What? Is no political party the “party of science”?
|January 16, 2017||Posted by News under Culture, News, Science|
New Republic intern Eric Armstrong thinks that no U.S. party deserves the crown, at any rate:
The time has come for Democrats to remove the beam from their own eyes, so to speak. Taking up the mantle of scientific liberalism—that is, adopting an evidence-based view of reality in pursuit of progressive policy—would serve both the strategic purposes of the Democratic Party in the menacing face of Trumpism, as well as the existential interests of humanity.* More.
Oh, wait. No political party is likely to survive just taking an evidence-based view of matters. That’s supposed to be the role of science as such.
You know what they say about party policy and strategy: It’s like sausage; if you are going to eat it, best not to ask what all goes into it. One can at least hope that most of it can be swallowed, more or less.
Unfortunately, Armstrong’s list of Democrat science fails reads like a list of all the subjects on which he is convinced that his view is entirely and unalterably correct, for example:
So, what’s the harm in entertaining anti-science views when it comes to so-called alternative treatments like homeopathy? After all, people should be free to throw their own money away. And since there are no active ingredients, homeopathy can’t really hurt anybody, can it? In fact, homeopathy is so ineffective at doing, well, anything at all, that science geeks across the world have staged massive collective “overdoses” of homeopathy in order to demonstrate its impotence. To date, not one person has been harmed—or healed, for that matter—from any of these mass ingestions. But the fact that it doesn’t work is exactly what makes it so dangerous. Many pharmacies sell homeopathic and other alternative remedies alongside real medicine. Consumers are entitled to a reasonable expectation that treatments sold in modern pharmacies have at least demonstrated a modicum of efficacy beyond placebo. Selling snake oil on the same shelf as real drugs betrays that trust. This is a consumer protection issue if there ever was one. Democrats should be all over it.
It does not sound as though Armstrong has ever heard of the placebo effect, one of the best attested effects in medicine (people start to get better when they feel better). One wonders how his party would justify cracking down on aromatherapy, etc. Doubtless, wiser heads would prevail.
* Note from O’Leary for News: Please, political parties, just govern in the interests of your own constituencies in your own nations and leave the rest of the world to cope with the existential interests of humanity as we see them. Our tastes in a-crock-a-lypses may differ from yours and we can’t vote where you live.
Note 2: As a commenter has noted (Bob O’H at 1), Armstrong does concede “a modicum of efficacy beyond placebo.” The problem is that the placebo effect is not negligible, as such statements usually imply; it is powerful. Even sham surgery can work. That’s the true difficulty with crackdowns on folk medicine. It can so easily lead to unproductive conflict rather than improved medical care. A better solution would be to clean up the mess that peer review has become in medicines that are sold behind the pharmacy counter and leave the tea grannies to fight it out among themselves, with no special level of approval or otherwise.
See also: Nature: Scientists stunned by Trump victory Really? What does that say about the scientific method?
Parkinson’s patients learn to use placebos?
New Scientist’s about face on the placebo effect
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