One of the biggest danger of SCAM, in my view, is the fact that SCAM-practitioners all too often advise their patients to forego effective conventional medicine. This probably applies to most medicines, but is best-researched for immunisations. A recent article puts it clearly:
… negative attitudes towards vaccines reflect a broader and deeper set of beliefs about health and wellbeing… this alternative worldview is influenced by ontological confusions (e.g. regarding purity, natural energy), and knowledge based on personal lived experience and trusted peers, rather than the positivist epistemological framework. [This] view is supported by recent social-psychological research, including strong correlations of vaccine scepticism with adherence to complementary and alternative medicine, magical health beliefs, and conspiracy ideation. For certain well-educated and well-resourced individuals, opposition to vaccines represents an expression of personal intuition and agency, in achieving a positive and life-affirming approach to health and wellbeing. These core beliefs are not amenable to change – and especially resistant to communications from orthodox, authoritative sources.
The authors concluded suggesting that a better long-term strategy is to combine with other disciplines in order to address the root causes of vaccine scepticism. Vaccine scepticism is unlikely to thrive in a cultural context that trusts and values the scientific consensus.
If I understand them correctly, the authors believe it is necessary to change the societal attitude to science.
I am sure they are correct.
We live in a time when anyone’s opinion is deemed as valuable as the next person’s. Pseudo-experts who have their knowledge from a couple of google searches are being considered as trustworthy as the true experts who have the background, knowledge and experience to issue responsible advice. Science is viewed by many as just another way of knowing, or even as the new cult or religion that must be viewed with suspicion.
It is clear that these are deplorable developments. But how to stop them?
This is where it gets complex.
One is tempted to lay the blame at the door of our politicians. Why do we tolerate the fact that so many of them have not the slightest inkling about science?
But hold on, WE elected them!
Because large sections of the public are ignorant too.
So, one must start much earlier. We need better science education, and that has to begin in the first year of schooling! We need evening classes in critical thinking. We need adult science courses for politicians.
But this is not going to happen, because our politicians fail to see the importance of such measures (and, of course, they might feel that an uneducated public is easier to govern than an educated one).
How to break this vicious circle?
It is clear from these simple (and simplistic) reflections that a multifactorial approach is required. And it is clear that it ought to be a strategy that prevents standards in the most general terms from slipping ever lower. But how?
I wish I knew!!!