I think we understand that medicine is practiced one person at a time. That's why I go to see my doctor when I'm sick, he examines me, and figures out what to do to help me get well. He doesn't treat all patients as 'the average patient' and prescribe the same thing regardless of what's wrong with them.
Nevertheless, if he gives me a prescription, that drug has typically been tested in trials that prove beyond a statistical point of reasonableness that it is (a) safe and (b) effective for a particular ailment. Thus, if that ailment is diagnosed in a patient, it would be appropriate to prescribe the drug to treat it. I'm assuming you don't disagree so far.
What you do disagree on is that double-blind studies are not the only way to get at the truth about whether something works. Unfortunately, the history of science suggests otherwise. There are many ways in which a remedy can appear to work, even when it has no effect. And the only way to exclude these effects that we know of is to perform double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. That's just the way it is - this is not an opinion of mine, it's been borne out time and again, and it's not going to change.
The corollary is that any medical study that is not performed with adequate blinding or placebo control (especially studies involving pills and similar remedies, which are the easiest to control) is immediately at least suspect, and probably worthless. This is not dogma, and it's not a bias against alternative medicine. We just know from experience that the results of such trials are not reliable and repeatable.
The fact is that most alt med practices, and naturopathy is definitely among them, could be investigated using sound techniques. That would involve things like formation of a hypothesis, random and representative sampling of the population, a statistically large sample size, double blinding, appropriate placebo control, statistical analysis, independent verification, peer review, and so on. It's a lot of painstaking work, but that's how scientific medical research is done, and it is the only way that we know of to be sure that the multitude of potential confounding variables are excluded from the results.
If naturopaths are not willing to do this kind of work, we have to reluctantly conclude that what they are doing is not scientific. That means that what they do may or may not work, but we will never know until someone does the science.
posted 3 years, 12 months ago
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