Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tim Caulfield on Naturopathy's Homeopathy Pseudoscience in the National Post, 2013

here, I cite from a recent critical piece in Canada's National Post by Tim Caulfield regarding naturopathic pseudoscience [see 001., below]; then, I delve into some Alberta NDs' web sites for a big dose of the naturopathillogical [see 002., below]:

001. Tim Caulfield writes in "Timothy Caulfield: Don’t Legitimize the Witch Doctors" (2013-01-22) [vsc 2013-01-22; my comments are in unquoted bold]:

"the [recent] granting of regulated status, which includes the creation of the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta [...] may create the impression that the[ir] therapies are supported by good science [...but this is] a veil of legitimacy [...]";

I've often called the science-labeling language naturopathy uses a camouflage or a veneer.  I like veil, and it reminds me of mask, and disguise.  Deception, deception, deception.  It is really really disturbing when a government sides with falsehood.  And I thought Canadians were so nice, especially to each other, and that Canada was like America but with a better social safety net and sense of fairness / solidarity!

"in fact, many naturopathic practices are based on a semi-spiritual theory (the healing power of nature), and have no foundation in science. They reside largely in the realm of pseudoscience [...as absurd as] the argument that 2+2 = 5 [...]";

yes, he speaks the truth.  The "semi-spiritual theory" is a combination of two or three science-ejected / science-exterior ideas: vitalism, spiritism, and teleology.  Naturopathy, at its core, claims that there is an 'intelligent spiritual life force' governing physiology.  One could philosophically place these ideas within idealism and sectarian belief.  Naturopathy layers Latin upon this idea to dress it up, but here it is clearly stated and quite falsely stated as able to survive scientific scrutiny [aka pseudoscience] at the oldest American school of this 'nonscientific medical idea revival', NCNM.  By the way, these science-exterior ideas are well-vetted and not exterior to science because they are yet to be supported by evidence.  They are exterior to science because humongous heaps of various aspects of modern science have won-out in terms of evidence, parsimony, and rigorous vetting.  Yet, regarding naturopathy's core science-ejected premise and homeopathy efficacy claims nonsense, there's Alberta's Robinson, M. (ND BINM) who states in "Naturopathic Services" [vsc 2013-01-22]: "homeopathic remedies are made from specific dilutions of plant, animal and mineral substances. When carefully matched to the patient they are able to affect the body's 'vital force' and stimulate the body's innate healing forces on both the physical and emotional levels with few side effects. Beneficial for both acute and chronic conditions in all ages."  This ND serves as quite the example of pseudoscience underlying a science and efficacy claim.  As is Canadian custom, on the above page she lists all her degrees as "Dr. Melanie Robinson B.Sc., ND."  Therein, we have a claim of science expertise [of a certain level], as a bachelor's of science.


"I recently worked with a University of Alberta colleague on an analysis of the websites for the naturopaths in Alberta and British Columbia [...] in Alberta, the[ir] number one most commonly advertised service is homeopathy [...] homeopathy is a 'treatment' so obviously devoid of scientific merit that it is consistently mocked on TV shows, by comedians and, of course, by skeptics. Nevertheless, for naturopaths, homeopathy is not some fringe practice utilized by a few rogue clinics that have decided to shun modern science. Homeopathy is central to naturopathic medicine [...]";

yes, these assertions are also true.  Homeopathy is fused with naturopathy.  Here's my alma mater's curriculum page.  Here's naturopathy's North American exam absurdly claiming homeopathy is a clinical science.

 "a homeopathic remedy is either nothing but water or, if in capsule form, a sugar pill [...homeopathy's] 'like cures like' and super dilution have absolutely no foundation in science [...] what the good research consistently tells us is that homeopathic treatments do not work any better than placebos do [...] in summary: there is no evidence that homeopathy works, and given the absurd nature of the proposed mechanism of action, no scientifically plausible reason that it should work [...]";

I'd call that the educated position.  As opposed to the pro-homeopathy, narrow, cherry-picking, nutty and desperate position.

"embracing unproven therapies [...and] the supernatural and pseudoscientific [...] moves health-care policy in the wrong direction, further away from science and empirically provable, efficacious and safe treatments [...]";

I'm completely in agreement.

Note: perhaps one can say 'give them a college, and they take a mile'  The original article is here [vsc 2013-01-22] with many hypertext links in support of his argument including those of the aanmc.org, pubmed.gov, sciencebasedmedicine.org, ukskeptics.com, nih.gov, and ccnm.edu.

