"Big, government-funded studies show most work no better than placebos," so say the headlines of an MSNBC article, where the $2.5 billion refers to funding over a 10 year period by the NIH's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
No alternative cures says the headline, but the body of the report mentions success with ginger capsules, acupuncture, yoga, massage, meditation, other relaxation methods ...
So what doesn't work? A few herbal preparations. The same could be said for dozens of pharmaceuticals. What else?
"... the government also is funding studies of purported energy fields, distance healing and other approaches that have little if any biological plausibility or scientific evidence."
I've said this before, but I guess it deserves repeating: Should existing scientific models and theories, all of which are tentative, determine whether basic research should be conducted on phenomena reported throughout the ages, and for which there is indeed valid scientific evidence, if you bother to look for it?
The answer has to be yes, because otherwise science comes to a screeching halt. By implicitly accepting a quasi-religious faith that we already understand everything worth knowing, science dies a slow death.
I am repeatedly astonished at how arrogant and dangerously conservative some scientists are (and how too many science journalists are so willing to parrot this nonsense. Whatever happened to the vaunted skepticism that journalists are supposed to cultivate?).
Why is this dangerously conservative? Because the same article doesn't mention that over the same 10 year period perhaps a trillion dollars have been spent on developing conventional treatments for cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc., and mostly what the average person sees as the result of this enormous investment of our tax dollars is skyrocketing health costs.
This is not to deny that medical progress is being made. Of course it is. Excellent progress. But the point is it takes trillions of dollars to accomplish that.
In the meantime, are there alternative methods that might also be useful, and that often have little to no side effects, and that are usually quite inexpensive? Yes, and fortunately the NIH is providing piddling grants to study them (compared to conventional medicine CAM studies are receiving chump change). But this article seems to want us to drop all such studies:
"Taxpayers are bankrolling studies of whether pressing various spots on your head can help with weight loss, whether brain waves emitted from a special "master" can help break cocaine addiction, and whether wearing magnets can help the painful wrist problem, carpal tunnel syndrome."