Monday, November 9, 2009

I know you are, but what am I?

Before the term "skeptic" was co-opted by the climate crowd it was much beloved of the medical sect. Being a medical skeptic was generally a byword for putting the boot into homeopaths and was considered to be a fairly acceptable medical pastime, along with getting frisky with the polo ponies and driving a BMW. (I kid, I kid). Lately, however, I have noticed that there is a logical chasm occurring in the medical skeptic crowd that you could drive a naturopathic formulary through.

On the one hand they are still busily congratulating themselves on their medical skepticism, whilst on the other hand loudly proclaiming that "..thanks to climate change sceptics, the word is being associated with people who disagree with accepted scientific evidence - not exactly the look skeptics are going for" whilst sticking it to alternative medicine virtually in the same breath.

It would appear that medicine, like many scientific disciplines, has lost sight of the fact that science is a methodology, not a belief system. Self identifying as a "scientist" is not a protective charm against scientific evidence or hypotheses that you don't like.

Additionally, lack of evidence is not lack of efficacy. Sure, I agree that Vega test machines seem like a load of merde, and don't even get me started on Chiropractic, but I am enough of a scientist to recognise a phenomenom (even if I can't spell it) first and suspend my disbelief long enough to go looking for the evidence later. Not only is this upholding science as a discipline, its kind of a useful attitude to have if you want to further your knowledge. In the example of "alternative medicine", if people are reporting effects, investigate it rather than dismissing it out of hand as a "placebo". Thats how we got artemisin, bromhexine and salbutamol, among other things. In the case of "climate science", if history dictates that malarial outbreaks have occurred in the arctic circle, think twice before you start yodelling about a supposedly climate-related increase in vector borne disease.

So don't be so quick to label every unexplained outcome as a "placebo effect", as that implies that you have an exhaustive body of evidence to draw on to exclude the other possibilities. If you don't have any evidence either way, then you can't call it a placebo until you do.

Similarly, don't proudly proclaim yourself a bigger-better-faster-skeptic than everyone else, if you are elevating AGW alarmism to the level of a belief system. Skeptical science means suspending your disbelief long enough to have a dispassionate and rational look at the the available evidence, not a born-again mandate to stick it to the unbeliever.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments will be moderated, so don't worry if they don't show up immediately. All comments (and offers of funding from Big Pharma or it's cousin Big Oil) are appreciated. Nigerian banks need not apply.