Thursday, February 28, 2013

Media ridiculousness

Just a quick post highlighting some stuff that I saw today which made me laugh and also be annoyed.

Exhibit A: "Raw milk debate froths up at Capitol". Article by Tim Eaton. Austin American-Statesman, February 28th, 2013. Pages B1 and B3.

The article itself is all right, but one section was just bizarre: The second-to-last paragraph, which says "Margaret Errickson, 11, a home-school student from Houston, also testified, saying raw milk helps manage her eczema and allergies." What the hell is an eleven-year-old doing testifying in the legislature? She's probably not an expert on anything, especially the alleged medical benefits of unpasteurized milk. What's next, a six-year-old imploring BCBS to cover kisses from Mommy to treat knee boo-boos? An eight-year-old petitioning the police to start a "Monster Under The Bed Taskforce"? Ridiculous.

Exhibit B: "Natural Cures You Can Trust". Article by Jean Weiss. Prevention, August 2010. Pages 118-125.
Now this one is just terrible. You can tell it's going to be bad from the first sentence which starts off "As a forward-thinking woman who embraces safe and natural health strategies for you and your family..." Woah there. If you say "forward-thinking", doesn't that mean that you want the most up-to-date information on what works and what doesn't? I'm not implying that nothing natural can be good for you, but goddamn, I hate the appeal to nature. And it just gets worse from there.
"The proven therapies... can often replace prescription drugs. They're a safe adjunct (hence their "complementary" moniker to medication and other conventional treatment." GODDAMNIT! You cannot say they'll replace real medicine and then in the very next sentence claim that they are used with real medicine!!! The only sources the article cites are the NCCAM, various places with "Center for Integrative Medicine" in their name and the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. No mention of an actual study. Just the journal name. In fact the article mentions "new research", "recent research", "another new study", "intriguing new research", "fascinating new research", "a number of studies", and "some studies", but never really says anything about the studies. I guess in Jean Weiss's mind, there is no need to think about who does a study, how good the methodology is, or if the results are reproduced widely enough to generate scientific consensus. It seems quite common to just be like "Hey the news says that a study says this, therefore it's true!" I won't get into scrutinizing all of the article. I'll just wrap up this post with the part that drove me crazy the most:
One reason we know that rhodolia (Rhodolia rosea) works is because it's been used worldwide for centuries, especially in Russia, Scandinavia, and Iceland (it grows in extreme northern climates), to quell anxiety and strengthen mental stamina. Another is that the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine recently gave it a big thumbs-up.
First up, a one-two punch combo! Bam! Appeal to antiquity and popularity! Then finish 'em off with the appeal to a nonspecific authority! I actually kind of like this because I rarely see these fallacious arguments stated so bluntly: "We know that X works because it's been used for a long time by a lot of people." Oh and did you spot the "Hey, people that aren't native to your culture do this! It's new and exotic, so don't you want to be cool and try it?" implication? Man, Prevention magazine is crap.