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"If you integrate fantasy with reality, you do not instantiate reality.  If you mix cow pie with apple pie, it does not make the cow pie taste better; it makes the apple pie worse."
                                                                                        -Mark Crislip

When stories arise about foreign governments decreeing the existence of magic, the Western world generally looks outward with awe and mockery. A recent article in The Atlantic titled "Saudi Arabia's War on Witchcraft" lambasted the theocratic regime's archaic treatment of witches, wizards and woo-warriors of all variants. Of course the injustice of abusing and at times killing these harmless men and women for their alleged metaphysical endeavors is the preeminent concern, but what is the origin of this barbarism? It all stems from the belief in magic; that the metaphysical has a tangible relationship with the physical. Worse yet, it stems from a formal government acknowledgment that magic is real.

Since 1991 the US government has found it so prudent to investigate mystic quackery that it has been doling out well over $100 million annually for the maintenance of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).  This organization takes our money and applies it to the pseudo-scientific study of such woo as homeopathy, prayer therapy, ayurveda, and the ever popular acupuncture.  After over two decades of operation, and not a single peer-reviewed study demonstrating the viability of magical medicine, the US government has still not put a tourniquet on this gushing waste of funds.  In fact, these programs are alive and well, and have even gained ground in our military.

The U.S. Army's MEDCOM Pain Management Initiative is one such program.  This program deviates from its self proscribed mission which in part reads to "build a full spectrum of best practices for the continuum of acute and chronic pain, based on a foundation of best available evidence" (emphasis mine) by advocating for the incorporation of alternative medicine into treatment plans for our soldiers.  The best available evidence shows that any endeavor in alternative medicine is a laborious trip to nowhere.

The most common quack treatment being promulgated is acupuncture.  Although acupuncture has earned its place in our culture as a widely accepted mystic medicine, the simple truth is that acupuncture is not founded on any scientific principles and has no measurable positive effect beyond a placebo.  

Acupuncture is not the limit of the Department of Defense's (DoD) fascination with woo.  In 2010 the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) opened, and shortly thereafter the responsibility of its funding was assumed by the DoD.  The following excerpts from an article published last year demonstrate just where our tax payer money has been going:

...the bottom line for the military is to identify safe and effective treatments that can be implemented on a widespread basis within the current military infrastructure.  There is a pragmatism and opennes that allows, in some cases, for using methods or treatments that will help get the "mission accomplished" so long as they are not harmful to the patient.  This includes modalities such as acupuncture, yoga, homeopathy, and mind-body techniques.
...Results of this feasibility study, the first to test the use of acupuncture for injured troops in transit, showed that the acupuncture procedure did not interfere with the normal evacuation process, may benefit some service members to augment current pain treatment during flights, and justifies that further research is warranted.  (emphasis mine)
The Institute's researchers were not able to demonstrate these biological effects...but what was more interesting about this project was the emergence of a "social management" process for doing research in controversial areas, bringing together investigators who come in with biases on both sides of the issue.  This was the first time a conflict management process was used in science to test a hypothesis.
To put that all together, our military is funding the study of mystic quackery such as "acupuncture, yoga, homeopathy, and mind-body techniques" even after decades of research "were not able to demonstrate...biological effects" and are justifying this expense by stating that such treatments "are not harmful to the patient," "may benefit some service members" (as much as placebos), and "doing research in controversial areas" is good practice for "social management."  

When our government endorses sale of drugs which have been proven ineffective, alarms are raised.  So far, these mystic programs have been able to evade such scrutiny.  Their exclusive contributions of waste and mass delusion do not deserve the support of our secular government.  

**Disclaimer:  This work is entirely my own and is in no way reflective of any position of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation**

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rfall, kirrix, alain2112, devis1, Stwriley

    Blake A. Page Military Religious Freedom Foundation Special Assistant to the President Director of West Point Affairs

    by Blake Page on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 08:28:54 PM PDT

  •  You insult members of this community (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    With this post.

    I strongly suggest you delete it.

  •  I suggest this insulted by this intolerant post (0+ / 0-)

    Inform the appropriate person at West Point that their assistant is spouting intolerance.

