Labels Like ‘Alternative Medicine’ Don’t Matter. The Science Does.

Posted 11 August 2015

This opinion piece was published on the New York Times website.

The author,  Aaron E. Carroll, makes a number of interesting points:

“People often think of Eastern or alternative medicine as more “natural.” Many feel that Western medicine is built around technology and products produced in a lab. They’re not entirely wrong. Many of the gains that have been made in traditional medicine have been the result of innovation in laboratories.”

“I would argue that all the therapies I mention here aren’t considered complementary therapies — they’re often just considered therapies. That’s because they’ve been studied, and they’ve proved to work. Too often, though, those who consider themselves supporters of alternative medicine disdain the idea that any of their treatments need to be studied.”

Read the article at the NYTimes

However,  Aaron E. Carroll, makes some serious errors. Orac has posted to Respectful Insolence a counterpoint to Carroll’s article, which I urge you to read.


“Over the course of the day yesterday I was bombarded by e-mails with a link to a New York Times article that shows a rather shocking lack of understanding of the science—more specifically, the lack of science—behind alternative medicine. Whenever something like this happens and I get so many requests to address a specific article, I’m always torn between my natural contrariness, which tempted me not to touch this article with the proverbial ten foot cattle prod (although something about this needs a cattle prod applied to it) and my desire to give the people what they want. In this case, the latter won because the the article is by someone whom I’ve actually cited on this blog before, someone who “gets it,” or so I thought. I’m referring to Aaron Carroll, a.k.a. The Incidental Economist, whose to whom I’ve referred in discussions of why cancer care is not worse in Europe than in the US and lead time bias.

It’s always a shock when someone who seemed to “get it” turns out not to.”

For example, Carroll claims that acupuncture has been shown to work. It has not.

Continue reading the post at Respectful Insolence


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