A few months ago, I wrote a post lamenting how science- and evidence-based medicine has lost the linguistic high ground to the woo peddlers, those who have “rebranded” quackery first into “alternative” medicine, then into “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), and more recently into “integrative” medicine (as though “integrating” antiscience and pseudoscience into effective, science-based medicine somehow adds anything of value to medicine) and discussing strategies for reclaiming it.
Now, I’ve found out how CAM promoters pulled it off. Dr. Wallace Sampson has the scoop and dishes it out for your education in Why would medical schools associate with quackery? Or: How we did it. He shows how changing the language was the first step for the pseudoscience that is the vast majority of CAM to first gain a foothold and then achieve seeming “respectability.” The only thing he’s left out, I think, is that one other tactic that’s used by the woo-boosters is to intentionally conflate criticizing ideas with criticizing the person espousing them or the cultural tradition from which the ideas come. Consequently, if one criticizes what someone boosting traditional Chinese medicine says, for instance, not only is one being mean to that person but one may even be a racist. It’s a Chinese cultural tradition, after all!
All of this leaves me with two questions for you, my readers (after you’ve read Dr. Sampson’s post, of course):
- Is it too late? Have the postmodern forces backing CAM won?
- If your answer to #1 is “no,” then how can scientific medicine reclaim the linguistic high ground?