    Special Assistant to the President and Director of West Point Affairs for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.Budding civil rights activist and habitual day dreamer.
  •  Yoga is ineffective? (9+ / 0-)

    Surfers do it to learn to hold their breath longer underwater. Yoga has many demonstrable benefits.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 08:56:46 PM PDT

    •  I like yoga as a form of exercise (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NE2, kirrix, Mote Dai, Stwriley

      But when you begin to attempt to impose magical effects from the practice, it's no longer in the realm of legitimate therapy.  There's an enormous difference between focused stretching and physical movement, and spiritual woo.  Of course practicing the mental and physical rigor of yoga will have benefits to athletes and military service members.  If you re-read the article, you'll see that I don't address yoga in any way aside from including a quote which happened to include the word.  There is not enough information publicly available to make statements about the presentation of yoga in these government funded programs.  If it's presented as a physical exercise I have no issue with it.  If instructors attempt to coach soldiers in the spiritual aspects of yoga, it ceases to be appropriate.

      Blake A. Page Military Religious Freedom Foundation Special Assistant to the President Director of West Point Affairs

      by Blake Page on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 09:25:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Indeed, the many breathing practices of yoga alone (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WisVoter, Margd, Cedwyn

      have done much to improve my health.  I have a congenital arrhythmia and something called sick sinus syndrome where I tend to have low blood pressure.  In the early days of this illness learning how to regulate my breathing in various ways kept me from having panic attacks every time my blood pressure plummeted, and it's done wonders for get control of my irregular heartbeat.  And it was my very first cardiac specialist who urged me to use yoga breathing to help me gain control of what was happening when medication only made things worse.

      Yoga is no more all about exercise than it is all about religion.  It has many tools that help in host of ways if you learn how to access them.

      "The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." Ernest Hemingway

      by Got a Grip on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 09:49:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This diary sounds like non-mystic quackery to me. (2+ / 0-)

    It shows that the author has no knowledge or insight or a respectful intention to inquire about  the power of magic in cultures foreign to him.

    Magic powers are so closely related to politics in countries where the majority of its citizens believe in such powers that the US military might actually try to do something reasonable here, though I wouldn't want to make that judgement on the basis what I have read here in this diary.

    I am Chelsea Manning - In Solidarity

    by mimi on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 08:59:28 PM PDT

    •  Magic as medicine (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The post was on the effectiveness of alternative medicines.  That is all.  He isn't examining its cultural or political influences.  

      The sequester is the new Republican immigration reform plan. Make things so bad here in the US that no one will want to live here.

      by Mote Dai on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 09:02:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  By mocking the effectiveness of alternative (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Horace Boothroyd III

        medicine, which are used world wide and accepted by the patients, and calling it "magic" in his title, he makes a (imo derogatory)  judgement about those cultures and people that use them. The introductory paragraph is talks about  magic and witchcraft and its relation to governments of foreign countries.

        If he had worded his headline and some expressions differently I would have said nothing.

        I am Chelsea Manning - In Solidarity

        by mimi on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 09:10:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Mocking? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          So using scientific analysis to refute claims of alternative medicine is MOCKING it?  

          It is these beliefs in traditional medicine that are helping the spread of diseases and the destruction of certain species (rhino horn for example).  

          The sequester is the new Republican immigration reform plan. Make things so bad here in the US that no one will want to live here.

          by Mote Dai on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 09:18:45 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Those are not helpful criteria for medicine (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mote Dai, Stwriley
          used world wide and accepted by the patients
          So was bleeding. It was still nonsense.
        •  Yes, and he should. (0+ / 0-)

          Cultural respect is all well and good, but there is no good reason that anyone should respect any cultural practice that causes harm to actual living people, even when the fervently hold that practice dear themselves. You could just as easily make the claim that we should support the continuation of female genital mutilation in those cultures where it is practiced and where it is claimed to have "health benefits". Yet we know from actual medical evidence that the opposite it true and that the practice is both harmful and utterly useless in any medical sense.

          Just because something is widely used or accepted does not make it good or worthy of respect, especially in a scientific or medical sense. Women in the 19th c. western world used to buy and ingest tapeworms in order to control their weight; it was promoted by quacks even though the medical community already considered tapeworms harmful parasites (which they are) but it was also very popular as an "alternative treatment" for doing the simple but difficult thing; eating a healthier diet.

