5 October 2001
1. ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: SO WHY NOT JUST MAKE IT MAINSTREAM?
Any physician entering practice today must deal with patients who use alternative therapies. Would it not make sense, therefore, for medical schools to educate doctors about unconventional therapies that their patients may already use? Georgetown University's (GU) medical school is the first in the nation to announce it will integrate information about such therapies into the curriculum, but scientists are troubled. By definition, these therapies are scientifically unproven; if they are proven, they cease to be alternative. The standard of proof used by proponents, however, is often lax. James Gordon, chair of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, directs the Center for Mind-Body Medicine at GU. Is there a mind-body effect? Sure there is. I doubt if Gordon can increase women's breast size by hypnotism, as he claims in his book, "The New Medicine"
(WN 4 Aug 00),
but just reading the book made me physically ill.
2. ALTERNATIVE PREGNANCY: YOU BETTER PRAY THIS STUDY IS WRONG
A study of in-vitro fertilization finds that women who have people praying for them are twice as likely to become pregnant from the procedure as those who don't. It was intercessory prayer, with prospective mothers in Korea, unaware they were prayees, while the prayers were women in the US, Canada and Australia who did not know the women they were praying for. The researchers were at Columbia, and also knew nothing. Science Daily magazine called the results "surprising," but that's much too timid. We can now expect studies on what sort of prayers are most effective and to which god they should be directed, followed by lawsuits against anyone who prays for pregnancies that turn out badly.
3. RANCID PORK: SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY.
Two weeks ago, Mitch Daniels, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, called on the science community to pressure Congress to abandon science earmarks
(WN 21 Sep 01),
that is, science programs that have not undergone peer review or been requested by a science agency. Most earmarked funds go to projects in the districts of powerful members of Congress. We need an audit of what, if anything, earmarks do to advance science. The APS opposes earmarks
But this week, former Senator Bennett Johnston, now a lobbyist, urged scientists to ignore Daniel's request. It's only $2B, he snorted, and by opposing such projects, scientists may alienate powerful appropriators. He described pork-barrel science as the price of doing business. The price of ignoring it is our integrity.
NEXT WEEK: SHOULD WE USE THE NUCLEAR THREAT AGAINST TERRORISM?
We will get into the growing debate over the responsibility of a super power in a world of unrestrained terrorism.