardized care and the additional intervention groups, and don’t blind the participants or the providers.

But that is just a layperson’s view.

Here’s something I’ll bet you’ve already predicted. The last sentence of the article:

It is clear that additional high quality randomized controlled trials are required to establish the appropriate role definitively for CMT in diverse populations within pragmatic health care settings.

Fortunately for the Palmer Research Center and the Samueli Institute, such a study is already underway. They and the RAND Corporation received a $7.4 million, four-year grant from the Department of Defense last year to conduct a similar multi-site clinical trial, this time with a sample size of 750 active-duty military personnel.

Study 2: acupuncture

Jonas’ testimony:

We just completed a study at Walter Reed [National Military Medical Center], with – in partnership with Walter Reed – looking at the use of acupuncture for post-traumatic stress syndrome. One month of eight treatments of acupuncture reduced post-traumatic stress syndrome by 56 percent, and improved all the other symptoms of the trauma spectrum, including pain, improved sleep, reduced medication, and even, to my surprise, improved cognitive function.

Dr. Jonas also claimed that “they continued to maintain improvement” in follow-up.

The study: Acupuncture for Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress among Military Personnel.

A 56% reduction in the syndrome itself plus improved cognitive function goes far beyond what the current research would have predicted. As Carl Sagan wisely advised, the prudent person would require extraordinary evidence for this extraordinary claim.

From his description, I had trouble finding the study at clinicaltrials.gov or published results so I sent an e-mail to the Samueli communications department asking them to “please identify the study . . . and tell me where I could find more information about the study, including the clinical trial number, methodology and results.” I got a very cordial and quick response telling me that it is NCT00320138. According to clinicaltrails.gov, the treatment is “Acupuncture, using Chinese Medicine methodology,” consisting of 4 weeks of 2 treatments per week, 4 being “standardized” and 4 being “individualized.” These terms are not further defined. There are 55 participants, one group randomized to acupuncture and the other to “no intervention/ wait list /usual care.”

If you were hoping I would describe the results, you’ll have to wait. According to the e-mail from Samueli,

The study in question is under review and has not yet been published. Dr. Jonas is not the lead author.

The study’s completion date is listed on clinicaltrials.gov as 2007, so I am not sure why there are no results available in 2013. Nor do I know why, if the study is still “under review,” Dr. Jonas was able to announce the apparently unqualified results in his testimony. Again, stay tuned. I’ll be checking back on this one.

Study 3: guided imagery and healing touch

Jonas’ testimony:

And the study published about four or five months ago that we did in conjunction with Scripps at – and the Camp Pendleton Marines and post-traumatic stress syndrome, took a very simple relaxation self-care practice taught by nurses to induce a relaxation skills training program in individuals with post-traumatic stress syndrome, added on to usual behavioral care, significantly reduced posttraumatic stress syndrome.

When that was then followed up, as was the acupuncture, when after those were finished, three months later they continued to maintain improvement. In other words, it wasn’t a one-off treatment, it was actually a reset, a rehealing of those practices.

The study: Healing Touch with Guided Imagery for PTSD in Returning Active Duty Military: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

This study offers another excellent example of what Harriet Hall has aptly named “tooth-fairy science.” The researchers go through all kinds of standard research mechanisms and statistical analyses: excluding pregnant women and nursing mothers, using a CONSORT flow diagram, determining sample size using a power analysis, measuring results with reliable scales, calculating p-values, and so forth.

The alternative practices this time consist of listening to guided imagery tapes plus healing touch, two sessions per week for 3 weeks, with 102 participants, who were experiencing “one or more” post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. The healing touch was delivered by nurses, who played the guided imagery tapes during the sessions, a decision “based on consultations with expert practitioners.” Participants were encouraged to listen to the tapes at home, although the researchers don’t know if they did. Obviously, there was no blinding of participants or practitioners. It was done under the auspices of the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine with Erminia M. Guarneri, M.D. taking the lead there. The Samueli Institute participated as well. Study results were published in Military Medicine.

According to the article, the group receiving treatment as usual with these two CAM interventions had “substantial reductions in PTSD symptoms.” We won’t spend much time on “guided imagery,” a definition of which is provided on the website of Belleruth Naparstak, a psychotherapist and proponent of guided imagery who has apparently managed to convince a lot of folks to buy into her enthusiasm for guided imagery and to buy her guided imagery tapes.

