1. Science doesn’t know everything.
Comedian Dara Ó Briain said it best: “Science knows it doesn’t know everything, otherwise, it’d stop. But just because science doesn’t know everything doesn’t mean you can fill in the gaps with whatever fairy tale most appeals to you.”
2. There are other ways of knowing.
Sure there are: intuition, imagination, dreams, revelation, tradition, speculation, the “stoned thinking” favored by integrative medicine guru Andrew Weil, anecdotes, and personal observations. All of these can lead people to strong beliefs, to the illusion of knowledge; but until those beliefs are tested, we can’t trust them to reflect reality. Only the scientific method can lead to the kind of reliable knowledge that took humans to the moon and transformed AIDS from a death sentence into a chronic disease with near-normal life expectancy.
3. Science is only a belief system, just another religion.
Science is founded on only two underlying premises: that there is a material world, and that we can learn about how that world works. Science doesn’t “believe” anything; it asks and verifies. It has an excellent track record of practical success. The scientific method unquestionably works.
4. Science keeps changing its mind.
Yes, and that’s a good thing. Scientific conclusions are always provisional. Scientists follow the evidence wherever it leads, and they often have to change course as new evidence becomes available. CAM refuses to change its mind even in the face of clear evidence. Scientific medicine stops using treatments if they are proven not to work; medical history is littered with discarded theories and practices. CAM never rejects any treatment and hardly ever tests one of its treatments against another to see which is superior.
5. Science is dogmatic.
Yes, they inconsistently argue that science is dogmatic while also arguing that science keeps changing its mind. Dogmatism is found in CAM, not in science.
From Doctor-bashing is a popular sport practiced by believers in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and purveyors of quack remedies. Since they can’t compete in the arena of science, their only recourse is to criticize science-based medicine—as if pointing out its imperfections somehow proves their own methods are superior! It’s like creationists who imagine that controversies about small details of evolution somehow prove that “God did it.”
The sport of doctor-bashing involves A LOT OF CAPITALS, miz-speld wurds, egregious errors of grammar and usage, abuse of logic, misrepresenting the facts, rejecting the scientific method, gratuitously insulting individuals rather than grappling with the issues, and so on. If players can find a way to compare doctors to Nazis, they get extra points. They tediously repeat the same false accusations and flawed arguments that have been rebutted ad nauseam.
I thought skeptics might find it useful to have a list of some common CAM arguments along with their rebuttals. These are not meant as debating points, since trying to debate true believers is as useless and frustrating as trying to glue ice cubes to the ceiling. But these points might be useful in discussing the issues with people who have not yet donned the jersey of a doctor-bashing team.