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Austin Cline

Weekly Poll: Are You An Atheist Who Uses Alternative Medicine?

By February 21, 2013

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There is a tremendous amount of money to be made in so-called 'alternative' medicine today. Billions are spent every year and its popularity only seems to be increasing -- but why? What is it about alternative medicine that causes people to eschew proven, scientific medical treatments? Do you, as an atheist, use any so-called 'alternative' treatments or do you (generally) reject them as no more valid than most supernatural and paranormal beliefs?

By some estimates, the alternative medicine industry does between $15 and $20 billion annually -- and growing! A report in New England Journal of Medicine back in January 1993 showed that about one-third of American adults had sought some sort of unorthodox therapy in the preceding year. It might seem reasonable to suppose that atheists are much like the general population in such matters, but it's hard not to hope that atheists are as skeptical towards alternative medicine claims as they tend to be towards theistic claims.

For some atheists, as with many theists, alternative medicine might serve as a replacement religion. Alternative medical treatments give an impression of being scientific and rationalized like regular medicine, but at the same time they promote a vision of the world which is holistic, supernatural, and altogether consistent with common religious premises (though contradictory towards rationalized science). It's not a "scientific" religion, but it combines enough features of both science and religion to serve some of the social and psychological functions of both.

So, in at least giving the impression of combining the "best" of both science and religion, alternative medicine ensures that it can attract a broad cross-section of America. This may not be the answer to why it is so popular, or why otherwise rational atheists might be attracted to it, but it is certainly an important ingredient. It's unlikely that these are factors which many customers of alternative medical practitioners consciously think about, but it's implausible that they don't play a role.

April 11, 2006 at 12:37 pm
(1) Beast says:

My opinions on alternative medicine is: Seek professional medical advice first.

Certain remedies pertaining to alternative medicine, minus the really hocus pocus stuffs, have their origins from herbs and other medicinal stuff….the trouble is, some of them have not really been thoroughly investigated.

To play it safe, its always best to seek professional opinion.

April 21, 2006 at 8:10 pm
(2) me00 says:

You should define what exactly you mean by “alternative.” I use cranberry extract and probiotics every so often, and there’s pretty clear evidence those work for the things I use them for. Would you include these under alternative medicine or do you mean things like accupunture or drinking one’s own urine?

April 22, 2006 at 7:34 am
(3) atheism says:

Alternative medicine is supposed to be an “alternative” to standard, scientific medicine. If there is good peer-reviewed, replicated, scientific research that what you are doing helps whatever condition you’re using it for, then it’s not really “alternative.” It might be unusual or new, but not alternative.

By the same token, if there were suddenly great evidence for the efficacy of acupuncture for… oh, I don’t know… baldness, then as a treatment for hair loss, acupuncture wouldn’t be a form of “alternative” medicine anymore. It would still qualify if you used it for other things where there is nothing more than faith and anecdote backing it up, but not when it comes to baldness.

May 2, 2006 at 5:23 pm
(4) Andrew says:

More on defining “alternative”:
There are some things, like nootropics or medicinal marijuana, which have some medical research to back them up but because of various reasons (oftentimes political), not enough research to firmly establish their efficacy. Would these be considered alternative?

FWIW I’ve had some positive experiences with nootropics (legal disclaimer: it was nothing illegal!), and also with zinc lozenges, which I take when I feel a cold or sore throat coming on. I recall that there is now some backing for zinc lozenges, though when I started using them it was more anecdotal. Similarly with nootropics, there is research supporting their efficacy with patients in a lessened mental state (e.g. Alzheimer’s patients), but research for their use by “normal” people to enhance their mental state is still minimal or nonexistant, and primarily anecdotal.

May 2, 2006 at 5:36 pm
(5) atheism says:

Andrew: frankly, I don’t know if they would qualify or not. Perhaps not, because then anything which is in the process of being tested, but not fully tested, would be “alternative.” If there is some sound evidence, with more testing being done, I don’t think that “alternative” would be the appropriate classification.

Another important characteristic of alternative medicines – and part of what makes them “alternative” – is that they attempt to be self-contained systems of treatment and philosophy. Acupuncture isn’t just an alternative to aspirin, but to scientific medicine generally.

