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Jimmy Wales To 'Holistic Healers': Prove Your Claims the Old-Fashioned Way 517

Posted by timothy
from the why-not-just-petition-with-auras? dept.
Barence (1228440) writes with this excerpt from PC Pro: "Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has issued a sharp response to petitioners calling for his site to "allow for true scientific discourse" on holistic healing. The petition, currently running on the Change.org site, claims that much of the information on Wikipedia relating to holistic approaches to healing is "biased, misleading, out of date, or just plain wrong". It has attracted almost 8,000 supporters at the time of publication. Wales's response to the petition, posted on the same page, is far from conciliatory: 'No, you have to be kidding me,' he writes. 'Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful. What we won't do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of 'true scientific discourse'. It isn't.'"
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Jimmy Wales To 'Holistic Healers': Prove Your Claims the Old-Fashioned Way

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  • by Tim the Gecko (745081) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:37AM (#46573197)

    Mmmm... Tapas!

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:37AM (#46573201) Journal

    Once it's been proven to work?
    Medicine.

    • by NatasRevol (731260) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:45AM (#46573269) Journal

      You know what they call it when it's proven NOT to work?

      Alternative medicine.

      • by war4peace (1628283) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:54AM (#46573369)

        i would use the shorter, yet better term of "Bullshit" but for the sake of political correctness, your denomination would have to do.

      • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:22AM (#46573619)

        I dont know that thats 100% accurate, there are a couple of "legit" "alternative" medicines that we just havent finished studying, but may be proven to be effective. Theyre just generally the minority.

        For example, I believe its generally accepted that acupuncture [nih.gov] does something, we're just not sure how and what.
        If you're really interested in a discussion on it, the NIH's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine [nih.gov] might be a good place to start:

        • Yes, piecing the skin with a sharp object provokes a response. Gee fucking whiz.
          Acupuncture as been thoroughly studied with the highest level of rigor and it doesn't no more then talking to a Dr.

          NIH's NCCAM has NEVER shown a positive result, and exists solely becasue a senator who believe in Woo forces it to exist at the cost of millions and million of dollars.
          It needs to be cut.

          http://www.skepdic.com/shamacu... [skepdic.com]

          http://www.sciencebasedmedicin... [sciencebasedmedicine.org]

          http://www.sciencebasedmedicin... [sciencebasedmedicine.org]

          http://scienceblogs.com/insole... [scienceblogs.com]

        • by Christianson (1036710) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @01:17PM (#46575301)
          For example, I believe its generally accepted that acupuncture [nih.gov] does something, we're just not sure how and what.

          The problem with acupuncture studies is that they can't be done double-blinded: that is, the acupuncturist always knows whether he is doing "real" acupuncture or "sham" acupuncture*. This then leads to a bias effect, in which the patient is unconsciously cued as to whether or not the treatment "should" work, and expectation effects are stronger than any purported acupuncture benefits (e.g., Bausell et al 2005, Eval Health Prof). I remember a study, which I cannot dig up at the moment, in which the researchers gave acting lessons to the acupuncturist to ensure that they behaved in exactly the same way with respect to the patients between real and sham treatments, and when they did so acupuncture did not outdo the placebo.

          * You can, in theory, do double-blinded by randomly assigning patients to one of two technicians, both of which were naive to acupuncture treatment before the study's beginning. They are then trained equally on two different sets of acupuncture points, one valid and one invalid, with no knowledge of which one of them is which. However, objectively this isn't really a fair test of acupuncture: consider the case where you tried to tackle the effectiveness of heart surgery using the same model.
          • Actually the WHO considers acupuncture a valid treatment for pain. I have done acupuncture treatments at several places for chronic back pain and I can tell you that it is NOT the same thing regardless of where or how they are doing the treatments. I only had good outcomes in one of the places I went to. I had done conventional physiotherapy at more than one place to treat the same issue before and I have had WORSE results than with acupuncture. I know several people, including my father, which experienced

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jellomizer (103300)

      Besides Medicine, there is a huge debate and misconceptions about diets.

      We got Vegetarian, Vegan then we go the other ways with diets with a lot of meat.
      GMO food is either harmless just a quicker form of breading, or it is actually bad. Beyond GMO we got Organic vs traditional farming. Some people say to drink more water, others say we are drinking too much.

      Alternative medicines and Diets debates is about justifying to yourself the extra money you are paying. And make you feel special because it seems like

      • by ImdatS (958642)

        Diets: you know what? I realized long time ago, that the right diet has the following ingredients:

        1) A healthy mix of fresh vegetables (a lot), dairy products (some), and proteins (some meat, fish, eggs)
        2) It tastes good
        3) I really like eating it
        4) Lots of water to drink
        One should never underestimate the importance of (2) and (3) above...
        On top of that, you could add: 5) Exercise.... and its not even much. Walk to shopping, walk through a park/forest. Try not to use your car that often, try using the stairs

    • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:13AM (#46573525)

      Once it's been proven to work?
      Medicine.

