Snake Oil Science

Snake Oil Science : The Truth About Complementary and Alternative Medicine


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Every year millions of people flock to complementary and alternative therapists offering a vast array of treatments ranging from acupuncture to biofeedback to urine injections. Millions more purchase over-the-counter alternative medications, such as glucosamine, herbs, and homeopathic remedies. While consumer motivations for turning to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) vary, there is one common element among them all: a belief in their effectiveness. This belief appears to be prevalent among all elements of society, from scientists and physicians to celebrities such as Prince Charles and Oprah Winfrey to clerical workers and senior citizens. Do these therapies actually work? And if they work, how do they work? This book is about the science of complementary and alternative medicine, about how that science is conducted, how it is evaluated, and how it is synthesised to arrive at a conclusion about whether CAM therapies work. It is also about the phenomenon of the placebo effect, and the extent to which it is at play in a given CAM therapy's efficacy. Are CAM therapies in fact nothing more than creatively packaged placebos? In exploring this question, Barker Bausell provides an authoritative and engaging look at the nature of scientific evidence and at the logical, psychological, and physiological impediments that can confound such evidence in the world of CAM research. Ultimately, the book is not so much opposed to CAM as to the shoddy science upon which CAM claims are based, and in fact it closes with a chapter about how one might maximise the placebo effect that Bausell asserts is the main 'ingredient' of most CAM therapies. This book is a learned, witty examination not just of the scientific process as it is applied to CAM but also of the wonders of the human mind/body system.

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Product details

  • Hardback | 352 pages
  • 144.78 x 210.82 x 35.56mm | 498.95g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 14 black and white illustrations
  • 0195313682
  • 9780195313680
  • 614,713

Review quote

'Inside' Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), we see embarrassingly little critical evaluation. Barker Bausell most certainly comes from the 'inside' and he is definitely critical about CAM; this makes his book unusual, ground-breaking and, I think, important...his book is highly informative, easy to read and full of entertaining wit and humour...aimed at the consumer...but too good a book to be read by the lay audience only. I warmly recommend it to healthcare professionals who work in CAM or have an interest in this area. Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies

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About Professor Emeritus R Barker Bausell

R. Barker Bausell, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore, was Research Director of a National Institutes of Health-funded Complementary and Alternative Medicine Specialized Research Center where he was in charge of conducting and analyzing randomized clinical trials involving acupuncture's effectiveness for pain relief. He has also served as a consultant to Prevention and Discover magazines.

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Table of contents

1. The Rise of Complementary and Alternative Therapies ; 2. A Brief History of Placebos ; 3. Natural Impediments to Making Valid Inferences ; 4. Impediments That Prevent Physicians and Therapists from Making Valid Inferences ; 5. Impediments That Prevent Poorly Trained Scientists from Making Valid Inferences ; 6. Why Randomized Placebo Control Groups are Necessary in CAM Research ; 7. Judging the Credibility and Plausibility of Scientific Evidence ; 8. Some Personal Research Involving Acupuncture ; 9. How We Know that the Placebo Effect Exists ; 10. A Biochemical Explanation for the Placebo Effect ; 11. What High-Quality Trials Reveal About CAM ; 12. What High-Quality Systematic Reviews Reveal About CAM ; 13. How CAM Therapies are Hypothesized to Work ; 14. Tying Up a Few Loose Ends

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