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

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claims that much of the information on Wikipedia relating to holistic approaches to healing is "biased, misleading, out of date, or just plain wrong".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 TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:37AM (#46573201) Journal

    Once it's been proven to work?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @09:46AM (#46573295)
    All of the information on Wikipedia is "plagiarized" by design; it's not a place for original research it's an encyclopedia.
  • by microbox ( 704317 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:11AM (#46573507)
    Not all alternative medicine is proven not to work. Plenty is, but not all.
  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:16AM (#46573565) Journal

    Then prove it. Show one piece of holistic/homeopathic medicine which does the equivalent of real medicine.

    So far, not one has been shown to do anything because it's all the placebo effect which has been demonstrated in numerous studies.

    As is always said in these situations, find at least one scientifically rigorous study showing any alternative medicine works. Not what some charlatan like Kevin Trudeau says, not Montel Williams in an informercial, a true scientific study using standardized methods to show any effectiveness of alternative medicine.

  • 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:

  • 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 timeOday ( 582209 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @10:43AM (#46573799)

    It seems like the happy medium would be to just stick these things in the category of "Unproven Quackery" and be done with it.

    Wikipedia DOES already have topics like Energy Medicine [wikipedia.org], from which I excerpt:

    Early reviews of the scientific literature on energy healing were equivocal and recommended further research,[9][10] but more recent reviews have concluded that there is no evidence supporting clinical efficacy....

    Edzard Ernst, lately Professor of Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the University of Exeter, has warned that "healing continues to be promoted despite the absence of biological plausibility or convincing clinical evidence ... that these methods work therapeutically and plenty to demonstrate that they do not."[13] Some claims of those purveying "energy medicine" devices are known to be fraudulent[29] and their marketing practices have drawn law-enforcement action in the U.S.[29]

    So it's not like this stuff is taboo on Wikipedia. But the snake-oil salesman don't want wikipedia to say the truth about it. Think what a huge disservice wikipedia would be doing to people who might turn to it for information if wikipedia didn't stick to its guns.

  • 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 Millennium ( 2451 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:20AM (#46574151)

    The tree-bark studies you use are more along the lines of herbalism than holistic medicine or homeopathy. The yew extracts commonly used in chemotherapy should also be considered here.

    This is not just a matter of the fact that they use herbs. They fail homeopathy by not relying on the "memory of water" effect that homeopathy claims to rely on: indeed, homeopaths would be horrified at the doses used. Likewise, holistic medicine is generally quite keen on not introducing foreign substances into the body, which these clearly do.

    These aren't the only herbs to be shown effective, either. And when they are shown effective, medicine incorporates them. But a great many herbs have been shown to have no effect at all, or even to cause harm, and science has rejected these, as it should. The resulting dosage tables from these tests bear little resemblance to herbalism as the herbalists tend to think of it.

    Essentially, herbalists stumbled onto a couple of patterns, and thought this meant they knew everything. When we put it to the test, we found a few accidental discoveries: it's not unlike the way that alchemists accidentally discovered gunpowder. But the methods the herbalists used were bunk, and a lot of the resulting knowledge was bunk, and even when it wasn't, they turned out to know far less than they thought they did.

  • by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:22AM (#46574181)

    They are not "nothing", but the psychological mechanism is what does the work. The trigger is in fact "nothing", in that it plays no part in the medical effect.

  • by wildfish ( 779284 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:26AM (#46574231)

    Research clearly indicates that fake therapies can trigger the body to heal itself. In acupuncture studies, sham needling often has very high efficacy, some times higher than needling the proper points, and sometimes similar or higher efficacy than traditional medicine. It does this with far less side-effects. If it works better with less harm, it should be used - even if we don't understand it.

    Medicine is a practice. There are many things modern medicine does not understand. Physicians often follow a treatment path without understanding the underlying mechanisms of the disease (e.g. autoimmune disorders) or treat to simply alleviate symptoms. Someday we may have the body figured out but that day is a not today.

    The Placebo effect is probably one of the more powerful tools available.

    From the NY Times:
    In the study, published in the May 4 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, German researchers divided 302 migraine sufferers into three groups. The patients were told that one group would receive acupuncture "similar to the acupuncture treatment used in China," and that the second would receive a type of acupuncture that did not follow the Chinese principles but "has been associated with positive outcomes in clinical studies."

    The patients did not know which group they were assigned to. A third group was put on a waiting list and received treatment later.

    Although the patients in the second group were unaware of it, they received a faked version of acupuncture.

    The treatments went on for 12 weeks, and success was defined as having 50 percent fewer days with headaches in the weeks after the end of treatment.

    By this measure, real acupuncture succeeded with 51 percent of the patients, and the sham procedure succeeded with 53 percent, a statistically insignificant difference. Only 15 percent of the waiting list group attained the 50 percent reduction in headache days.

    The effectiveness of both the sham and the real acupuncture, the authors write, is about the same as treatment with drugs and has fewer side effects. The results, they conclude, "may be due to nonspecific physiological effects of needling, to a powerful placebo effect, or to a combination of both."

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

  • by ouija147 ( 467204 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:37AM (#46574345)
    Not necessarily...see this report http://www.scientificamerican.... [scientificamerican.com]

    In this study, however, docs told patients they were getting placebos. Eighty patients with irritable bowel syndrome were instructed to take two sugar pills daily. The bottle even had "placebo" printed on it. After three weeks, 60 percent of the placebo group reported relief from symptoms, compared to 35 percent who’d received no treatment at all.

  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:47AM (#46574451) Homepage Journal

    Wikipedia is good for well-researched information. Information about pharmaceutical drugs, neuroscience, exercise, biology, physics, mathematics, animals, cosmology, etc. is usually pretty straight. Information about religion, spirituality, and so on is usually also well-researched.

    When you get into practical alternative theory--not just spirituality systems, but applications of alternative medicine, spiritual healing, and so on--you start to get into the weird stuff. Wikipedia tries to distance itself from un-scientific claims: they'll tell you that meditation has been shown to induce calm and give people control over their blood pressure (biofeedback has been shown in controlled studies to allow for control over heart rate and blood pressure), but provide a cultural context for claims about having visions of the future or pulling energy from the spiritual realm or whatever.

    The problem comes when it's hard to separate out pseudoscience from real science. Dietary supplements and alternative medical procedures get elbow-deep in this: acupuncture does not, as far as we have ascertained, do anything by balancing Xi; but some studies have shown that acupuncture is effective for treating certain minor nervous conditions or whatnot. Other studies debunk this. Explanation may lie in placebo effect. And so on. Now what? Never mind when you have things like whether or not a certain vitamin or concentrated extract of a given root does anything--milk thistle extract is actually used to treat liver damage, and Valerian acts like benzos, but will walnuts prevent cancer? We change our minds on the walnut thing every other week.

    Awareness is useful. Knowing that some people believe meditation can increase physical stamina, for example, can be useful: when there's nothing else left, you may as well sit down and start chanting to yourself. I mean if you're trapped under a collapsed building, why the hell not? Rescue's going to come either way (or not), and maybe you'll slow your metabolism and last a few more hours, or at least amuse yourself. On the other hand, it's probably good to know that this mushroom that people think has special healing properties is viciously poisonous, so you shouldn't try eating it.

  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @11:50AM (#46574473) Homepage Journal

    People always tell me wikipedia is not reliable because anyone can edit it. I'm like... so you'd rather a Web site anyone can pay $8 for and put whatever they want on it?

    They seem to not like the statistic that Britannica and Encarta have more factual errors per article than Wikipedia.

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