The BBC has an item today, in pictures, on quack medicine. About time. So I looked at the pictures of the instruments relating to the quack cures – bloodletting, electric shocks (yes, you are supposed to try this at home), leeches etc. All well and good. But it seemed to me that some things were missing. For example, where were the pictures of the homeopathic pills, acupuncture needles, and ayurvedic medicines? Where were the references to chiropractic and “subluxations”? Where were the therapeutic touch or reiki practitioners, the naturopaths etc? Then I got it. These were just the quack cures of the nineteenth century and prior. The quack cures of today weren’t there.
I’m trying to imagine the arguments made about whether these old quack cures worked, and the justifications for say, leeching or bloodletting, that must have been given. “It’s rather closed minded of you to dismiss leeching, science doesn’t know everything, leeching can’t be tested, it’s been around for centuries, it worked for me - my cold went away in a week after I was leeched” etc etc. The only thing they wouldn’t have been able to misinterpret to back up their claims, would be quantum mechanics – “there is now scientific evidence that the consciousness of the leech interacts with the diseased blood molecules at the quantum level to blah blah blah” - but only because it hadn’t been discovered then.
The alt.med pushers of today are the leeching and bloodletting proponents of yesteryear. And with their dogged refusal to test their therapies to see if they actually work, they are about as likely to produce anything useful as the quacks who insisted bloodletting worked. Only an open minded examination of the efficacy of therapies – open minded enough to accept they might not work – will result in the discovery of new effective treatments. Louis Pasteur (who didn’t recant on his deathbed, by the way), didn’t discover germ theory by refusing to test his theories or by wittering on about what the ancient peoples knew or about how science doesn’t know everything.
Don’t be so closed-minded – it’s time for your bloodletting.