Question Two: Alternative Health Practices

This question deals with ‘alternative health’ resources. A video of the question can be found here.In recent years we have seen a great increase in the use of so-called alternative remedies or medicines. These alternatives are rarely, if ever, based on any empirical research (that we would recognise as such). Research conducted into homeopathy is (and very fairly) reviewed in Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science (2008) Fourth Estate.

In this particular chapter he concludes that while there is little evidence that homeopathy does any physical harm (most the the remedies are water) there is no evidence to suggest that it does any good, beyond a ‘placebo effect’. ¬†Given the evidence (or lack of it) should we be more vocal in our criticism of homeopathic/alternative medicine approaches? Many of these actually run contrary to our understanding of science. They talk of ‘energy flows’ through the body, but never specify a recognisable form of energy (Heat? Kinetic? Potential?) When I asked recently, I was told that it is ‘life energy’ – which was a new one on me.

So, isn’t letting people believe that something is going to do them good, when there is no evidence (such as prescribing a course of red M&M’s) contrary to our science training? Shouldn’t we be vocal in our rejection of these approaches and challenge them openly?