      Meh. That's not really true. There's a reason there's an entire field called evidence-based medicine [wikipedia.org], which from its very name makes it distinct from just plain-old normal "medicine."

      There's plenty of hokum peddled by physicians, too. Lots of clinical decisions are based on "gut feelings" and tradition. And let's not even get into the multitude of embarrassing medical debates where various new drugs or foods or practices were widely accepted and then shown to be even more harmful than the things they replaced (which were originally thought to be harmful or unhealthy).

      Spend some time sifting through all of the research on some medical topic at some point, and it quickly becomes clear that lots of medical conclusions are based on studies with serious flaws (either methodological or statistical), which is why you end up getting the "X is bad for you! Don't do/eat/use X!" one year and "X is good for you! Do it all the time!" the next year crap.

      Don't get me wrong -- medical research is hard. Human bodies are very complex systems. And the kind of blind randomized studies necessary to evaluate medical practices (particularly "accepted" practices, which are assumed to already work) are often (1) expensive, (2) potentially unethical, since they might involve denying someone treatment that is assumed to be necessary for good health and/or exposing people to dangerous practices, (3) really difficult to control for all potential variables. And even if you managed to construct some sort of artificial laboratory situation where you could really isolate a variable, it may have questionable real-world applicability once the subjects head back out into the messiness of real life.

      It doesn't mean we should throw up our hands and give up, but there is significant room for improvement in everyday "medicine," based on things that are ACTUALLY proven to work, hence "evidence-based" medicine.

      • Which is why I prefer Science based medicine.
        http://www.sciencebasedmedicin... [sciencebasedmedicine.org]

        "There's plenty of hokum peddled by physicians, too. "
        true, but it's not medicine. And Dr. should lose there license when the peddle that crap.

        " which is why you end up getting the "X is bad for you! Don't do/eat/use X!" "
        nope. You get that because the media reports on 1 study when they think that 1 study will get viewers. They never look at the body of research. That's for most of it.

        The other part of that is science learns something unexpected and the previous 'bad' for you' statement becomes more nuanced.

        • nope. You get that because the media reports on 1 study when they think that 1 study will get viewers. They never look at the body of research. That's for most of it.

          I don't know what your background is, but I've spent time reading lots of actual research studies in some of the major medical debates, and I can assure you that there are plenty of situations where there's lots of crap in published journals too, which gives rise to this media attention. And a lot of those studies make all sorts of claims in their discussion sections, hoping to get attention -- "body of research" be damned.

          Also, hate to burst your bubble -- but lots of researchers actually want that atte

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:38AM (#46573209)

    Despite all of Wales' attempts to raise funds for Wikipedia, this is (by far) the best one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:39AM (#46573219)

    Good response from Wales.

    There are a lot of dumb motherfuckers out there, stay vigilant in making sure they don't put dumb things on Wikipedia.

    • There is already a lot of dumb shit on wikipedia. Wales is right to try and keep even more of those assholes off his site.
  • Asimov quote. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lehk228 (705449) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:44AM (#46573267) Journal
    âoeAnti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'â

    â Isaac Asimov
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:03AM (#46573425)

      I see that Isaac Asimov had trouble with Unicode too, just like Slashdot.

    • Re:Asimov quote. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:05AM (#46573447) Homepage Journal

      While a true statement about how anti-intellectualism works, good ideas need to be challenged sometimes by bad ideas, to help find their weaknesses and become (or be replaced by) better ideas. This is the true fundamental value of free speech. Not every challenge needs to come from someone who is smarter and better informed than you. Never underestimate the value of being wrong in the right way at the right time and place.

      • by microbox (704317)
        There is an excellent book [amazon.com] on this very topic. It goes into the history of American crankery, and explains how important it was, but that the situation is different now. Read it. It's funny, and sometimes rather disturbing.
      • by asylumx (881307)
        There's a difference, though, between playing the devils advocate and half the country believing something that is opposite of what all the evidence actually suggests.
      • Re:Asimov quote. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SoupGuru (723634) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:23AM (#46574185)

        Yes, it's good for good ideas to be challenged by a bad idea now and then.

        The problem is that a good idea challenged by a bad idea, a discussion occurs, evidence is presented, bad idea is shown to be a bad idea, and good idea is vindicated. And then 5 minutes later the same bad idea is presented. And then 5 minutes after that, the same bad idea is trotted out. And then five minutes after that, again. And again. And again. And again.

        • by Chelloveck (14643)

          The problem is that a good idea challenged by a bad idea, a discussion occurs, evidence is presented, bad idea is shown to be a bad idea, and good idea is vindicated. And then 5 minutes later the same bad idea is presented. And then 5 minutes after that, the same bad idea is trotted out. And then five minutes after that, again. And again. And again. And again.

