Good Reason

It's okay to be wrong. It's not okay to stay wrong.

Category: woo (page 2 of 2)

A fool for his doctor

An article in the New York Times gives a clue as to why the Swine Flu is killing so many people in Mexico.

Mexicans may have been hit by a different, deadlier strain, or the flu may have infected more people who had other health problems, researchers speculate.

But one important factor may be the eclectic approach to health care in Mexico, where large numbers of people self-prescribe antibiotics, take only homeopathic medicine, or seek out mysterious vitamin injections. For many, only when all else fails do they go to a doctor, who may or may not be well prepared.

By now, the message should be out there: homeopathy doesn’t work. It’s had two hundred years to make its case, but we still have no reproducible studies that show that it works any better than a placebo.

In most circumstances, the consequences of using homeopathy (and indeed, any so-called alternative medicine) are not very serious, except for the waste of money. You take the pills, they do nothing, and you eventually get better on your own. But world-wide pandemics are not to be messed with, and relying on junk medicine can kill you.

Natural selection is great and all, but I’d rather not see it work this way.

Amazing artificial arm

God won’t heal amputees, but science sure will.

Amanda Kitts lost her left arm in a car accident three years ago, but these days she plays football with her 12-year-old son, and changes diapers and bearhugs children at the three Kiddie Cottage day care centers she owns in Knoxville, Tenn.

Ms. Kitts, 40, does this all with a new kind of artificial arm that moves more easily than other devices and that she can control by using only her thoughts.

“I’m able to move my hand, wrist and elbow all at the same time,” she said. “You think, and then your muscles move.”

The technique, called targeted muscle reinnervation, involves taking the nerves that remain after an arm is amputated and connecting them to another muscle in the body, often in the chest. Electrodes are placed over the chest muscles, acting as antennae. When the person wants to move the arm, the brain sends signals that first contract the chest muscles, which send an electrical signal to the prosthetic arm, instructing it to move. The process requires no more conscious effort than it would for a person who has a natural arm.

You really ought to take a look at the video. Amazing.

I think it’d be tricky to use the arm and fingers because of the lack of tactile feedback. You’d have to look at the object you’re holding to make sure you had it securely and weren’t squishing it. Maybe in future you’d be able to ‘feel’ the item you’re grasping by some kind of neural feedback.

When some new age creep wants to talk about the shortcomings of Western medicine, they’ll get a face full of this article from me.

Homeopathy: the job is half done

A very encouraging trend:

Homeopathy prescriptions falling

GP prescriptions for homeopathy have nearly halved in two years, figures show.

The number of prescriptions dropped from 83,000 in 2005 to 49,300 last year, GP magazine Pulse reported.

It comes as the overall number of prescriptions in England is on the rise.

This is really good news, but it might change the ground rules for my favourite game to play with homeopaths. It’s called ‘That’s Not Evidence’. Here’s how to play. You find a homeopath, and ask if they have any evidence for homeopathy. They invariably pull out an anecdote or some statistic about the popularity of homeopathy, to which you politely respond, “That’s not evidence.” You explain why, and you ask if they have anything better. Time how long it takes them to either make a personal attack or cry. Someone once made it six minutes. In the many years I’ve been playing, not one homeopath has ever cited a study.

Predictably, the proponents of ignorance and quackery deny the decline.

A spokeswoman for the British Homeopathic Association and Faculty of Homeopathy said about 200,000 NHS patients were treated with homeopathy annually and homeopathic hospitals provided 55,000 appointments a year.

“This situation has not perceptibly changed over the last two to three years,” she added.

“The reasons for the steady fall in homeopathic prescriptions in primary care over the last 10 years may be complex, but we do know that there is no evidence to show that GPs are shunning homeopathy, nor is there evidence to show patients are not seeking homeopathy due to adverse press coverage.”

Homeopath cites lack of evidence. Irony meter: broken.

But, hey, there’s a bright side for homeopaths. The fewer people that use it, the stronger it gets.

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