          Sorry, but cultural respect only goes so far. We have to draw the line at harmful practices like medical woo, no matter how many people may have their favored cultural practices disrupted by the application of scientific evidence and the plain truths that it discovers.

          Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu The Art of War

          by Stwriley on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 07:46:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Just to clarify (0+ / 0-)

      By "power of magic" are you referring to the influence on society the belief in magic holds, or are you saying that "magic" is in fact real?

      And if the second, how are you defining magic?

      "There are no atheists in foxholes" isn't an argument against atheism, it's an argument against foxholes. - James Morrow

      by kirrix on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 09:04:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ask people who believe in magic (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Horace Boothroyd III

        if it is for real or not. It is irrelevant what I believe magic is, as I am not a believer.The effects I see in people who do believe in magic are for real. For those who believe it's a healing method and tool of power to influence and manipulate the people they depend on. That is very real, you just have to open your eyes and watch or listen.

        I am Chelsea Manning - In Solidarity

        by mimi on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 09:17:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Belief is very powerful. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I agree with you there.  Religion and political power have been intimately intertwined for a long time, and scientific studies have proven that, given comparable conditions and treatments, patients who believe they will get better do so at a higher rate than those who don't.

          Funding such practices in a nominally secular state, however, is inappropriate.  There is no scientifically documented benefit to these practices beyond a similarly administered placebo.

          "There are no atheists in foxholes" isn't an argument against atheism, it's an argument against foxholes. - James Morrow

          by kirrix on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 09:29:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Belief isn't relevant (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          What is relevant is if it ACTUALLY does what people claim.  And that that can be demonstrated in a measurable and repeatable manner.  If someone can cure with magic, they should give Amazing Randy a call and pick up that $1,000,000 check.

          The sequester is the new Republican immigration reform plan. Make things so bad here in the US that no one will want to live here.

          by Mote Dai on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 09:30:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Next up: People's Temple, Heaven's Gate... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...Scientology, Branch Davidians, Zoroastrianism, Channeling, Al Qaeda, Aryan Nations, Church of Satan, Moonies, Jediism, Opus Dei, Neoconservatism, Church of Aphrodite, Stalinism, Nekyia, The Manson Family, and Gnosticism.

    Hey, have to be tolerant.  

    Warren/3-D Print of Warren in 2016!

    by dov12348 on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 09:08:32 PM PDT

  •  Can't tip or rec, post goes too far (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Horace Boothroyd III

    Describing alternative medicine as quackery is insulting and ignores the millions whose physical and mental ailments have improved using many of these techniques.

    Perhaps some of the benefit derives from what is usually a more holistic view of the mind and body, something which modern medicine is sorely lacking. But there again, ancillary effects of alternative therapies are important to many peoples lives; modern medicine cannot cure all ills with another pill and another procedure.

    I thank the diarist for the information and questioning whether the government's spending in this area has been effective.  If it is indeed true that NCCAM has provided no benefit whatsoever to military health, then it should be de-funded.

    However, I read through the links provided, and I see no problem with the holistic approach advocated.  No one is forcing patients to use alternative methods, nor are they relied upon as primary measures.

    I do see that using traditional pain management techniques has led to 4% of our troops admitting having abused prescription painkillers, and I do see that modern medicine's popping a painkiller has led to tens of thousands of them becoming addicted. Do you really believe that a program of including alternative medicine which might help people and get them off pills is a bad thing?

    Also, I fail to see how these methods qualify as non-secular or the need to use insulting terms.

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

    by absdoggy on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 09:09:44 PM PDT

    •  Bullshit. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Yahzi, Stwriley
      Describing alternative medicine as quackery is insulting and ignores the millions whose physical and mental ailments have improved using many of these techniques.
      How do you know that those same "millions" wouldn't have improved without treatment, or that they got "western treatment" in addition to alternative medicine?

      There is a reason we have clinical trials and double-blind studies and the like.

      It's captured in the saying "The plural of anecdote is not data".

      Anecdotal reports are virtually valueless in proving the efficacy of any medical treatment.

      "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions." - Thomas Jefferson

      by rfall on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 09:12:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sigh. I guess Kos's rules just won't catch on (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Instead of a discussion we have to have nasty people just yelling "bullshit".

