Friday, July 5, 2013

The Naturocrit Podcast - Episode 002 Script & Annotations

here, I provide an annotated script for the second episode of The Naturocrit Podcast, "The Naturalness Fallacy": 

001. the Episode 002 script and annotations:

Welcome to, as that robot voice says, The Naturocrit Podcast, and thank you for boldly listening.

What ARE we even talking about?

Well, this podcast series is my take on naturopathic medicine, an area I've been studying for about twenty years.

My approach is a pairing of scientific skepticism and a deep knowledge of naturopathy's intimate details.

In the first episode of this series, I established that naturopathy is essentially a kind of knowledge blending and misrepresentation:

the science-exterior is mixed with what is scientific, then the whole muddle is falsely claimed to be science as an entire category, while particular sectarian science-ejected obligations are coded or camouflaged, therein effectively disguising naturopathy's system of beliefs in public view.

Naturopathy's ultimate success is an absurd erosion of scientific integrity and freedom of belief.

In this second episode, I will share my current thoughts on The Naturalness Fallacy, a term which is part of this podcast's logo along with scientific skepticism.

The question which will over-arch this episode, particularly as concerns medicine, is "why is labeling something natural a fallacy?"

First, let me briefly muse upon fallacies, expertise, humility, and metacognition before talking about naturopathy's use of the label "natural".

A fallacy is generally defined by Wikipedia as "an argument that uses poor reasoning".

The Skeptic's Dictionary states:

"logical fallacies are errors that occur in arguments. In logic, an argument is the giving of reasons (called premises) to support some claim (called the conclusion)".

The steps one takes in a chain of reasoning, from an initial premise to a final conclusion, are where those errors can happen, often quite subtly.

Wikipedia's current taxonomy defines 4 categories of fallacy: presumption, weak inference, distraction, and ambiguity. 

In terms of scientific methodology, such bad routes of reasoning are really bad science due to the procedural requirements of science's methods.

In science, the explanation or conclusion must fit the evidence proportionately, which is often termed parsimony or one could even say 'logical frugality.'

The evidence indicates or supports no less and no more than what it indicates or supports.

This frugality of logic is often referred to as Occam's Razor, wherein the simplest or leanest, least assuming explanation regarding one's data is considered likely the most correct.

This is sometimes briefly stated as "don't multiply entities needlessly."

Such 'leanness of logic' and 'proportioning of logic' can be seen in the popular Carl Sagan aphorism:

"extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence".

That concept, like most, has an lineage.19th century French mathematician and astronomer Laplace had an earlier version whose language was:

"the weight of the evidence should be proportioned to the strangeness of the facts".

Again, regarding my pronunciations in this podcast series, I apologize if I am wrecking a foreign language.

Such a strangeness of fact may not be apparent to the casually informed lay person.

Thorough analysis, therefore, must rely on various sources of expertise.

Yet, I also I think prior probability highly figures into Sagan's and Laplace's aphorisms, and thus adds a requirement for a broader base of knowledge and method beyond narrowly focused expertise.

After all, 'an appreciation of strangeness' comes about from a broad view and not a narrow view, because such an appreciation is comparative.

So, in terms of evaluating fallacies or poor reasoning, there are very microscopic, granular or detailed expertise aspects one could talk about in terms of the presented evidence itself and the reasoning being employed in drawing conclusions, and there are much broader, or more general aspects.

We must compare new conclusions to established models that sum-up current understandings of the world and how it works as a preponderance.

In other words, we should ask, even when an expert source has no qualms about a specific claim, "does this finding make sense based on all we know so far about the world and how it works?"

And this is a continuous process, so therein dogma has no place: as my 8th grade general science teacher used to say:

"science is organized, systematized, self-testing and self-correcting."

Perhaps I can say what I'm thinking another way: there's expertise required often that has to be particularly deep or specialized, and thus one needs the help of experts in a field and their interpretations of evidence – which I'll call humility towards the subject in question -- but, there's also a hazard of losing sight of the big picture if that's all we do.

So, necessarily, there's must be a broader appreciation of logical processes and what findings sum up to that has more to do with the tools of skepticism which these days fall under the area known as metacognition, or thinking about thinking.