You don’t see, for example, people prescribing acupuncture for one thing, iridology for another, and so forth, all based upon demonstrated efficacy of each treatment for different conditions. Instead, there are specific homeopathic remedies for everything, acupuncture treatments for everything, and so forth.

The things you describe aren’t self-contained systems that try to be alternatives to scientific medicine. They are, instead, treatments that may have something going for them and may end up being standard treatments for specific conditions some day.

Zinc has been shown to reduce the lengths of colds, I believe, by a couple of days.

May 3, 2006 at 4:42 pm
(6) Andrew says:

I see your point regarding alternative medicines being their own self-contained systems. Aside from the part about alt. medicines not being scientifically vetted, there’s another (IMO) defining characteristic, namely that people often seem attracted to it because of anecdotal evidence or testimonials. So I guess some medicines such as nootropics may fall into a gray area between standard & alt. medicine if, say, there is some scientific evidence to support it, but people use it based not on this but because of testimonials from friends, online forums, etc.

I’ll shut up now. :-)

October 30, 2008 at 9:15 am
(7) CrypticLife says:

Though I don’t really go in for alternative medicines much (however that’s defined), I don’t think doing so means you’re necessarily irrational or prone to woo.

Science is very useful, but it sets a pretty high bar for truth. There are a lot of things that might actually work, but which might not yet have made it over that hurdle due to difficulty of investigation. A lot of the alternative medicines may not have been well-examined yet. If you have a medical issue, and you need it treated right away (and particularly if, for some reason, scientific medicine is unhelpful), you might rationally consider how much risk you face with an alternative medicine. Use of zinc (or really, whatever) cough drops has rather low risk, and you may not want to even shell out the $35 copay for a doctor’s visit for a typical winter cold. On the other side of the spectrum, science may have no known treatments for some serious diseases, and someone who’s terminally ill may be interested in an alternative medicine as a potential treatment even if it’s not very likely to work.

October 30, 2008 at 12:35 pm
(8) tracieh says:

Wow. What a complex issue.

I selected “no”—but there are so many caveats with that response. I was the caregiver not long ago for a very close family member with stage 3 melanoma—which is quite fatal.

Another family member, I’ll call X, is not very scientifically literate and sent me gobs of online crap and conspiracy e-mails about how the doctors are all in league with the pharmaceutical companies—and she even went so far as to assert that our oncologist wanted my ward to remain sick—because a cure means no more treatment/drugs/sales.

While I do understand that pharmaceutical companies have far more than what I would consider “justified” medical influence over physicians. I do not think it is at the point where cancer doctors aren’t really trying to help people with cancer. That, to me, is into the wingnut realm.

But I smiled and coped and understood that X just wanted to help in her own credulous, paranoid, annoying way. And, to be fair, I got my fair share of other wingnuts that came out of the woodwork. X was, by no means, alone. If you haven’t deal with severe, chronic, life-threatening illness–be warned. One person was convinced that if we paid high dollars for a specific brand of whey protein containing “glutathione,” the cancer would soon be behind us. From the pitch–you’d think it could put lost limbs back in place!

I actually looked it up online (as I did every recommendation we received), and found that it was an especially potent antioxidant. I can’t tell you the guilt I endured in thinking I would have to tell a dying person that I just didn’t think there was enough evidence to spend the money to try this product. While, logically, I might know this is true—trying to say it _without_ sounding like I’m putting a dollar amount on a loved one’s life is nearly impossible. I was able, fortunately, to track down a research study at a medical journal site, and find the lead researcher as well. I tried my best to assure him I wasn’t thinking this was a cure for cancer—but that I needed to know if there was some less expensive way to achieve the same result. He was kind enough to write back with a load of disclaimers—saying, basically, “high doses of vitamin C will achieve the same results.” With this e-mail, I was able to go back to my ward and say, “That product doesn’t do anything vit C can’t do—so I’m going to get you some extra C at the local grocery.”

Will extra vitamin C cure cancer? No. Could it help an immune system by raising antioxidant levels? Unproven, but in line with some medical theories. At the doses I was giving to my ward—would it harm him? No. So, I bought the C.