        Yes, there's a reason we have trials and a reason that we have peer reviewed articles.  For example, here's one:

        Accupuncture helpful in pain management

        To quote from the article on the study:

        A recent study, employing individual patient data meta-analyses and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, provides the most rigorous evidence to date that acupuncture may be helpful for chronic pain.  
        conducted an analysis of individual patient data from 29 high-quality randomized controlled trials, including a total of 17,922 people. These trials investigated the use of acupuncture for back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, shoulder pain, or chronic headache.

        For all pain types studied, the researchers found modest but statistically significant differences between acupuncture versus simulated acupuncture approaches (i.e., specific effects), and larger differences between acupuncture versus a no-acupuncture controls (i.e., non-specific effects).

        But hey, I guess the National Institute of Health and the Archive of Internal Medicine are just bullshit too.  I'll let them have the last word:
        Although there was little argument about the findings in the scientific press, a controversy played out in blog posts and the lay press. This controversy was characterized by ad hominem remarks, anonymous criticism, phony expertise and the use of opinion to contradict data, predominantly by self-proclaimed skeptics. There was a near complete absence of substantive scientific critique.
        Kinda like the comment to which I'm responding.

        Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

        by absdoggy on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 09:34:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, acupuncture is effective at relieving pain (0+ / 0-)

          but that is because for some reason it releases more endorphins than it should for the level of pain involved.  In fact, there is even "recreational acupuncture" (though it is most often called play piercing or needle play) where people get poked with a couple dozen or so 18-23g hypodermic needles and end up high as a kite despite there being no drugs involved.

          You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

          by Throw The Bums Out on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 11:40:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  It's a terrible study. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mote Dai, Yahzi

          I've read this meta-analysis and it's a truly awful piece. It does not, in fact, prove what the authors claim it does and much of the press on it has hyped even their very limited claims far beyond anything the study says. The inimitable Orac over at Respectful Insolence did a thorough review of the study when it came out and basically tore it to shreds. Here's a run-down of the major problems:

          First major problem: the studies being aggregated by Vickers, et al, (the meta-analysis you cite in your link) despite their attempts to seek out high quality studies, do not form a group that should be subjected to meta-analysis as they do, either on the aggregate or individual level, because they have different forms of control that do not produce results that can be properly cross-controlled in analysis. They may have used PRISMA methodology to do the meta-analysis, but they fail to report any of the statistics that requires on the heterogeneity of their chosen studies. Instead we have a jumbled mix of studies: some use sham acupuncture, some no-treatment controls, some standard treatment controls, and some a mix of two or more of these. This eliminates the possibility of controlling for placebo effectively across studies without the statistical correction their own chosen method calls for, but which we see no sign of in the analysis.

          Second major problem: the change they detect in perceived pain levels (correlated to a single 0-100 scale for the meta-analysis) is at it's highest about 5 points for the difference between real and sham acupuncture (the only comparison the controls at all for placebo) which can certainly be seen as a statistically significant number, but has no clinical significance at all. To put it more simply, it is a difference that a patient won't actually notice when rating their pain (and I can assure you this is true, being a rheumatoid arthritic for over 35 years and having participated in a number of pain studies myself.) It is basically statistical noise that happened to favor the authors, nothing more. They only reach clinically significant reductions when comparing real acupuncture to no-treatment controls, which of course does not account for placebo at all, which in any study of pain is a fatal flaw.

          Third major problem: This is the clincher, though it relates to the problem above. None of the studies used were double blind. This is a serious problem when the effect you're trying to claim statistical significance for is not clinically more relevant than placebo in the first place. Essentially, none of the studies used controls for therapist bias, which is a terrible flaw in any study of subjective outcomes like pain control. Despite their attempts to find what they call "high quality studies", what they used does not display a basic control we expect to see in any valid study of the kind.

          Orac mentions several other lesser problems, but I don't think it's necessary to go into them, since these three major ones pretty well shred the conclusions from Vickers et al. You end up with a meta-analysis that shows only a clinically irrelevant difference that can't even be relied upon to be anything other than placebo or therapist bias.

