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Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

How scientific medicine lost the linguistic high ground to woo–excuse me, I mean “integrative” medicine

A few months ago, I wrote a post lamenting how science- and evidence-based medicine has lost the linguistic high ground to the woo peddlers, those who have “rebranded” quackery first into “alternative” medicine, then into “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), and more recently into “integrative” medicine (as though “integrating” antiscience and pseudoscience into effective, science-based medicine somehow adds anything of value to medicine) and discussing strategies for reclaiming it.

Now, I’ve found out how CAM promoters pulled it off. Dr. Wallace Sampson has the scoop and dishes it out for your education in Why would medical schools associate with quackery? Or: How we did it. He shows how changing the language was the first step for the pseudoscience that is the vast majority of CAM to first gain a foothold and then achieve seeming “respectability.” The only thing he’s left out, I think, is that one other tactic that’s used by the woo-boosters is to intentionally conflate criticizing ideas with criticizing the person espousing them or the cultural tradition from which the ideas come. Consequently, if one criticizes what someone boosting traditional Chinese medicine says, for instance, not only is one being mean to that person but one may even be a racist. It’s a Chinese cultural tradition, after all!

All of this leaves me with two questions for you, my readers (after you’ve read Dr. Sampson’s post, of course):

  1. Is it too late? Have the postmodern forces backing CAM won?
  2. If your answer to #1 is “no,” then how can scientific medicine reclaim the linguistic high ground?

Please discuss.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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