I also got a book from the American Cancer Society about Complementary and Alternative medicine. It was a very interesting and helpful book about all the research available to support claims in both these arenas. The book said that Complementary medicine was any nonstandard treatment that was tried in conjunction with standard treatment. And Alternative medicine was any nonstandard treatment that was tried in the absence of standard treatment. I know that these terms are not always used in this way—but I find this delineation to be both important and helpful when discussing this issue.

We did try Complementary treatments. Any suggested supplement or dietary advice that had ANY research behind it—even so little as in vitro studies—I started my ward on it. My only criteria was that it wasn’t anything known to cause harm to a person. So, basically, if there was good medical theory behind it, demonstrated as effective or not, and it was not harmful, we were going to try it in addition to his regular, doctor supervised interferon treatment.

What I learned about myself is that when someone I love has their life on the line, it’s nearly impossible for me to sit by idly and do nothing. If this person died, I needed to be able to say, “I tried everything I thought might help that wouldn’t harm him.”

In the end, the interferon failed. And we ramped up our search for other offerings when the oncologist told us that was our single shot—down the crapper. We researched and enrolled my ward in a research trial for people with his exact state of cancer. And we ramped up the diet and supplements as we found even more things to “try.” At this point, everything was “alternative”—because there was no more “standard” treatment available to us.

In 6 months, he will be 5 years out from his last recurrence. And that will mean he is officially a cancer survivor. His odds will go down to the status of the normal population again for a recurrence of melanoma. At one point his survival odds were between 10 and 15 percent. What saved his life? Surgery? Our complimentary/alternative regime? His own immune system? The research trial vaccine? If he makes that five year mark, the honest answer is that we will never know how he got there.

Alternately, in a sad turn, X’s husband was diagnosed with an aggressive strain of prostate cancer, less than a year ago, that reached the spine in short order. X chose an alternative treatment and refused standard chemo. X’s husband steadily declined and died a few months ago. Again—can anyone say standard treatment would have saved him? No. Do I feel like the alternative treatment was as good as nothing? After researching it on my own, my answer is “yes.” If I were in her shoes I would not have done what she did.

I want to say I was treated in a very judgmental and critical way by X, when I refused to concur with her unscientific medical opinions about my loved-one’s situation. But when she chose “Insulin Potentiation Therapy,” for her husband, I kept my mouth shut and wished her luck. And I was there for them both and supportive throughout. I know that the only thing that matters when people are in a situation that desperate (and where there are no guarantees from anyone), whatever they feel is best is what they need to do. Right or wrong, another family member wanted to talk to them to warn them about the articles I found on IPT. But I insisted we be supportive and keep our mouths shut for two reasons:

First, what if we successfully guilt her into trying real chemo (which she doesn’t trust), and he dies anyway? How do you think X will relate to us after that? His odds of survival were grim, even with the best of treatment.

Second, if she doesn’t trust medical research, what are we going to show her to convince her the standard treatment is better? All I had was data based on medical research—which she thinks is tainted. If my evidence isn’t valid in her mind—what good would it do to present it to her?

These are just very hard questions. And after being there in person, I know that it’s one of those things where it’s best to be supportive and not try to tell other people what to do, unless they ask for your input. Other than our doctor, I mainly did not appreciate other people’s input and recommendations when I was going through it. I found it unhelpful and annoying—sometimes even thoughtless. I was gracious about listening, but felt resentful and angered by it. I had to maintain, becuase they also cared about my ward. They were trying to help, not annoy. But I was under quite a strain–and I don’t know how I didn’t blow up at them on occasion.

But maybe that’s just me? But that’s my input–for what its worth.

October 30, 2008 at 7:53 pm
(9) Indigo says:

Personally, I’m averse to alternative medicine because of its resemblance to traditional religion. (Ironic, eh?) It’s not uncommon for a practitioner to tell a patient that the treatment *never* fails, and if it did in their case, they must have done something wrong. In conventional medicine, the doctor is bound by law to tell you how effective the treatment is and what possible risks are attached to it; no such limits are imposed on alternative practitioners, likely because they themselves don’t know. Sometimes the treatment may simply be harmless, like homeopathy, but it’s not unheard of for alternative therapies to possess actual dangers.