          That's the trouble with you so-called skeptics. You refuse to listen to the alternatives after only debunking them 100 times. What if the 101st minor

    • by symes (835608)

      I have a different view. I would argue that there is an increase in the quantity and quality of medical science. This is increasingly pushing old fashioned ideas, anecdotes and so forth, out of discussions. In turn making those that hold on to outdated ideas more obvious. My worry is that those involved with good science, rather than being stoical and professional, forever searching for truth also become hysterical and shouty. I don't think that would help anyone.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:46AM (#46573291)

    >> claims that much of the information on Wikipedia relating to (whatever) is "biased, misleading, out of date, or just plain wrong"

    Er...no shit? Personally, I subscribe to this view: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W... [wikipedia.org]

  • by MindPrison (864299) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:47AM (#46573313) Journal
    I always take what I find on Wikipedia with a grain of salt.

    But mr. Wales attempt to raise the bar is welcome, it's just not very easy to do it. As long as Wikipedia is as open in its nature as it is now, it will always remain something of a rogue place for opinions vs real scientific facts.

    Wikipedia has also been accused with moderators treating it like it was their private domain, and the older more established moderators reign superior over the wannabees, so much so - I've given up any attempt to add anything to the site, as it's usually futile, even if peer reviewed and fully documented (no, not talking about oogey boogey science with crystal healing and all that jazz), but down to earth - time proven, document-able peer reviewed facts.

    I think the entire Wikipedia needs to be reviewed, cleaned up and get a better moderation system
  • by Kojiro Ganryu Sasaki (895364) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:12AM (#46573521)

    On a Swedish now defunct website for political discussion there used to hang out a Crazy radical feminist woman who had a Universal Theory of science.

    In her opinion, it was impossible to say what is science and what is not and as such nobody has the power to say that something is scientific and something else isn't. To her, everything is scientific and the people who disagree are proponents of "scientism".

    This tied in with the radical feminist angle because she also argued that science as it currently exists has been overtaken by men and now serves only male and masculine purposes such as technology and weapons. She elaborates that male science is destructive because it picks things apart to understand how they work and it creates destructive inventions.

    She says that female science, by contrast, does not pick anything apart. Instead it would look at things and examine them as a whole, and come to answers using hermeneutic analysis. (hint: it means you sit around and talk about it for a long time)

    Her ultimate point is that she believes it is not right to call something non-scientific simply because it cannot be empirically tested.

    She also got into weird and ultimately bizarre postmodernist arguments such as if someone believed a partcular treatment actually helped them, then the treatment was effective. She was strongly pro-homeopathy, crystal healing and whatever.

    (she also drove everyone insane by writing in 50 word sentences)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:13AM (#46573529)

    The charlatans are taking the argument to the wrong place, on purpose. Wales comment is spot-on. Get your results published in scientific journals and they will be noted in Wikipedia. Regardless of your opinion about the management of Wikipedia, it is trying to be an encyclopedia, of sorts. As such, it is NOT the place where scientific discourse takes place. That is elsewhere. Once the scientific discourse happens and the scientists come up with some settled science, THEN the encyclopedia will summarize it.

    • by DrXym (126579) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:29AM (#46574267)
      The trouble is people who believe in alternative medicine (holistic, naturopathy, reiki, chiro etc.) think their claims are exempt from the standard of proof that applies to conventional medicine. i.e. that it be demonstrated that the outcome of a treatment is better than a placebo.

      Demand evidence of this (e.g. double blinded studies) and they'll provide anecdotes. If you go to the effort of explaining why anecdotes are weak evidence and prone to confirmation bias, you'll get increasingly bizarre and unconvincing explanations why the scientific method cannot possibly test these claims. Push hard enough and inevitably the response turns into a big rant about the FDA and big pharma, about how they kill people, are suppressing natural cures etc. What you won't get at any stage is actual evidence to support their claims.

  • Voodoo (Score:5, Funny)

    by bradgoodman (964302) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:17AM (#46573581) Homepage
    I often practice Voodoo to rid myself of evil spirits. Wikipedia has been very biased against all the scientific research of the efficacy of voodoo for such purposes. (I challenge you to scientifically prove that I have any evil spirits [anymore]).

    Wake up Wikipedia!!

  • by necro81 (917438) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:20AM (#46573603) Journal
    So what you're saying is ... "Citation Needed" ?
  • by kheldan (1460303) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:22AM (#46573621) Journal
    Asteroid strike, nuclear war, conventional war for that matter, rampant disease, runaway GMO's, global warming, etc.. these are not what will destroy the human race. Willful ignorance is what will, along with it's partners, superstition and religion. More and more it seems people are rejecting the last thousand years or so of progress and turning back to these things. The Human race is in danger of falling in a new Dark Age if this keeps up.
  • Wales full response (Score:4, Informative)

    by schneidafunk (795759) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:39AM (#46573761)

    "No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.