Guided Imagery is a kind of deliberate, directed daydreaming that uses soothing music and narrative to evoke multisensory memory, symbol and fantasy. This combination gently guides the overactive mind into a relaxed, immersive state of healing reverie.

A small number of studies have looked at guided imagery for various health conditions but they were generally of poor quality and there isn’t any good evidence of its effectiveness.

For “healing touch,” which is apparently the same thing as therapeutic touch, the evidence is clear cut: it shouldn’t work and it doesn’t. Which leads me to wonder how researchers continue to slip this one by the IRBs. Here’s how the article defined healing touch:

a type of biofield therapy that involves gentle, non-invasive touch by trained practitioners, who utilize specific techniques with the intention of working with the body’s vital energy system to stimulate a healing response.

Never mind that the body doesn’t have a “vital energy system.” But wait, it gets worse. There are specific types of healing touch. In this study three were used:

Chakra Connection . . . involving techniques used along the body, intended to stimulate movement of vital energy though the body.

Mind clearing . . . techniques performed on the head, intended to stimulate mental relaxation.

Chakra Spread . . . an advanced technique . . . generally reserved for patients with more severe symptoms, intended to promote deep healing for emotional and/or physical pain.

Chakras are, for the uninitiated, “energy centers” in the body that, when blocked, cause illness. Unblocking whatever is blocking the free flow of energy restores balance and health. Just like acupuncture, subluxation-based chiropractic, reflexology, cranial sacral therapy, reiki and Ayurveda. (It is odd that so much of alternative medicine, which can be so . . . um . . . creative in its approaches, still manages to end up at the same place.)

And despite Dr. Jonas’s claim that results were maintained at follow up, the journal article states that, while follow-up assessment was originally planned, it was not possible due to unavailability of participants because of their deployment.

In addition to Dr. Jonas’s testimony, hype also flowed from Scripps. From the Scripps website, which describes healing touch as “an energy-based, non-invasive treatment that restores and balances the human biofield to help decrease pain and promote healing”:

Healing touch combined with guided imagery (HT+GI) provides significant clinical reductions in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms for combat-exposed active duty military, according to a study released in the September issue of Military Medicine. . . . “Scores for PTSD symptoms decreased substantially, about 14 points and below the clinical cutoffs for PTSD,” said Dr. Guarneri. “This indicates that the intervention was not just statistically significant, but actually decreased symptoms below the threshold for PTSD diagnosis. It made a large difference in reducing PTSD symptoms.”

I’ll leave it to the experts to evaluate the results from a statistical standpoint. Here’s the layperson’s view of this study: Relaxation tapes may have some as-yet-undetermined value in treating PTSD. Healing touch does not, and this study doesn’t prove that it does. There is no “energy system” to “stimulate” or “human biofield” to “restore and balance.” You can’t measure something that doesn’t exist.

And, yes, you guessed it:

Future studies examining the impact of this intervention as a complementary treatment to help eliminate PTSD and depression in our military are warranted.

Maybe it’s just me, but are you starting to notice that research outfits which get a lot of money for studying alternative medicine keep pushing for more studies of alternative medicine? And, as a taxpayer, are you concerned, like I am, that you are paying for these studies?

Given the opportunity to present, without any opposition, the most recent, most compelling evidence in support of integrating alternative medicine into the Veterans’ Administration health care system, this is the best integrative medicine can do? I’m underwhelmed. I hope the Senate is too.

Next week: Two bad bills.

Posted in: Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Clinical Trials, Energy Medicine, Legal, Politics and Regulation

Leave a Comment (27) ↓

27 thoughts on “Integrative Medicine Invades the U.S. Military: Part One

  1. James says:

    I am an orthopaedic surgeon practicing in the military health care system. I am highly skeptical of CAM treatments and concerned about their spread in the military system, especially when it means other proven, but less politically favored treatments are not utilized or lose funding.

    However, I am open to their use if benefits can be scientifically proven in military-specific situations. For example, battlefield acupuncture is being taught and utilized in the Air Force. If well-designed studies show that it not only reduces pain/etc but leads to early return to work or less use of narcotics for pain control, then I would be highly supportive of it. Unfortunately, now the justification for battlefield acupuncture are poorly designed studies using highly subjective outcomes (and without testing for significant functional benefit).

