Friday, December 7, 2012

Skeptical Conversation #2

I was reading and mocking part of the CAM textbook chapter to my mother yesterday. This particular part is about traditional Chinese medicine: stuff like qi/"vital energy", yin and yang, and meridians, which are all treated totally unskeptically.* That is to say, they were all treated as if they are actual things that have effects on the body. Phrases like "Disease results from the disrupted flow of qi" are stated as unambiguously accepted fact. (Never mind the other chapters of the book which cover ACTUAL disease causes and processes.)

Anyway, Mom seemed a little put off by me saying that these things weren't true or real. She remarked, "I guess it's just a different way of looking at things," and then, "There must be something to it, or else it wouldn't have persisted for such a long time." Since my whole family is atheist, it was a simple matter for me to reply, "Religion persisted a long time too, and it's not true." This seemed to resonate with her and so I followed up with, "Just because something has been around a long time doesn't make it valid." I refrained from using the phrase "argument from antiquity/tradition" because I thought it would sound jargony. (And, as Mike Hall explained in episode 47 of SWAK, it's better to explain by example than to simply name the fallacy. Geez, this is only my fourth blog post and I've already referenced Mike twice.)

Anyway, Mom said, "Huh, you've got a really good point there." I really feel good when I manage to help someone think logically in these conversations. Maybe it's just me, but it seems there are a lot of people who can think logically about religious claims, but somehow don't analyze claims relating to health with the same logic. Has anybody else experienced this?

* The spellchecker thinks that this should be either "skeptically", "antiseptically", "sceptically", or "aseptically".

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