October 31, 2008 at 9:49 am
(10) tracieh says:

Hi Indigo:

Just fyi, in my very long and tedious post just prior to your own, the person “X” I referred to was actually treated by the alternative clinic similarly to a standard physician. Ironically the doctor administering the treatment WAS a licensed medical doctor. And I believe he believed in IPT. However, I used to work at a company where we edited medical journals–so I understand how studies work, and I’m not half bad at finding research/data online that relates to any given illness/treatment.

For IPT–there simply isn’t any reason to believe it works. It has a theory behind it–but it’s, for the most part, untested. I found one study that was inconclusive (too small sample size), and I found that one proponent of IPT had given some testimony in front of some government committees, etc. However, when I looked into his testimony–I found he was asked repeatedly to provide research to back the claims, and never did, despite the reality that money was available to do the required studies.

With any alternative medicine, I think there are people who really believe it and people who are simply taking advantage of other people. With IPT, X was told there were no guarantees. BUT, I can’t escape the reality that X must ALSO have been told SOMETHING to make X think it had some validity to it. And I _really_ wonder what that was–since there is no support to indicate it works or would work–and it’s potentially dangerous for a few reasons (screwing with an weak person’s insulin levels and also the low level chemo may interfere with standard chemo effectiveness later if the patient decides to chuck IPT and go back to their oncologist).

So, someone said something to make X think this was worth trying. And I remember X mentioning that she had see/done research and found that there was reason to believe this. Again–my initial instinct is to question her and try to rebutt her if possible–but any rebuttal I would offer would be based on medical research data she believes is unreliable.

Meanwhile, in my limited discussions not only with her–but with other wingnuts who wanted to advise me throughout my cancer/caregiver experience, I find the “evidence” is nearly ALWAYS anecdotal. There may be some flimsy research–of the kind I based my supplement purchases on–that indicates further research might be warranted; but they go from something like that to stories about how Ginny’s arthritis was cured and Tim’s diabetes was cured, and so on. Testimonials are HUGE to these people. Go to their sites–and you can nearly always find testimonials.

But anyone familiar with how research works knows that testimonials don’t mean squat. Any disease that a person can potentially survive will yield some number of people saying, “and I was cured!”–as if they know it was the treatment that did it. So, even if I have a “practice” that yields no better results than natural remission of cancer would yield, I will still end up with some number of people saying I “cured” them–and probably nobody saying I didn’t–because such critics will all be dead.

Anyway, that’s my interpretation of what I saw in action both in my case and X’s case. For what its worth.

October 31, 2008 at 2:46 pm
(11) Louis says:

Oh, I get it. We’re talking about Supplementary, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine (SCAM).

October 31, 2008 at 3:35 pm
(12) alainkr says:

To tracieh : You say the person had a 10 to 15 % chance of recovery, then you sort of wonder why this person had a recovery. Well, to ask the question is to answer it. There’s no mystery.

November 1, 2008 at 12:05 am
(13) lee says:

Alternative medicine as it seems to be labeled does have value. Science to the masses is only of the body which will eventually die and return to its own root. It is the mind that needs to cured and I do not speak of the mere organism called the brain whose only physical function is to react to various causes and effects of everyday stimulus. The mind is much more intellegent and thus does not require chemistry and breaking down of the smallest physical workings because mind already does comprehend the order of this without confusion. In trying to trick the brain into doing something it was not programmed to do is impossible it lacks the ability to execute logic and reason. That is how alternative medicine is used in my culture. We do not focus on the physical body it is the least part of our medicinal traditions handed down.

November 1, 2008 at 3:16 am
(14) Tom Edgar says:

What is alternative medicine?
Being an octogenarian I can well remember conventional medications of my youth that are now “Alternates”. Sarsaparilla, Oil of Wintergreen, English Stout, oops that is still on the National Health Prescription list in the U K. My own G P has prescribed making up the Dr Budwig formula for Prostate Cancer.

Being a Skeptic of many years I have doubts of the efficacy of many formulae. My late wife was also so disposed. Medically Prescribed Thalidomide when pregnant with our last child she just screwed up and disposed of the prescription. So our daughter was, fortuitously, born with a full complement of legs, hands, arms, and feet.