          This is the problem that constantly confronts those of us who try to fight the use of ineffective and harmful medical practices; you have to be able to look into the methodology of studies and analyses in order to be able to assess whether they really are valid or not. Most of the public (and this certainly includes journalists who promote these studies) don't understand either scientific method or statistical practice well enough to do so, and accept these studies at face value even when their actually worthless.

          Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu The Art of War

          by Stwriley on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:09:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Because being against science is not helpful (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "Alternative methods" are not scientific. Endorsing them, or even tolerating them, is a blow against science.

      Here is how you know the NCCAM is a scam: in all its years of research, it has never ruled out a single treatment.

      It's all fine and good to investigate new things, even things that sound silly; and it's understood that research won't always produce useful new treatments. But if your research can't even rule out treatments, then your research cannot tell the difference between success and failure; and that means your research is a scam.

      Science builds on failure as much as on success; the problem with the Alternative movement is not so much the lack of successes as it is the complete lack of failures. After all this research, we don't a single bit more than we did when we started!

  •  Magical pie fight! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    warning: snark above

    by NE2 on Thu Aug 22, 2013 at 09:23:12 PM PDT

  •  this diary is a nice example (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of why it is a bad idea to try and somehow "legislate" (or construct rules against) "offensive speech". I actually agree with Horace in that I can see how some folks can feel insulted by this diary - although I think actually noone needs to, but thats my opinion, and as such meaningless for people who would take offense here. Thats the problem with "insulting" and "offensive" - its a reaction of the listeners. Yet, people have no claim to not be insulted by others. Had people such a claim then there could be no freedom of speech, as everything we said would be potentially subject to anyones claim of being hurt.

    theres a choice between having freedom of speech or having a "right to not be insulted". If the latter prevails, then public speech turns into a bare power struggle, as people would vie against each other whose claim to unviolated "respect" would prevail over whose others. That is certainly not something we should want. It would be a return to royalty prerogatives of former times.

    thus though I couldnt care less about whether or not the US military funds "magic" (really, its up to them) I find myself compelled to recommend this diary, to make the point that Horace´s feeling insulted (whether for himself or others) cannot have more weight than diarists right to say what he(?) did in exactly the terms he choose.  

  •  Plenty of Western Scientific Studies (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Horace Boothroyd III

    ...have documented the benefits of many of the treatments you deride.

    Categorically rejecting things we don't  understand is no better than swallowing whole things we don't understand but are told are good for us.

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio..."

    •  Oh but we do understand acupuncture it's just that (0+ / 0-)

      the right studies haven't been done.  Go over to and search for "play piercing" experiences and you will see just how much "pain relief" (as in ending up high as a kite) being poked with a couple dozen needles can provide.

      You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 06:59:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

        •  So what is your explanation for the experiences (0+ / 0-)

          of people over at both bme and in fetish clubs around the country?  Are you really saying the placebo effect can be more powerful than even heroin?  Not to mention powerful enough to completely eliminate the pain involved in hanging in the air from shark hooks pierced through your back?

          My answer is that yes the meridian stuff is bullshit but getting poked with needles can provide a good amount of pain relief under the right conditions.

          You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

          by Throw The Bums Out on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 08:48:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  No,I have no explanation for those specifically... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Throw The Bums Out

            since I really don't have a lot of knowledge of them, although they seem at least related to acupuncture.

            I'm only saying that I don't believe acupuncture is b*llsh&t, having experienced its benefits firsthand, and having seen references to multiple studies that attest to its efficacy.

            •  Well my proposed explanation is that it is the (0+ / 0-)

              same thing only much milder because they are so small.  The current idea for play piercing and such is that it works the same as a runner's high only often more intense for those susceptible to it.  That would also explain why the studies are all over the place, you have to have a certain "glitch" in your sympathetic nervous system for it to work very well.  The very same glitch that people who go down to the local fetish club and end up high as a kite from a good flogging (or whatever) are taking advantage of.

              Like I said, I would like to see a clinical trial where each subject (who swears by acupuncture for pain relief) is given two sessions, one traditional and one which they are told is a recently discovered form but is really done by a skilled top from a local fetish club that is told to use their own judgment with regard to pattern and technique but with the same needles and everything else.  I have a feeling the results would not favor the traditional acupuncturist.

