Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Dawkins Appropriation: Not just wrong, dangerous

[Post moved to other blog.]

Richard Dawkins is credited with the observation:
there is no alternative medicine. There is only medicine that works and medicine that doesn't work. [italics added]
Sounds reasonable, sounds obvious, sounds good. But it is wrong.

As Medical practice subsumes other techniques and modalities, how well does it do it?
How well can it do it?

This is the same problem as learning a new language.
Without the Culture and Context, the learning is seriously compromised.

Yes, you might have some fluency, some ability to get yourself understood and able to hold modest conversations.

My thesis:
 the Culture, Theory, Practices and implicit knowledge and models underpinning a technique, therapy, practice or modality cannot be separated from it.

 Secondly, it's called "practice" for a reason. Like playing a musical instrument, to become accomplished in the art, you need a lot of practice to build the skill. But then you have to maintain the level of practice to maintain the skill. Mere performances won't maintain concert-level skill, and worse, infrequent performing result in lessening of skills. At some point you are back to "amateur" status.

"Cherry Picking" can only lead to sub-optimal results, or worse, real harm to patients through ignorance and poor techniques.

Can Doctors perform Acupuncture or Spinal Manipulations as well as native trained, specialist practitioners? Those who practice their craft daily.

I argue, not nearly.

So why does Dawkins make his statement, if it works, it ours? It's so trivially wrong and dangerous as to be absurd.

At best it is an ignorant and unwise sentiment, at worst disingenuous and mendacious.

It's a great sound-bite and simplistic rationalisation - and has been endlessly repeated by the proponents of the Medical Healthcare Treatment Only (all other banned/illegal) school of thought.

If Dawkins had said:
Medical Healthcare will embrace and accept as whole specialities what are now regarded as Alternative Modalities or Treatment when they are shown "Safe and Effective",
then I'd agree with him.

Dawkins thinking on this seems to be mechanistic, based on the Classical Science/Physic notions of absolute knowledge and predictability.

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