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Strong Medicine

2009-07-22 12:18
For example, when statistics show that South Africa is the rape capital of the world, Afro-pessimists will embrace this factoid and regurgitate it with grim satisfaction to anyone within earshot. But if new statistics indicate that the crime rate has gone down, they'll remind us that we can't trust statistics.

The same double-standard applies to major religions. Christians, Muslims and Jews believe in an omnipotent deity, but are also convinced that somehow, He needs their protection from tweedy little Richard Dawkins, the perennially ponderous Salman Rushdie, or whoever happens to ridicule their ridiculous superstitions.

If I so much as do this:


And say it's a picture of Muhammad, I could get into a lot of trouble. Even if I take away the cheeky wink and give him a cute little keffiyeh for realism's sake,

{:-)  <-- Muhammad

it would be tantamount to begging for a fatwa. There's just no pleasing some people.

My own crazy, unfounded belief is that one day, scientific progress and instant access to global communication will erode primitive dogmas until they are perceived as little more than lunatic fringe groups to be sneered at whenever they make the back pages of YOU magazine. So I was elated to hear some real Good News: a decade of studies has shown that so-called "alternative medicines" don't work. Not even a little bit.

According to the Associated Press, the tree-hugging hippies at the US government-funded National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine spent ten years of their time and $2.5 billion of the American taxpayers money testing everything from ginkgo biloba to "distance healing" (ha ha!), and have come up empty handed. Not a single tested remedy worked better than the placebos given to the control group.

Their report claims that acupuncture "has been shown to help certain conditions" but this is giving it far more credit than it deserves. Several recent studies have also shown that an acupuncture expert is no more effective than a sadistic spider monkey randomly sticking needles into your back. Of course, many people claim they feel so much better after acupuncture treatment, but this is most likely because they're still overcome with the relief of having all those damn needles taken out.

And while we're on the subject, here's a little tidbit on homeopathy: it's all bullshit. With no scientific evidence whatsoever, homeopathy is based on the risible assumption that highly diluted solutions are as effective as larger doses, because water dilutions can "memorise" the healing properties of the active ingredients through "vigorous shaking". Yes, you got that right. Homoeopathists believe they can drop a tiny amount of medication into a bottle of water, shake it up, and hey presto! Instant medicine for the whole family.

If these remedies actually worked, says one medical commentator, they wouldn't be called "alternative", but as another research methods expert says, "It's become politically correct to investigate nonsense."

Alternative practitioners are sangomas for white people, dishing out neatly packaged snake oil with "natural" and "traditional" as key words in their marketing shtick. Firstly, nature sucks. It's riddled with poisons, fungal infections and things too gross to mention. Nature is the reason we have cleaning products. And secondly, so what if the ancient Incans used Pau D'Arco Tea to treat cancer? How's that working out for them?

Hopefully, Wits University's new sangoma degree will have some effect in validating whatever works and turfing the rest. With legal protection against biopiracy, there's plenty of money to be made if they have a treatment or ingredient big pharmaceuticals want to exploit.

I don't expect this news to be greeted with anything other than hostility by horoscope-reading, new age suburban whackjobs with too much time and money on their hands. But I optimistically hope that if enough people can divorce themselves from their assumptions and focus on the facts at hand, the sheeple will follow suit.

But that's me. I'll believe in any old crap. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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