              You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

              by Throw The Bums Out on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 10:34:12 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  well, these are the same doofii who tried to use (0+ / 0-)

    psychics to find secret Soviet bases.  (shrug)

  •  Meh. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Horace Boothroyd III, Stwriley
    has no measurable positive effect beyond a placebo.  
    I have absolutely no problem with placebo effect.  Anything that helps patients control their pain and manage anxiety, even if it's entirely 'in their own heads' is fine with me.

    As an RN, I'm probably not going to recommend such treatments for most patients, but some people simply have a mindset that 'Western' medicine doesn't work, and if they're going to be anxiety-ridden when simply handed pills, but will mellow out and not suck up time that could be better spent by the staff on other problems, I'm fine with them dragging in some guy to stick a bunch of needles in them.

    •  But if it is just a placebo effect then how come (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Horace Boothroyd III

      I have seen people end up with a high even more intense than heroin simply from having a bunch of needles stuck in them.  Ok, so they were 18-23 gauge hypodermics and not those tiny acupuncture needles but still.

      And if that is the case then wouldn't it also be the case that the feelings of total peace and serenity (and complete lack of pain) during a hook suspension are also the placebo effect.  In other words, is the placebo effect really strong enough to completely negate the pain of hanging in the air from shark hooks pierced through your skin?

      You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 06:50:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Dammit, I had a reply typed out, then accidentally (0+ / 0-)

        hit backspace, and lost it.

        In short since I don't feel like retyping everything, I'm not necessarily agreeing with the poster that all holistic medicine is 'woo'.  Clinical trials are not perfect indicators of reality - they're only as good as the study subjects you select.  Unless you have reason to suspect there is some specific trait that is linked to a given potential result, most trials are done as randomly as possible.  

        So say you've got some particular, but rare trait that predisposes you to a specific result to whatever is being tested.  You take part in a trial of 20 people that tests treatment X, and you respond.  But you're the only one in the group who does, so the results are reported back as a negative result for the trial, and you're probably assumed just to be some weird error or sloppiness in how the treatment was performed, because 95% of subjects came back negative.

        Unless somebody comes along who figures out whatever that rare trait is and designs a new trial simply to test people with that trait for a reaction to the treatment, nobody realizes there is a specific subpopulation for whom such a treatment will work far more effectively than the populace at large.

        So maybe there are specific holistic treatments that work for certain segments of the population, but because the vast majority of trials are simply tested on the larger population, such successes remain untested.

        •  Or acupuncture simply causes a very mild (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN

          case of something similar to a runner's high (what we call "subspace") to those susceptible.  Unfortunately, nobody has determined a way to test for such traits (like what will trigger the "subspace" reaction) short of trial and error which is why people actually create multi page checklists of things they have tried and liked/disliked as well as those they want to try.  Of course, that would mean that for those people they would be better off going down to the local fetish club and finding a "needle top" willing to do interesting designs on them as it would be much more effective (due to the larger gauge) and much cheaper.

          The clinical trial I want to see would have the same people who swear by acupuncture for pain relief go through two different treatments.  The first is traditional acupuncture.  The second would use the same needles and everything but the one performing it would be an experienced needle top from a local public dungeon or fetish club told to use their own judgment with regards to technique and pattern.  Of course, the subjects would merely be told they are comparing traditional acupuncture to a new form obtained from ancient Chinese scrolls just recently discovered.  I would be willing to bet the traditional acupuncturist would lose that trial.

          You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

          by Throw The Bums Out on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 09:21:47 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  A bit of conflation here (0+ / 0-)

        Even if acupuncture has a result, what does that have to do with homeopathy?

        Are you trying to advance the narrow claim that poking people with large needles and hooks can have a biochemical effect?

        Or are you advancing the larger claim that because acupuncture may have a real effect, therefore all discredited or unproven medical theories may have an effect?

        If you just want to argue the merits of acupuncture, you've had your answer: even if it produces an effect, its not big or reliable enough to use in regular medicine, and in any case the effect is for reasons we already understand (biochemistry, placebo, etc.) and has nothing to do with meridians or energy flows or any other "alternative theory."

        If you are arguing that western medicine can't or wont distinguish between successful and unsuccessful treatments, you are either arguing that a) science doesn't work, or b) the western medical establishment is utterly corrupt. Neither of those claims are worth any response greater than eye-rolling.

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