tim: Mike Slackernerny thinking "Scientific progress never smelled better" (science)
[personal profile] tim


Who doesn't love to make fun of homeopathy? It's important to differentiate yourself from other people, especially on the basis of perceived intelligence and on socially prestigious understanding of science. Most people know very little about science, especially scientists, since specialization means that nobody can deeply understand all that much. So making fun of pseudo-science is a useful way of raising yourself up by putting other people down.

But I wish skeptics would train some of their razor-sharp wit on another pseudo-scientific medical treatment that is widely believed to be effective: intentional weight loss. Sure, homeopathic cures can be found in any CVS, but if you actually talk to your pharmacist, they'll tell you those cures don't work (possibly while looking sort of embarrassed). Weight loss, on the other hand, gets recommended by almost every single medical professional you can find, for everything from tonsillitis to toenail fungus.

Losing weight in the short term is easy for most people, but the vast majority of people who lose weight through intentional means gain back all the weight, and more, within five years. This process begins a pattern of frequent weight cycling which has serious health consequences; fat people who lose weight end up in worse health than fat people who remain at their natural weight. So while intentional weight loss is more effective than homeopathy in that in a tiny minority of people, it does produce long-term results (whereas homeopathy does nothing), it should concern you more than homeopathy does since unlike homeopathy, it actually has harmful results. If you're bothered by non-evidence-based "cures", then intentional weight loss should bother you since there's no evidence that it's either possible (again, for almost everybody) or that it leads to improved health outcomes (for anybody).

Are skeptics afraid to take on a foe that's worthy of their intelligence and humor? Is it fun to make fun of those you believe to be stupid, uneducated, and dupes of the supplement industry? And is it not fun to make fun of medical doctors -- educated people who nevertheless recommend non-evidence-based interventions that do more harm than good? If so, why?

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-19 10:19 pm (UTC)
megpie71: AC Tifa Lockheart looking at camera, very determined (Give me the chocolate & nobody dies)
From: [personal profile] megpie71
I think the thing is that if you go after homeopathy, you're in company with a lot of People Like You. Whereas if you go after intentional weight loss dieting, you're going to be associating with and benefiting Fat People, and that's just wrong

(Excuse me while I try to disengage the sarcasm here).

Heck, I'll settle for self-described sceptics going after the BMI as a start - because that one is not only bad medicine, it's bad statistics.

(Short history of why it's bad stats for those who don't know: the BMI was originally designed as a group statistic to aid in the bureaucratic determination of whether entire districts were famine-affected. It got adopted as an individual statistic by the US life insurance industry, as part of their actuarial tables, and from there was picked up by the fledgling weight loss dieting industry in the 1950s.)

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Tim Chevalier

March 2017

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