Friday, March 29, 2002
1. ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: THE CLINTON COMMISSION'S CATCH-22.
Created by Bill Clinton two years ago, the White House Commission
on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy has delivered a massive
final report (WN 8 Mar 02),
but there's a catch. What the Commissioners want is respect: they
want to be licensed by the state and reimbursed by health-insurance
plans; they want to see CAM courses at prestigious medical schools
and programs to educate the public. In short, they want CAM to be
treated just like real medicine. Good plan! Under its new director,
Stephen Straus, the NIH Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
has already begun doing just what the Commissioners call for: applying
the same standards to CAM that are routinely required of medical research.
In 1998, the New England Journal of Medicine pointed out the catch-22:
"There cannot be two kinds of medicine, conventional and alternative.
There is only medicine that has been adequately tested and medicine
that has not, medicine that works and medicine that may or may not
work." In other words, if some CAM treatment survived rigorous testing,
it would no longer be CAM, it would simply be medicine. So, is CAM
making the transition? Uh, no. The most popular CAM therapies survived
for centuries simply because they were never subjected to randomized,
double-blind trials. It is certainly possible that important medical
advances will emerge from the gaggle of CAM therapies, but so far,
under rigorous testing, not one has been demonstrated to be efficacious,
while several herbal supplements appear to be dangerous. "'That's
some catch, that Catch-22,' Yossarian observed. 'It's the best there
is,' Doc Daneeka agreed."
2. ALTERNATIVE PUBLISHING: COMMUNICATING SCIENCE BY FULL-PAGE AD.
Scientists going through the March 17 Sunday New York Times were
startled to find a paper titled "The Collapse of the Big Bang and
the Gaseous Sun," by Pierre-Marie Robitaille, published as a full
page ad. A professor in Radiology at Ohio State, Robitaille had
built the first 8 Tesla MRI. But this paper/ad was outside his
field, cost a bundle (about $125 thousand) and didn't have a
clear target audience the public couldn't read it, but neither
was it in the mathematical language of physics. On the other
hand, Robitalle didn't have to put up with peer review and he had
full control over timing. The timing raised eyebrows. Ohio is
in the midst of a heated debate over a move to put Intelligent
Design on an equal footing with Darwinism in the classroom
(WN 15 Feb 02).
ID is the fallback position of the creationists, who
hate the Big Bang as much as they hate Darwin. Their strategy
has been to portray the Big Bang as a divisive issue, with a
powerful science establishment seeking to suppress dissenting
viewpoints. Robitaille, who did not return our calls, seems to
cast himself in the role of a lonely defender of truth who must
spend a year's salary to get his side of the story out.