002. Alberta examples of naturopathic-homeopathic pseudoscience:

002.a. a governing body, the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta [CNDA, which is not to be mistaken for an academic institution, by the way] states in "Frequently Asked Questions About Naturopathic Doctors in Alberta" [vsc 2013-01-22]:

"[regarding science] naturopathic programs include basic and clinical medical sciences [...] NDs study the same basic medical and clinical sciences as other healthcare professionals, such as MDs, DCs, DDSs, and RNs. These sciences lay the foundation for detailed history, intake, physical and laboratory diagnosis [...] is naturopathic medicine proven by science? Many naturopathic treatments have been researched and been proven safe and effective for numerous conditions [...] scientific examination of naturopathic methods is important, helping to bring clarity and refinement to the traditional and historical use of various therapies [...]";

ah, the foundational sciences that lay the foundation for pseudoscience.  Fascinating.  Notice the 'of the professions' claim.  But can naturopathy be a profession if it is based on falsehood and deception?  I don't think so.  How absurd!  Scientific examination is claimed as vitally necessary, yet, such rigor is the very thing that undoes naturopathy's claims.  I therefore don't think these sciences are taken seriously as filters regarding naturopathy's contents and context.  By the way, in "What is Naturopathic Medicine?", CNDA tells us: "naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care system that blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine [...] in Canada, the naturopathic medical professions infrastructure includes [...] a commitment to state-of-the-art scientific research."  How is something science-vetted when it is fundamentally science-exterior?  How is something distinct if it is blended?  That's absurdity at its finest.

 "[regarding evidence] there are also numerous randomized control trials and evidence‐based studies in the literature that have shown the efficacy of the approaches and modalities used in naturopathic medicine [...]";

if you ignore ALL the science, and cherry-pick.

[regarding rigor] NDs must successfully complete rigorous North American board examinations [...] naturopathic doctors are trained in homeopathy as part of the many therapeutic modalities that we can use [...]";

exams which are so rigorous, in terms of falsely labeling homeopathy a science, that they are basically saying 2 +2 = 5.  I think, though, that even if homeopathy was removed, you'd only be scratching the surface of the issue.  The problem, fundamentally, is epistemological and logical: naturopathy claims that science and nonscience are interchangeable / equals.

002.a. two Alberta NDs who say naturopathy is science-based including its homeopathy:

002.a1. Mountain, R. (ND CCNM) of Airdrie, Alberta states in "Frequently Asked Questions" [vsc 2013-01-22] :

"naturopathy is an umbrella term that includes homeopathy [yes...q] is naturopathic medicine research based? A: Naturopathic doctors are trained as primary care doctors to diagnose illnesses utilizing the same researched standards as conventional medical doctors.  Furthermore, naturopathic medical therapies have a long history of safe and effective use that is supported by research [...] is well documented throughout scientific research. Nutritional medicine has a large body of research from numerous large clinical trials for an extensive range of health concerns. Many herbal medicines also have a long history of traditional use that is validated by current medical research and safety data. The evidence base supporting the safety and effectiveness of naturopathic medicine continues to grow daily as new research findings are published [...] naturopathic doctors (ND’s) are trained in medical sciences and may use the same scientific resources your family physician uses to diagnose and treat your condition [....] naturopathic college consists of four years of naturopathic medical training.  The first 2 years contain primarily biomedical sciences similar to the curriculum at a conventional medical school and includes an introduction to naturopathic practices."

science, research, science, research.  The claim is science subset naturopathy subset homeopathy as supported by rigorous scientific research.  And that is absurd.

002.a2.  Eriksen, T. (ND CCNM) of Sherwood Park, Alberta states in "Principles of Naturopathic Medicine" [vsc 2013-01-22]:

"the practice of naturopathic medicine emerges from six underlying principles of healing. These principles are based on the objective observation of the nature of health and disease, and are continually reexamined in light of scientific analysis [...] including #2] vis medicatrix naturae, use the healing power of nature [...] the healing process is ordered and intelligent; nature heals through the response of the life force [...] illness is a purposeful process of the organism [...and] tolle totum, treat the whole person [...] the whole organism [...involves] physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors. The physician must treat the whole person by taking all of these factors into account."

so, therein we have the crazy claim that it is an objective scientific fact that the science-exterior survives scientific scrutiny. But, the irony gets ever more amusing.  ND Eriksen writes in "Dr. Tamara Eriksen, ND" [vsc 2013-01-22]:

"Dr. Eriksen's undergraduate training was at the U of A in biological sciences [...] considering herself a 'science geek from way back,'she makes a point of staying up on the cutting edge of medical science and alternative medicine. Her treatment philosophy is to lay the groundwork with sound medical science [...] and to always consider the psycho-social, emotional, spiritual health of individuals [...] the body/mind/spirit is inextricable!"

and therein, she sadly has been looked over again by the Nobel committee for the amazing REVOLUTIONARY discovery that science includes what it excludes.

003. perhaps one can also say:

 'give them a college, and since their baseline is nonsense, they're fine with each others' nonsense.'

and they call that regulation.
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