Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Two realities - by Harriet Hall, MD

There are two realities in question here. When a person experiences a result and thinks he knows the cause, that is his internal reality. Science addresses the external reality accessible to all who share our material world. History is chock-full of people whose internal reality did not correspond to scientific external reality. People make mistaken attributions all the time; science can correct those misattributions. Science and skeptics are not in the business of knocking down every argument with endless objections - they look at the quality and quantity of the evidence and quickly reach a consensus. An example of how this works is the recent discovery that ulcers are caused by bacteria: the idea was not accepted at first, but within a ten year period the evidence was clear and was universally accepted. There was an excellent article describing this in the last issue of Skeptical Inquirer, by Kimball Atwood, MD.

To go back to my favorite example, blood-letting was accepted by those who personally witnessed the results - for 2500 years. Science proved them wrong. If you are willing to accept anything just on the basis of "it worked for me" then you should be just as willing to subject yourself to blood-letting as to hypnosis, because there are centuries of testimonials from people who said it worked for them.

Harriet Hall, MD