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As I was reading a particularly insightful and brilliant post (even by Ricochet standards) about smartphones, it occurred to me that the alternative medicine trend has something in common with feminism and Black Lives Matter. I immediately made two decisions – perhaps I’ve had enough bourbon for today, and perhaps I should share my thoughts on this fascinating topic, that I’m sure has been keeping you up at night. You’re welcome.
The feminist movement and the civil rights movement have a few things in common, the most obvious of which is that they are both equality movements that rapidly evolved into supremacy movements. Or perhaps ‘devolved,’ if that’s a word. I think that alternative medicine is falling into the same trap. It’s not hard to imagine certain ‘alternative’ treatments playing an important role in our treatment of certain diseases under certain circumstances. Which is fine. We should study this. But the idea that modern medicine is more sophisticated only in the realm of Medicare reimbursement and not in the realm of outcomes requires a suspension of disbelief that, until recently, was difficult for most people to achieve. But no longer, it seems.
Why do the supporters of alternative medicine feel the need to not simply promote their ideas, but also to denigrate the ideas of modern science? That would seem to be a losing proposition for them. Once someone looks at the data, they will lose. Badly. They would only attempt a power play like this if they presumed that no one would look at the data. And that’s ridiculous, of course. Except it’s not. With the internet, you can look at whatever data you want. It’s very reassuring. It beats thinking. And it certainly beats questioning your own assumptions. That can be uncomfortable. This is better. Well, in a way.
So where does that take us? In the realm of feminism, we end up with men in women’s sports. In the realm of civil rights, we end up with CRT and anti-racism (whatever that is). And in the realm of alternative medicine, we end up with cancer patients dying because they’re trying homeopathic remedies until just before they die – by the time we get them on conventional chemo, it’s too late for anything to work.
Our desire to see that which is not there leads us to be blind to that which actually is there.
I mentioned in a comment that the real trick to being an outstanding physician is balancing the arrogance necessary to take people’s lives in your hands, with the humility to recognize that you may be wrong about even your most basic assumptions. That really is difficult, and physicians struggle with it. Well, the good ones do, at least.
The excitement of a revolutionary movement like feminism or the civil rights movement tends to blind its adherents to the possibility that they might be wrong, about even their most basic assumptions. Their admirable passion leads their arrogance to overtake their humility. There is a reason that all revolutionary movements start with impressionable and impulsive students.
So we rapidly descend from “Perhaps there is a better way to do things” to sharing the view of the philosopher Elwood Blues: “We’re on a mission from God.”
Looking for better ways to do things is what defines Western Civilization. Once we stop arguing and striving for a better tomorrow, societal growth stops, and we rapidly transition from America to Syria. We should avoid that at all costs.
But there is a big difference between looking for better ways to do things, and simply attempting to defend whatever point is popular at the time, at all costs. It’s ok to be wrong about something. It’s not ok to defend a position that’s wrong, just to make yourself look virtuous.
Such behavior is the opiate of the lazy and the weak-minded.
And it’s becoming a national pandemic, which I would argue is significantly more dangerous than COVID-19.
As a nation, we find ourselves in desperate need of adult supervision. I see none immediately available.
I heroically maintain sufficient humility to acknowledge that perhaps I was wrong about even my most basic assumptions. Perhaps I’ve not yet had enough bourbon for today…