No side effects—no effects!

Published on Monday, 26 September 2011

I saw a box of tablets at the coop check-out the other day. The "active ingredient" was at a level less than the equivalent of one molecule in Lake Superior. The box proudly proclaimed: "no side effects!" How amazing! A drug that treats exactly and only the ailment for which it was indicated. This means there is a drug out there that is more effective than the immune system itself.  When you have a cold much of the drowsy, low energy feeling you get is due to your immune system combatting the illness. The virus does not cause that feeling itself, your immune system does. This means that the immune system has side effects, doesn't it? In my conversations with proponents of "alternative" medicine I have encountered a general distrust of the scientific method (objective analysis and observation with systematic constraints in place to reduce bias).  If the ailments you treat are unverifiable (such as chiropractic subluxation), then the treatments designed for these ailments will almost certainly be effective. Bleeding may not have cured patients of many verifiable diseases, but it almost certainly did balance the humors. The same applies to methods that align chakras and improve the flow of chi. This is because an imaginary problem is almost certainly going to be treatable by equally imagined cures.  In other words, "alternative medicine" is perfect at treating "alternative ailments". How can a treatment claim to aid in the healing of a particular ailment while remaining untestable using careful, objective bias-constraining research methods? How can an invented illness not respond to an invented cure? What is the benefit of treating imaginary illnesses?