Perhaps I can finalize this introduction this way: I think in dealing with The Naturalness Fallacy, both specific expertise and broad metacognitive skills are needed in order to sort through the issue.

And here is my caveat: this episode's topic is QUITE slimy or vague.I have no doubt – which is quite an unskeptical assertion! -- that the idea of naturalness, and specifically here 'naturalness by way of naturopathy' -- itself is quite a muddle to begin with, and, if I'm successful, it will more so be that way when we end this episode.

We will be clear about a vagueness.

When I was in naturopathy school, naturopathy was labeled natural and regular medicine was labeled unnatural, as if there's a distinction.

This started in my first semester, in Naturopathic History and Philosophy, as I have covered in Episode 1a.

Yet, one should be quite suspicious about this specific naturopathic delineating posture, since naturopathy generally blends instead of delineates, and then calls a blended area distinct!

Nature as a distinction might not make sense in the same kind of way naturopathy's label of science upon figmentation and nonscience does not make sense.

But, let's start with a naive, charitable assumption – and I think it's a typical assumption -- that "natural" is 'good and distinct', and see how that holds up when analyzed.

By the way, holistic as a label also gets that kind of, shall I say, epistemic charity, but that's for another episode.

I start with this charitable assumption because naturopathy claims to be "natural" while claiming to be a profession and science.

As a profession, naturopathy has a fiduciary duty, placing the patient's interests first, which inherently must be good.

And naturopathy claims to be science, which inherently must be distinct and, coming from a profession, inherently must be true.

Here are some examples of the use of the word "natural" as a label of distinction by way of current leading English-language North American naturopathy web pages.

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians speaks of, in "Your Health" [vsc 2013-06-30]:

"the preventive, natural, and holistic perspective of naturopathic health care" 

and in "What is a Naturopathic Doctor?" [vsc 2013-06-30]:

"the emphasis of naturopathic medicine is the use of natural healing agents."

Finally, in "Natural Remedies for Summertime First Aid", the AANP states in an article by ND Cates [vsc 2013-06-30]:

"homeopathy offers safe, natural remedies [...] all-natural medicines [...] Dr. Trevor Holly Cates received a doctor of naturopathic medicine degree from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine. [And is] co-founder of the Santa Barbara Center for Natural Medicine."

NCNM is now called National College of Natural Medicine.

So, we have this idea of natural medicine subset naturopathy and indeed naturopathy businesses are usually named "integrative", "holistic", or "natural" and much less frequently "naturopathic."

Similar to the AANP's 'natural subset naturopathy subset homeopathy', there's Bastyr University's "Homeopathy: FAQ" [vsc 2013-06-30] which states:

"homeopathy is a natural, nontoxic therapeutic system of healing that supports the inherent ability of the body to heal itself [...] to stimulate the vital processes of the individual in a way that restores overall balance and health."

And in "Homeopathy: Overview" [vsc 2013-06-30]:

"homeopathy is a natural, nontoxic therapeutic system of healing that assists in the inherent ability of the body to heal itself. Homeopathic medicines or 'remedies' use minute amounts of plant, mineral or animal substances to stimulate a person's innate healing ability and to strengthen the entire system. Homeopathic remedies are particularly effective."

It is Bastyr which states all this is "science-based".

As an aside, Bastyr University's catalog states:

"the vitalistic context of science-based naturopathic medicine."

Yes, the science ejected context of science, is their hugely whackaloon position.

In sum via AANP and Bastyr, there's the claim of 'science subset natural subset naturopathy subset homeopathy subset efficacy'.

We know homeopathy isn't effective beyond placebo, and that it is absurd.

So, natural means: tricking the public with what is known not to be effective or refused to be acknowledged as junk, in terms of rigorous science -- empty pills called homeopathy -- while simultaneously disguising the sectarian vitalism which is so inherent to naturopathy and homeopathy, which we saw is a typical naturopathic mannerism in Episode 1b.

Let me boil-down 'science subset natural subset naturopathy subset homeopathy subset efficacy' a different way: let's say distinct subset nondistinct and untrue.

