“But it worked for me” – really?

4 February, 2012

By Mal Vickers

I’m writing this post because I’m just a tad annoyed. The issue is the over use of the phrase “but it worked for me” (BIW4M). Is anyone else getting tired of that one, too?

Inevitably, I find the phrase crops up in discussion I’ve had with those in favour of a particular alternative medicine such as homeopathy, crystal healing, acupuncture, iridology or chiropractic.  BIW4M is used as the clinching argument.

It’s not driving me nuts, it’s just annoying.  (I’m using ‘BIW4M’ because typing it in full over and over is just going to get me more annoyed.)

If the idea is for skeptics and believers in alternative medicine to come to some kind of understanding, does the phrase help? If I try to argue against BIW4M, it’s seen as a personal attack on the integrity of the person that says it. At least in a blog post I can discuss BIW4M without being  seen to be making such personal accusations, although you’re free to add your slings and arrows in comments below this post.

The Control (as opposed to KAOS)

One of the most powerful and basic ideas in science is that of the use of a control. For example, if I wish to test if water is needed to keep a potted tomato plant alive in a hot house, I could do the following; keep two potted plants in the hot house, one of which I water and one I don’t. The one not watered is the control. I think the likely outcome Read the rest of this entry »

Some pointers on critically assessing the validity of claims

17 October, 2010

by Lucas Randall

Wide-scale access to the Internet has resulted in unprecedented access to information for the average citizen of any developed nation, and the more recent proliferation of mobile data devices and networks have exponentially increased our ability to reference the collective body of knowledge on a whim.

This access comes at a price however, as tech-savvy marketers have outstripped science and education practitioners’ resources, funding and drive to make information easily accessible, effectively saturating the search-engine and news-reporting info-spheres with commerce-driven interpretations of research, opinion, tradition and in many cases, out-right pseudo-science or fraudulent claims.

Whilst most developed economies provide some levels of consumer protection, in Australia including bodies such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) various industry ombudsmen and voluntary ‘societies’ with industry codes-of-practice, most consumers have very limited understanding of the significant differences in evidentiary support pharmaceuticals require, for example, as compared with “complimentary” or “alternative” medicines.

Read the rest of this entry »