Kimball Atwood’s been kicking the arses of all those who like to babble that because alt med’s popular, even the most implausible, most wootastic woo should be studied. We’re talking folks who think that homeopathy should be studied, despite the fact the basic science isn’t behind it at all – you’d have to overturn pretty much all of physics and chemistry for it to qualify as anything remotely possible to actually work as more than a placebo mixed with willful idiocy. The people who back randomized, double-blind, clinical trial after clinical trial for the wooiest of woo despite assloads of evidence already available showing it doesn’t, can’t, and will never work are the same ones who would probably demand said trials for butt reflexology if enough dumbfucks fall for a hoax.
But I digress. I was about to tell you about the fact that I, too, practice complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM). I found this out while reading Kimball’s lovely smackdown. Here’s the passage that revealed all to me:
In addition to the ethical fallacy just discussed, there is another fallacy having to do with popularity: the methods in question aren’t very popular. In the medical literature, the typical article about an implausible health claim begins with the irrelevant and erroneous assertion that “34%” or “40%” or even “62%” (if you count prayer!) of Americans use ‘CAM’ each year. This is irrelevant because at issue is the claim in question, not ‘CAM’ in general. It is erroneous because ‘CAM’ in general is so vaguely defined that its imputed popularity has been inflated to the point of absurdity, as exemplified by the NCCAM’s attempt, in 2002, to include prayer (which it quietly dropped from the subsequent, 2007 survey results).
By these standards, I so totally do practice CAM! Yep, it’s that slippery of a definition. Y’see, sometimes, when I feel like I might be coming down with a cold, but it might just be allergies or too much smoking instead, I run this little litany through my head: “I hope I’m not getting sick! I hope I’m not getting sick! I hope I’m not getting sick!” And sometimes, when I wish really hard I won’t get sick, sometimes I don’t get sick!!!
So imagine me getting surveyed:
Survey Person: Do you pray for wellness or healing?Me [sarcastically]: Well, I’m an atheist, but I sometimes hope really hard.SP: Great! We’ve got you down for prayer, then, you alt-med lover you!Me: Wait, what? Hey! Come back here and erase that right now, you fucking bastard!SP: [vanishes into the distance at a brisk run]
And that, my darlings, is one of the great many reasons why you should always treat the argumentum ad populum with grave suspicion.