    1. anthro49 says:

      Check the archives of this blog for further reading on Acupuncture in general and in the military.

    2. Jann Bellamy says:

      @ James

      I’d like to investigate this horrible waste of taxpayer money even further. If you are willing to discuss this from an insider’s perspective, please e-mail me at info@sciencebasedhealthcare.org

  2. Stephen H says:

    Isn’t misleading the Senate a criminal offence (perjury)? Because it sounds like the “doctor” clearly misled the committee, presumably under oath. Whether based on the unpublished claims about acupuncture, or the very clear bullshit of his entire subject matter, surely he needs to be investigated further, with the intention of laying criminal charges.

    1. Perjury? Only if the person testifying has been sworn in.

  3. Snake89 says:

    This is hilarious.The proponents of stupid alternative medicine are trying to fight back. Only in Malaysia.

    http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/25259

    1. Skepticrat says:

      Holy crapola, Batman! The stupidity and irony burns…It just goes to show that wooligans are the same worldwide. Frightening.

  4. windriven says:

    “The study’s completion date is listed on clinicaltrials.gov as 2007, so I am not sure why there are no results available in 2013. Nor do I know why, if the study is still “under review,” Dr. Jonas was able to announce the apparently unqualified results in his testimony.”

    I can’t speak to the legal terminology but the ethical terminology is fraud.

    “A small number of studies have looked at guided imagery for various health conditions but they were generally of poor quality and there isn’t any good evidence of its effectiveness.”

    But its use in the treatment of PTSD has at least some plausibility. Perhaps touch as well – though the elaborate kabuki of ‘healing touch’ has been generally and thoroughly discredited as Ms. Bellamy noted.

    But the underlying point is that sCAM continues to metastasize and that modern science and medicine lack the tools to stop it or, more accurately, the will to use those tools.

  5. anthro49 says:

    There is little I can add to your summary, windriven, and it’s incredibly depressing. I have some personal (family) experience with PTSD and it’s legitimate treatment, so I find this tooth fairy approach even more insulting. People with PTSD do need reassurance and emotional support, but to call that “medicine” (and we know that is so that they can demand reimbursement) is a travesty.

  6. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    However, I am open to their use if benefits can be scientifically proven in military-specific situations. For example, battlefield acupuncture is being taught and utilized in the Air Force. If well-designed studies show that it not only reduces pain/etc but leads to early return to work or less use of narcotics for pain control, then I would be highly supportive of it. Unfortunately, now the justification for battlefield acupuncture are poorly designed studies using highly subjective outcomes (and without testing for significant functional benefit).

    James, do you have any reason to expect acupuncture to work better on the battlefield than it does anywhere else? If acupuncture “works”, the majority of the benefits are due to placebo. Pain and nausea, the two symptoms for which acupuncture is most effective, are also two symptoms (which are not diseases) which are most susceptible to placebo. The problem is, acupuncture tends to have, at best, a short-term, transitory, highly unreliable impact on pain. It’s rather akin to using shock to dull pain – sure, people can get their limbs blown off or walk around with a foot of metal sticking out of their torso and feel nothing, but not all do (and I don’t think anyone would advocate further-injuring a soldier in order to numb their pain through shock). In contrast, morphine works for everyone (though of course it comes with all sorts of other problems). In fact, battlefield acupuncture has been examined here before and its use is questionable at best. I think what I’m saying is I basically agree with you that battlefield acupuncture is a bad idea – but I think I’m more of the opinion that it will never be a good idea, while you hold out the hope that with better testing we might find out it does in fact work. This is an area where skeptics can disagree, where is the line at which we finally say “that’s it, we’re wasting our time”. Having read as much as I have on acupuncture, here and elsewhere, I think we have passed that point. It doesn’t matter where you put the needles, it doesn’t matter if they penetrate the skin, it doesn’t work because of qi, but it does matter how enthusiastic the practitioner is. It’s a powerful placebo, making it at best an adjunct treatment for pain and nausea.

    1. James says:

      WLU,

      I think we are pretty much in agreement. I certainly have no illusions about qi or the overwhelming literature against acupuncture and nearly everything else labelled CAM. But as a scientist, and more specifically an applied scientist, I am willing to examine the value of the placebo effect, however it may be initiated. Whether I am willing to actually apply it, given the moral concerns, requires further reflection but basically means weighing the risks (including lying) and benefits, just like any surgical treatment I discuss with patients.

