Monday, November 14, 2005

Alternative Medicine

I glanced at the Inquirer this morning and spotted a headline that suggests that certain vitamins can alleviate pain associated with gout. The dull statistician will teach the experiment: the treatment, controls, placebo, blah, blah, blah and finish with a t-test and a p-value. Important? absolutely. Dull? Devestatingly so. The politically incorrect statistician turns the problem around to address the topic of alternative/Non-Western medicine. Alternative medicine is a HUGE industry supported intellectually by a politically correct ideology that holds that all cultures are created equal. Ergo, all medicinal cultures are equal. Perhaps a starting point for the discussion is Richard Dawkins essay "Snake Oil" which appeared in his collection of essays titled A devils Chaplain. Dawkins' introduces a snappy definition of "alternative medicine": any remedy that has never been tested or has been blocked from testing, or failed when tested. Teach this in class and someone, who swears that her headaches were remedied by the Shaman's balm, will walk out insulted.


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