But even a casual form of the delusion causes a sloppiness in thinking that, at the societal level, is also dangerous. This article demonstrates the problem:
The problem in this case is known as CAM, or complementary and alternative medicine. The article summarizes it here:
This brings up the political dimension of CAM. Proponents have been successful at working both sides of the aisle, appealing to anti-regulation sentiment on the right and anti-corporate/anti-establishment sentiment on the left. Unfortunately, science has no political party.
And of course all of this is happening in a generally scientifically illiterate society. In my experience most of the public does not understand why homeopathy cannot possibly work (it’s just water), why scientists are confident that there is no mysterious life force at work in the body, why chiropractic subluxations make no sense, and why megadosing vitamins or the latest fad tropical fruit juice cannot cure everything.
What this also means is that those few of us who are trying to point out that the Emperor has no clothes (to use a tired metaphor), and defend science-based medicine are made to seem like ideological, closed-minded fanatics. Defending science in medicine is no longer politically correct – at least not within the alternate reality of CAM.
Sound familiar? Yes – this is exactly the same dynamic that occurs between religious and rational people.
The problem is that CAM can actually kill people in the worst case, and at the very least prolong or worsen a disease that might actually be treated successfully. It also sucks money away from consumers on products that do absolutely nothing. This post demonstrates the problem when it comes to chiropractors:
The study, reported today in The Lancet, involved 240 patients with acute lower back pain who had been seen by their GPs.
They were assigned to four treatment groups, only one of which received both diclofenac and genuine spinal manipulative therapy. Both techniques are available on the NHS in areas where primary care trusts have agreed to fund them.
The other three groups were treated with diclofenac and “dummy” spinal manipulation; genuine spinal manipulation plus a placebo; or both a dummy drug and fake spinal manipulation.
The results showed neither diclofenac nor spinal manipulative therapy significantly increased the speed of recovery.
A total of 237 of the 240 patients recovered over the course of 12 weeks. Some 22 patients had possible adverse reactions to the treatments, including stomach disturbances, dizziness and heart palpitations.
In other words, chiropractor treatment has absolutely no effect whatsoever. In addition, nearly every patient recovered naturally in 12 weeks. And since nearly every patient recovers naturally, it is a perfect environment for fraud. A chiropractor can do anything, charge money for it, and then claim success. It works exactly like “prayer”.
Religion creates the environment where delusion is the norm. CAM feeds on the delusion, to the tune of billions of dollars per year wasted on treatments that do nothing. This is the danger of delusional thinking.