      Specifically in the case of acupuncture use in the military medical system, I remain skeptical, but there are circumstances where I’d reconsider. I find the endpoints of pain/nausea unconvincing, and would only accept far more practical outcomes useful for consideration in any future examination of acupuncture. For example, the studies currently used to support battlefield acupuncture are unacceptable to me, but if acceptably scientific studies showed that it reduced the need for narcotics for pain control in a soldier with a traumatic amputation, I’d be open to it since there are significant risks with narcotics (and also assuming that it didn’t interfere with other treatments needed). I so doubt that any studies would ever show such a result that I don’t advocate for any public money to research it. If that study were to magically occur, then i would consider it (I chose the word magically carefully).

      Battlefield acupuncture, though, really isn’t used on the battlefield and that’s not the reason why the military medical leadership has bought into it. It is a cheap treatment that can be continuously applied (needles in the ear for days) while a soldier continues to work. Since the biggest health impact on military readiness is from disease and nonbattle injuries, if it leads to increased unit readiness then it will be extremely attractive to high-level commanders. If I were presented with good data to that effect, I would have a tough time disagreeing with them, regardless of the lack of qi or any other physiologic explanation. Again, I don’t expect to ever see such data, and don’t recommend or hope the government pursues it.

      1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        Ya, I would agree – we do seem to be pretty close. I’m not a doctor, but in the hypothetical world where I was one, I would probably contemplate using acupuncture if there were no other options available, and in particular on a patient with whom I would be concerned about going down the CAM rabbit hole. Plus, you’re always better bundling an effective treatment with a strong placebo effect anyway.

        If you’re waiting for any hard endpoints for acupuncture beyond pain and nausea, I’m pretty skeptical you’ll ever get anything. With no really promising objective results, biological structures and no reason to expect filiform needle stimulation to have a specific effect, it just seems like a massive waste of money.

  7. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    So, my stats are old, but with a median of 7 and a range of 2-8, doesn’t that mean that fully half of the participants were getting 7 or more treatments? And doesn’t that introduce a considerable confound, vis. the duration of treatment (low back pain tends to improve with time no matter the intervention)? Unless there was a standard follow-up period. But most importantly – how is chiropractic care superior to physiotherapy now that physios are starting to use manual adjustments (“high velocity-low amplitude”) as part of their treatments?

    1. theLaplaceDemon says:

      Yep. Median = middle number in a set.

    2. Jann Bellamy says:

      @ WLU

      It’s even worse than you think. With 42 participants, range of treatments = 2-8, and median number = 7, you could have one participant with 2 treatments, the rest up to the median with 7 treatments, and all following the median of 7 with 8 treatments.

  8. There appears to be a double IRB process for research involving military personnel to insure not only that there is proper informed consent, but no coercion by other in the change of command. Wouldn’t we all like to get a look at the informed consent for these studies, eh?

    Meanwhile, NCCAM is enlisting interested parties for more military CAM studies:

    “NCCAM Pre-Application Teleconference on Non-Pharmacological Approaches to Managing Pain and Co-Morbid Conditions in U.S. Military Personnel, Veterans, and Their Families”

    http://nccam.nih.gov/node/5731?nav=rss

  9. windriven says:

    @anthro49

    “[I]t’s incredibly depressing.”

    I agree. I’ve been trying to cut back on my SBM a bit. I just don’t need the frustration. I don’t see anything but the slow flat spin into the full integration of horsecrap into medicine. Politicians don’t want to stop it. Physicians seem agnostic about it. Medical schools are teaching it. And every credulous half-wit in the country can’t wait to share their pathetic little anecdote about how chirohomeoninjareiki saved their cousin’s life when medical “science” had written him off.

    I could scream.

    I share your concern that sometimes we throw babies out with bathwater. I don’t know much at all about guided imagery but the little that I know suggests that it has some efficacy in changing an individual’s focus. I’ve no idea if the effects are transitory or long-lasting. But there is a modicum of plausibility so I would hope that it gets rigorously investigated. We certainly will face a wave of PTSD as our military adventures wind down. If news reports are accurate we aren’t doing a hell of a lot for returning servicepeople in that regard.

