Many of you will remember that I attended the Imagine No Religion 2 conference in Kamloops, BC in May of this year. It was my first ever atheist meeting/convention, and I had a really positive experience there. I was asked to me a somewhat last-minute addition to a panel on alternative medicine, based (I imagine) on my background in health sciences, my experience public speaking, and the fact that at least a handful of people would recognize my name.
And so it was that I found myself sitting next to Skeptically Speaking host Desiree Schell, and Dr. Ian Mitchell (a local physician), talking about the wild and wooly world of alt-med. Long-time readers will know how irritated I am by the term “alternative medicine”:
These “alternative medicines” are not alternative in any way – if they work, then they aren’t alternative, they’re just medicine. The other side of the problem is the ones that are truly “alternative” aren’t medicine! They don’t work any better than voodoo or augury or invoking ancestor’s spirits.
I’m also irritated (clearly, as you will see from the video) by the doggerel: “cancer cure” and the associated conspiracy theory that pharmaceutical companies are hiding cancer cures from the public. I tried my level best to apply my own personal brand of smackdown to this odious and ludicrously nonsensical claim, with all the humour and aplomb that I could muster at 9 am after a night of drinking. I also made reference to a couple of things that the local chapter of CFI had done – debunking Deepak Chopra and staging a homeopathy workshop. Both were examples of skeptical activism, or as we coined it, ‘skeptivism’.
The full video from the event is available below the fold. Just a warning: Dr. Mitchell’s voice is quiet at first, but gets much louder when I move the microphone closer to him, so try and resist the urge to turn the volume all the way up.
Video from the rest of the conference, including presentations by Matt Dillahunty, PZ Myers, Maryam Namazie, Natalie Reed, Joyce Arthur, our own Edwin Hodge, Desiree Schell, August Berkshire, Lawrence Krauss and a whole host of other great speakers are available at the video page, so I strongly suggest you check those out. In the interest of being totally unfair, you’ve got to check out Desiree’s call to arms speech about getting organized, and Joyce Arthur’s piece about women’s rights was fascinating.
Enjoy the video! Let me know what you think in the comments. Or, y’know… don’t. Whatever. I’m not the boss of you.
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Don’t be dissing augury, whatever that is. I’ll have none of that!
Apparently it’s forecasting the future based on the behaviour of birds. I already do that. If the seagulls are screaming outside my window, I predict that I will wake up irritated. Comes true every morning.
I farmer in the small town I grew up in started practicing Augury by making weather predictions by slicing up some of his chickens and looking at the entrails, and making a performance out of it. To me, and was a sad excuse to make it socially acceptable to mutilate small animals. Surprisingly, a lot of people bought into it (he’s a farmer, it’s no surprise he’s wasn’t half-bad at prediciting some weather trends).
Thanks for the video. Regarding the term “alternative medicine,” I read a commenter on another blog (Bad Astronomy, IIRC) stating that we should push to rebrand it as “fantasy medicine” as a truer description.
Personally, I think one of the harms of this fantasy medicine is that when someone falls for the hype, they stop looking for useful treatment and end up suffering more. This is especially the case in “the quick cure” versus long-term therapies.