Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Eternal Struggles XI: "Pseudoscientists invent their own vocabulary"

From the Coker article:
"Pseudoscientists invent their own vocabulary in which many terms lack precise or unambiguous definitions, and some have no definition at all.
Listeners are often forced to interpret the statements according to their own preconceptions. What, for for example, is "biocosmic energy?" Or a "psychotronic amplification system?" Pseudoscientists often attempt to imitate the jargon of scientific and technical fields by spouting gibberish that sounds scientific and technical. Quack "healers" would be lost without the term "energy," but their use of the term has nothing whatsoever to do with the concept of energy used by physicists."

Jason's first EIM thread has accumulated 86 replies to date. We return to it now.

Carol Davis' final remarks:
"I have been a proud member of the American Physical Therapy Association since 1967. I have worked diligently to help move the profession forward to the clincal doctoral level. I have continued treating patients all throughout my academic career, and my outcomes using myofascial release are extremely positive. I have three case studies conducted with my students in process to submit to peer reviewed journals, two of which I have presented at Combined Sections meetings in the past. Case studies are the lowest level of evidence we have in systematically trying to explain what is happening when we treat, but it is a start, a way to keep sorting through the outcomes we see with our patients that help them to improve their function and decrease their pain. That is my commitment."

In the blog Science-Based Medicine, an recent entry Collision of Incompatibles appears. The topic of CAM as "anomalous medicine" is proposed. Reading through the 50+ replies is an instructive exercise. On Jan. 20/08, in reference to CAM studies, Harriet Hall includes in one of her replies:
"These studies are prime examples of what I call Tooth Fairy science. You can study how much money is found under the pillow if you leave the tooth in a baggie compared to leaving it in a Kleenex. You can study how much money children in different socioeconomic groups get. You can study whether the money for the first tooth is the same as for the last tooth. You can get all kinds of statistically significant results. You could publish those results as telling us important information about the Tooth Fairy. But that research would be worthless, because you have not established that the Tooth Fairy is real, and you are not actually testing what you think you are testing."
My bolds.

In all fairness to Carol Davis & co., most PT studies likely fall into this Tooth Fairy category in that most are about establishing efficacy rather than understanding or worrying over why or how or linking findings to the deconstruction of one hypothesis or another - PT "science" is still an infant. But investigators could at least base their work on what other fields of science have already established. Lack of evidence to support energy medicine and vitalism is the equivalent of an impassable cliff. Why not take advantage of any actual scientific trails through the woods? For example, there is ample neuroscience to wade through and base our own science projects upon. Occam's Razor (chainsaw) is for slicing down "unnecessary hypotheses." Davis misuses our collective scientific resources/wastes scientific (real, biological, ATP) "energy"/wears out the chainsaw trying to cut through rock and making ladders to try to climb up the cliff.

This concludes comment on Davis and her EIM reply. The "Eternal Sruggles" series of posts on pseudoscience within physiotherapy is now complete. Thank you for your attention.

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