    Wikipedia's policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals - that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.

    What we won't do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of "true scientific discourse". It isn't." - Wales

    Personally, my father is a professor researching the effectiveness of 'alternative medicine', specifically massage & chiropractic techniques for back pain versus pain killers. His research has shown it's effective for back pain, but it's still called alternative medicine right now. What it won't do is cure cancer. And this petition is for 'energy work', which I find very unlikely to be any more successful than a placebo.

    • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:34AM (#46574323) Journal

      I love how people go online and sign petitions. Sign this petition to get AT&T to provide unlimited data 4G for like $10/mo.

      You signed a petition. Cool.

      Fuck you.

      What do they expect? Seriously.

    • Personally, my father is a professor researching the effectiveness of 'alternative medicine', specifically massage & chiropractic techniques for back pain versus pain killers. His research has shown it's effective for back pain, but it's still called alternative medicine right now. What it won't do is cure cancer.

      I go to a chiropractor for neck & back issues. I typically go once or twice a month, though I haven't been for a couple of months due to working extra jobs. It does wonders for getting kinks out & un-pinching nerves. I have some trouble spots that feel much better after an adjustment. I think where chiropractic gets into trouble is with some of their other claims, like helping allergies, etc. I have allergies too, and as far as I can tell, chiropractic has never done anything to help them. I think t

  • by swb (14022) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:41AM (#46573783)

    What does this mean in this case?

    I suspect it means is that alternative medicine proponents want to strip [citation needed] from statements of fact in AM-related articles and strip contradictory statements and refutations from AM-related articles so they read as more statements of truth than as unproven, questionable or in doubt.

    I haven't read any AM articles, but given the wide variety of information in Wikipedia, it would seem unlikely they're just outright removing AM articles. I mean, the point of WP isn't that everything in it is verifiably true, but there is information about things even if the things themselves are false.

  • by Jodka (520060) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:55AM (#46574533)

    Quoth Wales:

    'Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful. What we won't do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of 'true scientific discourse'. It isn't.'"

    It is noteworthy that Wales is not arguing for excluding pseudoscience from Wikipedia on the basis of Wikipedia's own guidelines. According to Wikipedia itself, status as pseudoscience is not a criterion for exclusion from Wikipedia. Rather,the criterion for acceptance is NPOV [wikipedia.org]. Wikipedia's guidelines permit dishonest, fictitious and untruthful content so long as it is NPOV.

    Because the rules of Wikipedia would allow the inclusion pseudoscience this is a "gotcha" for Wales, revealing a fundamental limit in Wikipedia: With NPOV, the contents of Wikipedia can never be more veridical than is the social consensus. A purportedly objective guideline which immediately reduces to subjective value judgments, NPOV is a ruse; What constitutes "Significant views," or "reliable sources on a topic" is in the eye of the beholder. Or, as Wales would have it in this case, whatever he says they are.

    Wikipedia was an unexpected success because the popular expectation, a priori, was that if you just let anyone edit an encyclopedia then predominantly non-experts would contribute falsehoods. A posteriori, after Wikipedia had actually worked, the reasoning about why it had was that it was unexpectedly accurate because, well, experts are really not so good at getting stuff right anyway, and maybe spontaneous social organization really does work better than structured regulation and those dead Austrian economists and their crazy Libertarian fan club might actually have been right about something.

    Though perhaps the secret to Wikipedia's success is not really that open encyclopedias are unexpectedly accurate, but rather that accuracy is not, as had been assumed, paramount. Rather, it is the appearance of accuracy which is essential for success. NPOV is a codification of a strategy for creating the popular appearance of accuracy without achieving genuine accuracy. Wikipedia is winning the encyclopedia contest by gaming the system. It matched the same flawed criterion function for accuracy as used by its customers, the test of asking: "is this what respectable people believe?" So now Wales has the problem that, according to the very rules of Wikipedia which have been the recipe for its success, it must permit pseudoscientific content which is popularly believed. This explains why Wales can shoot that down only outside of Wikipedia's own guidelines.

  • by dcw3 (649211) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @04:29PM (#46577349) Journal

    Some here have posted that it's incumbent upon the alternative folks to prove their cases. While in a perfect world, that may be the case, but some of this crap has already found its way into hospitals, and insurance plans. So, we're already paying for it.

    Quick example... My wife recently had elective surgery, and spent two days in one of the best hospitals in Virginia. One of the nurses came by, and offered to do something she called "healing touch". My wife initially declined, but once told there would be no charge, she accepted. She later told me that she accepted it only as a nice gesture, and while it felt nice, she didn't believe it did anything, but might have a placebo effect for some. My own mother-in-law (a former nurse), when told about this, said she believed in it...sigh.

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