The Ethical Consequences of Ambivalence towards “Alternative Medicine”

Val Jones at Science-Based Medicine gives us an anecdote about one scientist’s transition from indifference towards alternative medicine, to realizing that it is a large and dangerous industry.

When I happened upon Respectful Insolence at Science Blogs it was as if a light went on for me. I read post after post about the same illegitimate therapies that were being promoted as treatment options for all kinds of very serious illnesses. I began to realize that these alternative medicine practices were not the innocuous “natural” solutions that I’d once assumed they were. This was modern day snake oil, and it was a 22 billion dollar industry. Patients were being terribly misled about their conditions and the treatments they needed to get better – and some were even dying in the process.

These kinds of things are the reason why I think understanding and acceptance of the scientific process is so important; any supernatural belief seems, to me, like it may be a ‘gateway drug’ towards more harmful detachment from empirical reasoning. Whether or not that’s actually true is an entirely different matter, which is why I’m not an anti-religious crusader by any means; but it certainly makes me uneasy.

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