Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blind Spots

I'm always stunned at the Right's capacity to stare right at a stack of evidence and deny it--government spending to kick-start faltering economies, the Laffer curve, global warming and evolution come to mind--but I find it hard to call the Left reality-based sometimes.

This WaPo article about the debate about shutting down the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine notes that most of its results have been negative or inconclusive, and that studies on alternative therapies like acupuncture, yoga or freaking reiki could be done through existing NIH agencies. It seems like that would save money, too. But this bit stood out:
"One of the purposes when we drafted that legislation in 1992 . . . was to investigate and validate alternative approaches. Quite frankly, I must say it's fallen short," [Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin] told the committee.

"I think quite frankly that in this center, and previously in the office before it, most of its focus has been on disproving things, rather than seeking out and proving things."
He wanted it to prove things without, you know, testing whether they really worked?
Critics say this shows Harkin's lack of understanding of scientific inquiry, which tests hypotheses (with negative results as informative as positive ones) but doesn't intentionally attempt to "validate approaches." NCCAM's current director, Josephine P. Briggs, agrees that hypothesis-testing is the proper function of the center.

"We are not advocates for these modalities," she said last week. "We are trying to bring rigor to their study and make sure the science is objective."
I should hope so. Just what is it about health issues that brings out the Left's inner woo? From the anti-vaccination fanatics to homeopathy and healing touch, health nuts often just don't care to look for actual evidence. Hell is for hippies.

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