Ninety percent of modern conventional medicines have their genesis in botanicals.
To deny herbs, or food even, as having a beneficial aspect is akin to doing the same when the opposite effect is transparent.
Even herbs that are down right dangerous e.g. “Belladonna” “Strychnos Toxifera.” “Stinging Nettle.” can all have extractions that are very beneficial

That science is capable of isolating the active ingredients and improving the potency of ancient treatments doesn’t negate entirely
the undoubted benefits of SOME alternate herbals. I wouldn’t extend this to the totally, scientifically, unproven areas, as in Homeopathy,Reiki,and the rest of the mumbo jumbo land witch doctor cures.

Even in the areas that we can definitely prove do NOT work there are “Placebo” cures. The power of believing and the mind controlling outcomes is both wondrous and complex. No don’t knock ALL alternative treatments, but don’t unquestioningly accept them either, and that goes for conventional medications too.

There are probably some “Alternate cures” that will have a beneficial outcome. But it won’t be from the antics of the “Witch Doctors.” with their potions, prancings, and
dare I say to the brain dead biblical crowd,
prayers and incantations.

Yesterday’s conventional medication may become tomorrow’s “Alternate” and vice versa.


November 1, 2008 at 3:35 am
(15) Tom Edgar says:

I do have this wonderful proclivity to terminate whilst I try to pontificate.

Tracie H. You may have been a little long by nevertheless You had something positive to say I commend you efforts.

Having just finished “Trick or Treatment.”
by Professor Edzard Ernst and Simon Singh I would recommend this treatise to one and all.
Especially to the dogmatic supporters of the alternate approach.


November 9, 2008 at 12:34 am
(16) James Jackson says:

No one here describes direct experience with such as acupuncture, for example, and I doubt even a majority of the people responding to the poll can claim direct experience with a licensed pracitioner of acupuncture/Oriental medicine. Some MD’s practice acupuncture (though lack the 4 years of training of a DOM). Eighty-five percent of Western physicians claim belief in a supreme being aiding their treatment. Is that scientific?
(Google it.)

Oriental medicine boasts a data base going back 4,000 years. It is based on Eastern concepts of what “science” is, not Western concepts, of course.

The comments and poll reflect bias as judged from the unsupported statements. These biases persist despite Western studies showing acupuncture to be effective in such as knee pain, headaches, and so on. Western Medicine’s real fear of Oriental medicine is its competition for patients and therefore an economic competition.

July 6, 2009 at 7:59 am
(17) Atheist says:

“proven, scientific medical treatments” Though I am an atheist I am very much biased against western “scientific” medicine and allopathic quacks they are frequently very very costly and they discount the body’s natural tendency to cure itself. I believe more in herbs than in western discrete medicine with its drastic side effects, very high cost to society, very high chance of losing your eye when you go to treat a leg, allopathic quacks who think they are gods, spurious drugs marketed as the real thing, quacks who are out to recoup the bribes they paid to pass school, very high chance of contracting complications etc etc. so don’t think that western “scientific” medicine is the last word on medicine and just because I am an atheist I have to swallow it as gospel that “scientific” medicine will work wonders ALL the time. Nope sometimes it will work sometimes it wont work and you will have be as wary of “scientific” medicine as any godmen selling holy powders.

July 6, 2009 at 8:28 am
(18) Atheist says:

“There is a tremendous amount of money to be made in so-called ‘alternative’ medicine today” Theres thousand times that much to be made in standard medicine. Does that bother standard medicine folks?

July 10, 2009 at 3:34 pm
(19) pandamonk says:

No-one claims that modern western medicine works ALL of the time, but just that it is the most effective form of treatment we know. It has went through countless trials and passed, the herbs haven’t. If there is any merit in the herbal/alternative remedies, they will pass all the scientific trials the other drugs have and become scientific medicine/treatments.

July 10, 2009 at 4:24 pm
(20) Doug Shaver says:

“Theres thousand times that much to be made in standard medicine. Does that bother standard medicine folks?”

If it’s worth a thousand times as much, then there is no reason it should bother them.

