Wednesday, 28 March 2012


In common with most of my colleagues my therapeutic options are becoming increasingly influenced by the concept of “evidence base”. I don’t see this as any bad thing. It is all too easy to fool yourself about the efficacy of your treatments, and we should all be able to present independent and impartial evidence to support what we are doing.

In common with the rest of science evidence in medicine is based on the concept of the null hypothesis. There is a general view that if a certain therapy is being investigated the onus is on the proponent to provide evidence as to efficacy. It is not generally considered appropriate for others to produce evidence showing the treatment to be worthless, that is generally the default position.

This concept is what marks complementary medicine as different from conventional medicine. Whereas proper medicine is based on evidence of efficacy the proponents of woo think they should be different, and that sceptics should have to disprove their nonsense.

This view is well illustrated by a recent example. The Advertising Standards Authority have recently banned a christian group in Bath from distributing leaflets promoting faith healing. In response three MPs are insisting that the ban be reversed, writing to the ASA and demanding they provide evidence that the christian’s claims can not be justified. They clearly have no understanding of scientific method, null hypothesis, or what constitutes evidence. 

That such ignorant and stupid individuals can be elected to parliament makes me despair.

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