Field of Science

Hocus-pocus conference

Someone really wants me to go to this conference in India on holistic medicine. I have just received the third email inviting me to register. Not sure why, except of course the more the merrier. However, I am an evolutionary biologist, and don't really have anything to say about holistic medicine. Except bad stuff:

Here is the list of topics covered, with Wikipedia links to those that I judge to be hocus-pocus:

Modern Medicine (Allopathy), Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Alternative Medicine, Complementary Medicine, Reiki, Touch Therapies [no Wikipedia page], Siddha, Colour Therapy, Aroma Therapy, Geriatric Health, Chiropractic Therapy, Acupuncture, Unani, Yoga, Massage, Radiation Therapy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Traditional Medicines of all the Countries and Medicinal Plants.

Note that Allopathy is a derogatory term for conventional medicine, aka evidence-based medicine. In start contrast with other kinds of medicine.

Now, I am not saying that none of the linked practices are without effect at all. For example, I do believe that chiropractic can do good things for the spine (but am skeptical of the claim that chiropractic can cure other diseases and of "innate intelligence"). I also think that it might be that aroma therapy can affects a person's mood (dare I say of course?). But some practitioners of all of those alternatives to evidence-based medicine claim that it can do more than what the evidence suggests.

On more than one occasion have I been called arrogant because I am rather quick to dismiss practices that I most often call hocus-pocus. Astrology, tarot, and religion belong in that category. The idea here is that it is arrogant to claim to know something doesn't work without having intricate first-hand knowledge of the subject. "Maybe homeopathy works - how can you be sure it doesn't? How can you claim to know there is nothing supernatural? It is arrogant to dismiss it like that."

But this is completely backwards. I consider it arrogant to claim that something works when that is based on no evidence. And there is no evidence for those things. No evidence that isn't just personal anecdote and that hasn't been verified in proper experimental settings. I consider it amazingly arrogant that people claim to know the mind of God, based exclusively on the Bible.

I won't be going to India in September. I have better things to do and no money to spare. However, I think it could be fun nonetheless, meeting these people, and especially asking questions about the missing evidence.

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