Thursday, March 26, 2009

Federal Funds for CAM Research

Advocates for complementary and alternative medicine (aka "CAM") often say, "It's not our fault we don't have scientific evidence to support our claims. We don't get zillions of dollars in research grants like mainstream medicine."

This is a crappy argument for two reasons.

Firstly, the "we" of CAM represents no coherent explanatory model of reality. Chelation for vague toxins, the law of similars, and ground rhinocerous horn for male impotence fit together about as well as the Holy Virgin, Vishnu, and the prophet Mohammad (pbuh). In fact the only commonality linking the hodge-podge of contradictory health claims and practices marketed as "CAM" is an alliance of political convenience --i.e., "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." No one in the CAM arena can be held to account for the harmful nonsense of his CAM buddies. No one even cares.

Because CAM is not a coherent idea or set of ideas, we've no means of guessing the cost of effectively "studying CAM." We've no way to judge whether we're spending an appropriate amount of our research dollars on CAM taken as a whole.

Secondly, just off the top of my head I can imagine ways to study a number of CAM claims on the cheap. A little blinding, video recording, and some skeptical eye witnesses don't have to cost millions. So I don't buy the "we's so po" line. Show me the CAM research proposals unfairly rejected by an institution or funding source. Stack 'em up on my desk.

The pro-CAM lobby research strategy:

Phase 1: Get government money for research using emotional appeals and fallacious arguments.
Phase 2: Use money to sex up quacky schools, for scholarships to said schools, and to fund marketing campaigns masquerading as education.
Phase 3: ????
Phase 4: Profit!


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