Well, this doesn't seem good or distinct, it seems false and disguised and irrational.

The false, disguised and irrational – or naturopathillogical -- is a strange context for things being offered to treat, to heal, in light of modern scientific advances, by a supposed profession and professional.

But this is what AANP calls natural.

The Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors states in "Natural Therapies" [vsc 2013-07-02]:

"the naturopathic therapies [...or] natural solutions [...] are all based on the same principles, they all assist the body's healing response [...for example] homeopathic medicine: this powerful system of medicine [...] when carefully matched to the patient they are able to affect the body's 'vital force' and to stimulate the body's innate healing forces [...and] traditional Chinese medicine / acupuncture: the key principle that defines and connects all of Chinese medicine is that of chi, or vital energy. The chi of all organs must be in balance, neither too active nor too dormant, for a person to be healthy. The chi of the body's organs and systems are all connected in meridians or channels that lie just under the skin. A naturopathic doctor will use Eastern herbs and acupuncture to assist the body in regulating the chi and achieving balance."

"The body's healing response" is obviously an alias for the vitalism at the heart of naturopathy that is explicitely mentioned there, and such vitalism is a figmentation from the by-gone days of prescience.

Yet, of course, CAND tells us in "Questions: Advantages of Naturopathic Care" [vsc 2013-07-02]:

"the goal of naturopathic practice is to treat underlying disorders and to restore normal body function by enhancing the body's own healing abilities."

Now, what underlies is the vital force, that figmentation, running physiology, supposedly. 

CAND goes on:

"naturopathic doctors assist the body's healing powers by using safe, effective non-pharmaceutical approaches with patients."

There's that claim again of efficacy, and that coded vital force they so often won't distinctly identify.

And finally:

"naturopathic diagnosis and therapeutics are supported by scientific research drawn from peer-reviewed journals from many disciplines"

and in "Naturopathic Training" [vsc 2013-07-02]:

"accredited programs [...include] National University of Health Sciences [] Lombard, Illinois."

So, CAND claims to diagnose and fix your vital force and that such is science.

Therein, overall, is the claim of natural subset science subset vitalisms such as those in their homeopathy and TCM, or more so boiled down, natural subset science subset science-exterior.

Labeling what is grossly nonscience as science again does not seem good and distinct – it seems irrational, uneducated, and an unnecessary conflation – but, again, this is what Canadian naturopathy calls natural. 

The Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges states in "Today's Naturopathic Doctors":

"because today’s naturopathic doctors (NDs) believe in understanding patients from the cellular level up, they actively pursue the latest biochemical findings relating to the workings of the body and the dynamics of botanical medicines, nutrition, homeopathy and other natural therapies. Their diagnoses and therapeutics are science based [...and one of the schools is] National University of Health Sciences."

Since when is a vital force cellular in terms of science?

That would be biology, and we know what biology has stated about vitalism: it is not science. Perhaps they have special Cloud-Cuckoo Land microscopes that help one to see such figmentations?

Now, also AANMC tells us in "Naturopathic Profiles", a document with the root "scien" in it at least 45 times []:

"Bastyr's mission is as follows: We educate future leaders in the natural health sciences that integrate mind, body, spirit, and nature [...and that this happens at] the Bastyr Center for Natural Health."

Nature there is the healing power of nature as in the vital force figmentation, and spirit there isn't that waxing, poetic version but, since science is claimed as the category, distinctly spirit as an objective scientifically supported phenomenon.

So, natural, far from being good and distinct, is a blending or integrating of the natural and supernatural, the coding of the science-ejected vitalistic as a marketing strategy, and "natural health science" is an 'anything is science' absurdity.

Now, wouldn't it be a shame if a State in the United States was an accomplice to this naturopathic absurdity and loonyness? 

