A couple of thoughts on some of the comments:
1. Craigmont: "Between the testable and the untestable; between science and woo; there can be no middle ground. You're going to have to pick a side."Really? There is no middle ground? I have to choose a side? Really? I am pretty sure that this is how we advance a discussion or knowledge. Seems to me that this is a good way to get elected to office these days, as well as sell news. But does it really get us to a better, more advanced place? I think not.
2. Timm: "You may not have meant the term "allopathic medicine as derogatory, but that is indeed, what it is. It is a slight, a slur, a marginalization.Many people these days recognize what it refers to and do not (as you) intend it as a slur, but it remains a belittling term."OK, Timm, the point is clear, even though there is nothing that seems to suggest its derogatory nature other than who coined it. This notwithstanding, I am perfectly happy to respect your experience of the word and not use it in any way. But here is what I need from you: 1). Please, tell me what term you would like me to apply to Western medicine that differentiates it from other? and 2). Do you think that "woo" is a respectful way to refer to the other side? Or perhaps you think that "those people" do not deserve your respect, so it is OK to use derogatory shorthand. Either way, if we are interested in advancing the issue in some direction, there has to be a civil conversation between the opposing sides. So, I would suggest that we aim for that, and the way to start is to stop calling each other names, knowingly or not, as you pointed out.
3. Liz Ditz: "To me, high uptake rates for all vaccine-preventable illnesses, including those you characterize as minor (varicella or chicken pox) are a social justice issue. The social and economic costs burden of vaccine-preventable diseases falls disproportionately on those least able to pay for them: the poor and the working poor."Liz, can you please say more about what you mean? I think that I understand, but want to be sure that we are talking about the same thing. Thanks.
4. Ian Monroe: "They are constantly talking about what a complicated process science is. And it is a process, not an answer. Of course the media is pretty much a four-letter word on their blog."Yes, Ian, and I am constantly talking about it on my blog as well. And to me, even though I share similar understanding of evidence as the SBM group, my conclusions are different. And they are not only my conclusions. And this is why it is important to have this conversation: in science, as in anything else, you can look at the same data, and walk away with very different lessons. This is why I advocate an open-minded conversation between the opposing sides, rather than just throwing grenades at each other across an imaginary separating line.
5. Calli Arcale: "Homeopathy, in the traditional sense, should be harmless except insofar as it causes people to delay effective treatment. However, what is sold today is not strictly homeopathy in the traditional sense."Dear Calli, can you show me a study or a body of evidence that indicates the presence of a delay, the magnitude of that delay and the real consequences of it (i.e., morbidity and mortality)? Something that can be specifically attributed to it, rather than the patient's own reluctance to present to a physician for a work-up? In other words, I am interested in the attributable outcomes of what you are referring to. As for your second point (and this was brought up by several commenters), can someone tell me how the mechanism of recalling the harmful stuff from the market is different from these preparations than it is for conventional pharmaceuticals? Thanks.
6. Opit: "Sorry. You've lost."Really? Somehow I do not feel like I've lost. Somehow I feel like I've won. The discussion is enriched, the tone is more constructive, and we are actually getting to the issues. Contrary to our political discourse, this is not a zero sum game. My aim is not to walk away with the same opinions that I started out with or making the chasm between us more prominent. My desire is to understand the issues better and to have a respectful conversation about stuff that we feel is important. So, while I thank you for your strategic advice, I will not be following it.
7. moderation: "As to the varicella vaccine, I think you have fallen victim to 'I have not seen it, so it must not exist' syndrome."Dear moderation, while it seems to be the habit to draw inferences about people in the conversations that I have seen in other blogs, I would prefer it if you did not do so here. Most of the time, as I try to teach to my students, these inferences will be incorrect. I think we should stick to the arguments that have been made, and if you want to extend it to inquiring as to whether or not I have fallen victim to denying the invisible (in this case a bad thing), please, inquire away first. Now you have to go back and come up with a different hypothesis, alas. And if you sense a little bit of snideness in my remark, please, forgive me this transgression, as I am so wary of people assigning labels to others based on what they want to see only and not in what is really there.
8. Orac: "Ah, yes, the 'just asking questions' gambit."Really? Come on! You don't mean that asking questions is anti-science, do you?
I am grateful to see that Dr. Novella has posted a response to my response. His response seems measured and inviting to a respectful discussion, and I particularly appreciate that. I will take the time later to address some of his points further in a different post. In the meantime, let the discussion continue. I would love the answers to my questions above, so that I can get educated further on these issues.
As ever, thanks!