23.12.10

Vegans. "Homeopathic" medicine. Snakeoil salesmen. Arrogant true believers.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12060507
In 30 cases, the issues were "probably or definitely" related to complementary medicine, and in 17 the patient was regarded as being harmed by a failure to use conventional medicine.
The report says that all four deaths resulted from a failure to use conventional medicine.
One death involved an eight-month-old baby admitted to hospital "with malnutrition and septic shock following naturopathic treatment with a rice milk diet from the age of three months for 'congestion'".
 "Another death involved a 10-month-old infant who presented with septic shock following treatment with homeopathic medicines and dietary restriction for chronic eczema," the authors say.
One child had multiple seizures after complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) were used instead of anti-seizure drugs due to concerns about potential side effects.
The fourth death was of a child who needed blood-clotting drugs but was given complementary medicine instead.
So modern, conventional medicines cause deaths too, or don't work. Or don't work as well as, or don't work just as much as, or don't do something that other "alternative" or "traditional" therapies do.

Psychosomatic effects have been plentifully described. People believe that a holy person laying their hands and chanting will cure them of X. Whoops - it did! Awesome, I'm all for it. Belief and love can cure diseases and conditions that modern medicine might have no cure for. Great.

Not so great if you don't believe that a baby should get any other food than pureed fruits and orange juice. Now you just killed a kid because you're stupid, gullible and fell for a bunch of hocus-pocus magic and your own anti-authority and anti-establishment bias and prejudice. Same thing with vaccines.

If it's you and your body, feel free to decline modern medical treatment, drug or procedure X. But don't spend too much energy trying to talk people into it, it could kill them. Same thing with your kids. Or someone else's kids, as I documented back a while.

So please, chill. Have a little reasonable common sense. Look up the doctor's credentials. Look up the "alternative practitioner"'s credentials. Look up the law on not letting your kid get the treatment that most mainstream, well-educated and reasonable doctors would say they need. Don't just go on your "gut feeling" or what you heard word-of-mouth or what your neighbour or your girlfriends say.

Ever notice how women tend to put more stock in the word and opinions of their friends and social circles? How a few women put together can all of a sudden bloom into a swirling maelstrom of vegetarianism, trends, diets and "New Age" beliefs?

Ok, so that was a bit sexist but you get the point. Women seem way more susceptible to social marketing and diet/medicine hype. I live in Southern California. I can't go on a date without butting into a food fad, diet, medicine or pet theory.

I'm a reasonable guy, I like to think. You tell me that humans evolved to eat nothing but fruits and nuts I'll say "Okay, cool." And then I'll go look that up and find out that at THE VERY LEAST - you're either dead wrong or only slightly wrong, or the matter is up for ...considerable... debate. In the meantime, that word of mouth is apparently objective truth for a fair number of young women in this part of the country.

So now you're thinking I'm completely off my rocker here. Allow me to point you to a little more authority:

http://marketingtowomenonline.typepad.com/blog/2010/05/word-of-mouth-men-trust-authority-women-trust-common-experience.html
As Jeff Sexton points out, men can look at testimonials and personal anecdotes as opinions of individuals.   In order for that individual to be taken seriously, he or she must establish credibility or authority.  In an example of choosing a chair, Jeff has these suggestions:
To believe and act on your recommendation, I’d need to know:
  • that your use of the chair is similar to mine,
  • that you’ve already tried a bunch of chairs, and
  • what your criteria were for selecting the chair you did.
With men, credibility building specifics must be addressed before your "opinion" will be taken seriously.  
Women use personal anecdotes as proof
Listen to a woman making a case for something, and she'll likely tell a personal story of something that has happened to her or someone she knows. 
Women cite personal experience (aka opinion) as proof.  Other women understand this. Women respond to testimonials and reviews of "people like them."  
The basis for this could be research that shows men focus on hierarchy and women focus on relationships
Women believe people who they feel they have something in common with.  It is that commonality that gives people credibility.

All this is fine. Some men don't behave as the stereotype above would make you expect. Ditto women. I personally fit the stereotype and many of the important women in my life do (my sister excepted, super smart, skeptical, engineer-type with a big heart and both feed planted about as solidly in the ground as you can get without actually digging a hole and using cement).

But then we get to the kids. And serious consequences from taking anecdotes for proof. Sure, they are sometimes.

"I bought that chair and a week later it broke!"

Could have been that you or someone in your household mis-used it. You might not think so. Factory defect. Someone might have messed it up in your home or in the store or between there and you might not have known it happened. But very likely not and it's a bad design. Best figure it out myself and make up my own mind and there's plenty of other chair designs to choose from.

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