The State of Oregon, my favorite '.gov' accomplice to naturopathy the licensed falsehood, states in "About Naturopathy":

"naturopathic medicine is heir to the vitalistic tradition of medicine in the Western world, emphasizing the treatment of disease through the stimulation, enhancement, and support of the inherent healing capacity of the person. Methods of treatments are chosen to work with the patient’s vital force, respecting the intelligence of the natural healing process [...aka] the healing power of nature, vis medicatrix naturae: the body has the inherent ability to establish, maintain, and restore health. The healing process is ordered and intelligent; nature heals through the response of the life force. The physician’s role is to facilitate and augment this process [...] first, do no harm, primum no nocere: illness is a purposeful process of the organism. The process of healing includes the generation of symptoms, which are, in fact, an expression of the life force attempting to heal itself. Therapeutic actions should be complimentary to and synergistic with this healing process. The physician’s actions can support or antagonize the actions of the vis medicatrix naturae."

Ah, ye old vitalism, which is natural and, according to the State of Oregon:

"based on the objective observation of the nature of health and disease [...] continually reexamined in light of scientific analysis" while Oregon invokes spirit, requiring "the physician must also make a commitment to his/her personal and spiritual development in order to be a good teacher."

So much for scientific integrity and freedom of belief: now natural is a complete misrepresentation of what's scientific and is a State-imposed belief mislabeled as scientific fact.

That's not good, not distinct, but, we're still promised distinction within this natural area:

"it is these principles that distinguish the profession from other medical approaches [...] naturopathic physicians (N.D.) are primary care practitioners trained as specialists in natural medicine [...] naturopathic medicine is a distinctively natural approach [...] the natural approach to health care."

Natural, by way of the State of Oregon, is distinct vagueness, a new term in my list of the naturopathic oxymoronic.

And I could go on and on.

And on.

My primary goal just now was to show, by way of big naturopathy sites, what the label natural packages, so to speak.

It truly is a vague marketing label that draws people in by playing on their assumptions that what is being labeled natural is in some way good and distinct.

So, back to the overarching episode question: why is labeling something natural a fallacy, especially in medicine, and particularly in naturopathic medicine?

Naturopathy uses that label, and as we've seen, underneath that veneer, one finds 'the things themselves' which are anything but what they are claimed to be.

I've always like the Skeptic's Dictionary page "Natural" because it specifically mentions naturopathy:

"in fact, ultimately everything which is made is comprised of nothing but natural atoms, molecules, elements, or substances. So, if everything is basically natural, why do some people, such as the naturopaths, make such a big fuss about using only what is natural? Such an obsession seems unhealthy, but it helps one avoid having to ask difficult questions about whether something really is good, safe or healthy. All you need to know is that something is 'natural' and you don't have to think about its value."

So, therein the use of 'natural' is naive and boneheaded.

I have to thank Bob Carroll, by the way, for linking to my 2006 essay on naturopathy from his Naturopathy page for so many years.

And lets return to Wikipedia, and what I've called, for this podcast, The Naturalness Fallacy.

In "Appeal to Nature" we're told:

"an appeal to nature is an argument or rhetorical tactic in which it is proposed that a thing is good because it is 'natural', or bad because it is 'unnatural' [...] Julian Baggini explains that 'even if we can agree that some things are natural and some are not, what follows from this? The answer is: nothing. There is no factual reason to suppose that what is natural is good (or at least better) and what is unnatural is bad (or at least worse)."

Fallacy Files states:

 "what is logically wrong with appealing to nature? One problem is that the concept of the natural is vague" (Julian Baggini, Making Sense, Oxford, 2002, pp. 181-182).

So, I'd place the labeling 'natural' within the fallacy of ambiguity due to its lack of information, or as I've said, its indistinction.

Wikipedia states "fallacies of ambiguity fail to prove the conclusion due to the vagueness in words, phrases, or grammar."

With The Naturalness Fallacy I'm saying that using the indicator "natural" as a way to understand something is poor reasoning, aka a fallacy, because we want to be accurate and not vague.

And, if we end up with values reversed, in the process of using 'natural', we're seriously derailed: if the premise is that natural is good, and naturopathy is natural, then what we have is bad being good as a conclusion, and logically we're in the realm of the psychotic.

And I think I've shown enough of naturopathy's reversal of values this episode.

As usual, I will post an annotated script at the Naturocrit blog.

This has been....
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