  10. I generally assume politicians are prone to this type of thing. Among the more authoritarian ones, it’s because a particular pseudoscientific idea (such as creationism, Lysenkoism, or TCM) marries itself to the party, and in their arrogance, they assume the Party represents popular opinion and popular opinion is automatically true.

    Among the more libertarian variety of politicians, it’s more postmodern “all ideas are equally valid” fluff. And, in the absence of evidence, all ideas are equally (in)valid. But evidence elevates some ideas, such as germ theory, to the point of validity, while making others, such as homeopathy or vitalism, impossible.

    1. windriven says:

      In my limited experience in WA the political acceptance of sCAM cuts across party lines and ideological positions. It seems to boil down to: lots of people want it so it is better to regulate it than to let it run wild.

    2. windriven says:

      @aliberaldoseofskepticism

      I’m awfully slow sometimes. It just hit me that you mentioned conservatives and libertarians in your semi-rant but nothing about liberals. Interesting. Does the name Tom Harkin (D-IA) ring any bells? Or Bernie Sanders (I – VT)? Neither of these clowns could be described as either conservative or libertarian. The Daily Iowan described Harkin as “Lion of the Liberals” and Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist.

      Lest anyone think I’m pimping for the right, their cast of fools and intellectual dwarfs reads like the opening crawl in Spaceballs I just want to be sure that everyone is more-or-less equally offended ;-) and that the most notably woolly get their moment in the spotlight.

      .

  11. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    It just hit me that you mentioned conservatives and libertarians in your semi-rant but nothing about liberals.

    Indeed, the common thread to politics and science is that nearly every politician gets it wrong, and the public is far less aware of the genuine issues than it seems to think. Liberals, democrats and other left-leaners have their own scientific blind spots, and use the same fallacious arguments to support their points as the conservatives – it’s merely the topic that is different.

    Scientists agree that GM foods and organisms don’t really present significant risks, and that the issues are ones of ethics and business practice – but the frothing frenzy of anti-GMO protests among hippies and unions is a papering-over of “safety” on top of what are ultimately contamination concerns and naturalistic fallacy. Antivaccination is split at least 50-50 between health freedom nuts on the right and crunchy granolas on the left (and I would say it’s not really an even split). While lefties believe in climate change, their solutions are often unrealistic statements about renewable energy and the like, which are nowhere near economically sustainable at current efficiencies (meanwhile, efficiency of cars, appliances, electricity generation and transmission – including from coal and other dirty sources – is itself a short-term solution to pollution and shortages).

    We should be ruled by robots. Pending arrival of the robots, the use of scientific councils to make all policy decisions would be a good band-aid solution. Politics of eitehr bent is unconstrained by reality.

    1. windriven says:

      “We should be ruled by robots. ”

      I’d settle for Vulcans.

    2. The late, great writer Iain M Banks proposed a Marxist utopian advanced society that worked only because (1) tech had reached the point where materials and energy were essentially free and (2) “robots” (well, Minds, who would get very snippy if you called them “AIs”) pretty much ran everything.

  12. Please consider writing the members of the US Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs about Jonas’ testimony, referring to Jann Bellamy’s SBM essay:

    http://www.veterans.senate.gov/committee-members.cfm

    Senators Hirono and Blumenthal only take email comments from residents of their states. But you can snail mail a letter to them.

    1. Catherine Boss says:

      Dear Ms. Rosa,
      Please do not waste taxpayers’ money on “integrative” medical practices that have not been found to work via the Scientific Method (research involving controlled studies that are able to be replicated). Integrative medicine’s benefits are merely anecdotal. There is NO EVIDENCE there is any benefit. Also, Reiki (hands-on healing) has been shown to be an absurd fraud. Please read the JAMA article regarding this technique, in which Reiki practitioners could no more find the “energy” of “life force” any better than if by chance. If our legislators were better educated they would not allow any of this to be conducted. Maybe that Senator who said that women who are raped can’t get pregnant would believe this stuff, but please. You know better.
      Catherine Boss
      Silver Spring, MD
      301-384-8520

      1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        I believe Linda Rosa is advocating for more funds for conventional research on promising avenues. I believe she would be 100% in agreement with your statements.I believe she would heartily endorse, even co-sign, your statements were you to forward them to your senator or congressperson.

Comments are closed.