July 10, 2009 at 5:43 pm
(21) Marc says:

(17) Atheist:
I don’t understand the statement “Though I am an atheist I am very much biased against western “scientific” medicine ”
There is no mutual exclusivity here. Believing the body can adapt by healing itself is very “scientific”. Mutation, adaptation, sound familiar? Some of the problem is our scientific community has been strongly influenced by the all american dollar, and their science has pursued only what will fund their research, and reap huge monetary benefits. Science would prove the efficacy of many more natural courses of treatment, herbal or otherwise, but it can’t be patented and sold for huge profit!
By the way Pandamonk, this is also the reason “trials” and “studies” haven’t been done! Just because a trial or study has not been “funded”, doesn’t reduce the efficacy of certain treatments.

July 10, 2009 at 7:45 pm
(22) pandamonk says:

We could never really know how effective, if at all, a treatment is without a trial. Every alternative treatment is as plausible as the next, without proper trials, etc.

There obviously is money to be made from the many alternative treatments, even if they can’t be patented. No matter what, you can grow it, bottle it and sell it for profit, regardless of anyone else’s ability to do the same.

The same as any big company would spend money on trials for the “best” tasting fruit, or whatever, drug companies spend money on a trial for the best treatments. It just happens that most alternative treatments don’t make it past the first few stages.

One reason, even shown above, for choosing herbal over conventional medicine is the “drastic side effects” that come with conventional medicine. The thing is, there are side-effects with any treatment, and the important thing, “conventional treatments are subjected to testing for undesired side-effects, whereas alternative treatments generally are not subjected to such testing at all… Attempts to refute this fact with regard to alternative treatments sometimes use the appeal to nature fallacy, i.e. ‘that which is natural cannot be harmful’.”

July 11, 2009 at 12:45 pm
(23) Zayla says:

I have known a number of people who make all sorts of claims about diet related health fixes and herbs and crap like that.

Though I do believe there is a place in our medical community for some well placed supplements, not to mention an obvious sensible diet, the claims from the lunatics about the conspiracy theories and throw all your medicines away and drugs are the problems, etc., and just that, lunatics.

I have Epilepsy and MS and a depressive disorder that is caused from the two different kinds of lesions on the brain. You be amazed at the “advice” I continually get.

If the electron patter in the brain becomes interrupted, for reasons that the best neurologists and brain experts don’t fully understand, I do into a Gran-Mal seizure, PERIOD. The medications I take are the only thing that prevent that. Without them I would have been dead a long time ago. With them I’ve still had at least a 100 seizures.

The MS cannot be stopped. It can be affected by a good diet, the lesions can be slowed down by the injections I take, but the bottom line is it will continue to get worse until they figure out why it affects the brain and nervous system like it does. Until they do, it will continue to affect my eyesight, legs, fatigue, pain and other VERY important aspects of what use to be my life.

Big thanks to George Moron Bush for the pointless halting of Stem Cell research which will benefits millions, including MS patients, maybe not in my life, but others who don’t have to go through this.

Lastly, there is nothing I can do about the depressive/psychiatric issues. Doctors in the best hospitals in NYC have told me they are there from the complications of the two diseases and they aren’t going away either.

So, the moral to the story? I take 12 meds a day, some for the side affects of the others medications but the bottom line, without them, I don’t get to live.

July 15, 2009 at 8:30 am
(24) Marc says:

Obviously pandamonk is talking through his/her hat, and is not in the field. Research studies cost million of dollars which no for profit company is going to pay for when I can grow it in my backyard. Do you not grasp this concept?
“It just happens that most alternative treatments don’t make it past the first few stages.” Name one.
This is not to say beneficial pharmaceuticals do not exist as in Zayla’s case. However, do not attempt to refute the efficacy of herbal treatment based on your “no trials have been done” theory!
Post #24 – You really cannot expect anyone to understand what you just said do you? Google translator is not very accurate!

July 16, 2009 at 4:58 pm
(25) Marc says:

Ooops, I guess Austin pulled post# 24 – Good call Austin! :-)

July 27, 2009 at 6:03 am
(26) dd says:

Zayla says:
“I have known a number of people who make all sorts of claims about diet related health fixes and herbs and crap like that.”
“The MS cannot be stopped. It can be affected by a good diet,”

These two statements contradict each other. If you don’t believe in diet related heath crap then you should not say “it can be affected by a good diet”…

“No matter what, you can grow it, bottle it and sell it for profit, regardless of anyone else’s ability to do the same.”

