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).

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Comment regarding Andrew Weil’s comments in Think Tank

Insightful comment by Dr. Harriet Hall:

When I read Andrew Weil’s comments in Think Tank (below), I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He hopes to see changes in the medical paradigm. What’s wrong with the scientific, evidence-based paradigm? He thinks medicine should respond to an alleged “relentless consumer demand for alternative therapies”—but no matter how many consumers demand an alternative treatment, only science can determine if a treatment is safe and effective. And any treatment proven safe and effective is immediately adopted by scientific medicine and is no longer “alternative.” He says there is an “impending total collapse of the health-care system”—this is certainly news to me! He asks for “complexity theory” to understand the effects of herbal remedies—I assume he means that the mixture of chemicals in a plant is somehow more effective than the isolated active ingredient, but this is an unproven hypothesis that is actually contradicted by considerable evidence. He wants to “back away from materialism,” but only material entities and forces that detectably affect material entities can contribute to scientific knowledge—if you can’t detect it materially, you can’t test it and you must remain in the realm of philosophy or religious belief. He speaks of mind/body interactions, apparently disregarding the large accumulating body of evidence from neurophysiology that tells us “mind” is a function of brain rather than some immaterial entity. And he supports the “emerging field of energy medicine”—which is not emerging into any kind of scientific acceptance because it is not supported by any objective evidence and because it postulates a kind of energy that is unmeasurable and would require a rewriting of the laws of physics. Bill Nye the Science Guy is right—science rules! Scientific medicine has served us well. It would be unforgivable to corrupt it with mysticism, superstition, Cartesian dualism, postmodernist philosophies or New Age nonsense.

Harriet Hall, M.D.

Puyallup, Washington


Andrew Weil's comment:

THE SEQUENCING OF THE HUMAN GENOME is the greatest advancement in medical knowledge of the past 25 years, although I’m not sure when it will lead to practical breakthroughs in our ability to prevent and treat disease. On that level, I think effective treatments for hypertension and heart attacks are the most important developments. As for the future, I look forward to significant changes in the medical paradigm, forced by relentless consumer demand for alternative therapies and the impending total collapse of the health-care system. I hope to see the rise of complexity theory in medicine, so we can understand the effects of herbal remedies and other natural products, and a backing away from materialism, so we can acknowledge mind/body interactions and the whole emerging field of energy medicine.

ANDREW WEIL, director, program in intergrative medicine at the University of Arizona's Health Sciences Center in Tuscon.