I read a Blog recently, where readers and author were locked in a battle royale over alternative cancer treatments.
Here’s my comment:
People with cancer and their loved ones are highly vulnerable, frightened and often desperate, not only to avoid untimely death but especially a painful or horrific one. So powerful is this primal fear of a horrible death associated with cancer that people from all backgrounds suspend their critical faculties and fail to detect the thousands of predatory, psychopathic individuals hunting for the weak & desperate to rip-off, defraud and exploit. Add to this the sad fact that Science has failed to ensure or demand that scientific method is taught to and understood by all from early on in school and that science be treated as a core subject, just like reading, writing and arithmetic. Without a true understanding of the significance and meaning of scientific evidence, all subsequent discussion is handicapped as an uninformed participant will likely raise examples that do not fulfil criteria as scientific evidence and they will not understand why science rejects their contribution. This naturally predisposes to the development of a search for alternative reasons for the rejection, hence the proliferation of myriad conspiracy theories essentially blaming greed and power as the motivators for science, rather than seeing multiple, varied motivating factors underpinning all human endeavours. To reduce the influence of the negative factors, science insists on several safeguards all too often missing from other forms of evidence. These include multiple peer review by experts not identified to the scientist, editorial board scrutiny, experimental replication to confirm findings, journal publication and invitation to criticism, move to Open Source publication to avoid conflicts of interest or favouritism and the current movement towards publication of all trials performed per topic by that author’s group, along with their raw data, so that anyone can analyse the data by any accepted statistical method in order to verify findings and so both negative and positive findings can be compared.
So, science is tightening up, leaving an even wider gap between it and pseudoscience. Alternative medical approaches to Cancer are unproven not because of Big Pharma. The alternative industry is worth not 1 billion dollars annually but tens of billions, yet the industry invests precious little in proper scientific research. Why is it so? It is entirely due to the need to prevent exposure of profitable commercial products as useless frauds. If no such fears existed, Universities would jump at the chance to accept funding for scientific study, with all the benefits that can produce for the Public, the University and its students. But unfortunately, alternative treatment promoters and producers cannot be tempted to make independent scientific validation of efficacy a central plank in their business plans, causing its absence from their corporate budgets year after year. National Regulatory Bodies require evidence of safety but not efficacy with any treatment not labeled a pharmaceutical. This applies to the vast majority of alternatives. Safe? Usually. Effective? Untested!
Whoever champions an unproven treatment and trumpets claims for its effectiveness without scientific proof, STOP RIGHT NOW! Go to the source of the treatment and demand it be scientifically trialled and published to allow criticism. Demand publication of the raw data so the findings can be verified. Demand that others attempt to replicate the findings. Then and only then can anyone trust what they read or hear about the alternative treatment of Cancer or any other medical condition.