Some things can’t be done for profit. Here we have two different ways of looking at things. 1) The western standard medicine “Discrete” view of the world. Where every thing is dissected into its constituent parts until you arrive at the single medicinal molecule that can be patented, manufactured and sold at a profit. An analogy of this view would be like ‘India was invaded by the huns, the islamers and the british’ you are talking about specific instances of invasion, they do not cover invasions of the future. 2) The second way is the eastern “Wholistic” view of the world, here you look at the whole of the body how is your digestive system affecting your brain, how a bad liver is touching your heart, you don’t just look at the brain or the heart or the organ that is suffering, you look at the body as a whole and try to put it back in balance, such a view cannot be done wholesale each individual person must be examined and the treatment arrived thereon, it can’t be patented and manufactured and sold and profited immensely from. An analogy of this view would be ‘India can be invaded by land, by sea or from the air’, such a view covers even future invasions.

The western view is very very good for treating and eradicating specific diseases like small pox, aids, etc etc. because these can be targeted specifically.

The eastern view is very good for the overall health of the body.

Both views are important for mankind. Labeling the eastern ‘wholistic’ view as anti-atheistic is taking in too much territory for atheism and is foolish.

July 27, 2009 at 6:48 am
(27) Austin Cline says:

These two statements contradict each other.

No, they don’t. Death cannot be stopped, but how fast or slow it occurs can be affected by diet.

Labeling the eastern ‘wholistic’ view as anti-atheistic is taking in too much territory for atheism and is foolish.

True, being an atheist doesn’t preclude believing irrational nonsense. But who has claimed otherwise here?

September 15, 2009 at 12:16 am
(28) DR.B.R.AGRAWAL says:


February 21, 2013 at 5:22 pm
(29) Ned B. says:

I clicked the ‘yes, some of it works for me’ button as I have used the Feldenkrais Method (uses directed slow gentle movement to learn new movement patterns) for things like back pain and all the stupid things I did in my youth catching up with me 30 years later. It does help me with this kind of thing. I wouldn’t use it to try to treat cancer if I had it (though I might use it to get more comfort with the symptoms) or other obviously unrelated things. I’m not sure if this really counts as alternative though, although there are a lot of ‘new age’ folks who are into it. It doesn’t posit silly things like the healing energy of the universe or spiritual force, merely that it is a fairly systematic way of learning to move better. As for crystals, homeopathy, most herbal remedies, etc., there seems to be no reason to think those work as they are claimed to.

February 23, 2013 at 9:40 am
(30) Borsia says:

I put yes for one reason.
I was a heavy smoker for 10 years, up to 3 packs a day.
A friend went to an acupuncturist to quit and did in 1 afternoon with no apparent cravings afterward. He pestered me endlessly to go and kick the habit. I finally told him that if he still wasn’t smoking after 8 weeks I would go, I never thought he would last 2 weeks let alone 8.
Well; he stopped pestering me and didn’t say a word until the day he came up and handed me a business card with an appointment date already written down.
Being a man of my word I left work early that Friday and went to the Kendal Acupuncture Clinic.
I didn’t think there was a chance in hell that it would work. I was sure it was pure BS and a waste of my time and $80. I sat in the parking lot smoking until my appointment time.
Dr. Kendal called me in and asked why I had come, I told him to stop smoking. He said OK and directed me to the treatment room.
There was no big speech about the evils of smoking or anything else.
He put 14 needle’s in the upper 1/2 of my body and hooked electric wires to them. He asked me to tell him when I could feel a tapping on the needle’s then he left the room for 30 minutes. After that he did the same on the lower 1/2.
That was in 1982 and I never smoked or had even the slightest craving to smoke again.
Between us we sent over 20 other people to the clinic and all quit save 1 who never even tried and started smoking the same night.

February 23, 2013 at 12:44 pm
(31) Gerald Vanderhoff says:

There really is no such thing as “alternative medicine”. If it worked, it would be medicine. What doesn’t work is rubbish.

February 26, 2013 at 4:04 am
(32) James says:

If medicine is scientifically proven to work and supported by masses of evidence, it may be new and different, but it’s no longer ‘alternative’. The only reason to identify it as ‘alternative’ is to acknowledge the fact it doesn’t work. The minute it is shown to work, we call it ‘the cure’.

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