Some time ago, I published ‘The 10 commandments of quackery’. Since then, I discovered that there are several errors that occur with such regularity in the comment section of this blog as well as in most other discussions about so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), that – in the hope to improve the logical reasoning of my readers (and often times my own) – it seems timely to publish the
10 ‘commandments’ of rational thought
- Thou shalt not confuse popularity of a therapy with its efficacy or safety (appeal to popularity).
- Thou shalt not assume that the test of time is a valid substitute for evidence (appeal to tradition).
- Thou shalt not believe that natural therapies are necessarily harmless (appeal to nature).
- Thou shalt not think that those who question your claim need to prove that you are wrong (reversal of the burden of proof).
- Thou shalt not assume that a therapy administered before a symptomatic improvement was necessarily the cause of that outcome (post hoc ergo propter hoc).
- Thou shalt not suppose that, because you do not know or understand an issue, it cannot be true (appeal to ignorance).
- Thou shalt not misrepresent your opponent’s position in order to make it easier for you to defeat it (straw man fallacy).
- Thou shalt not argue that, because others do wrong, you are permitted to do the same (tu quoque fallacy).
- Thou shalt not assume that your argument is correct because some authority agrees with you (appeal to authority).
- Thou shalt not attack your opponents instead of their arguments (ad hominem).
Yes, I know, one could add a lot more. But these 10 ‘commandments’ relate to the errors in rational thought that I feel would, if taken on board, be most useful in our discussions about SCAM.
I couldn’t agree more. SCAM is merely a symptom of failing in rational (critical) thinking. In other words we have been treating the symptoms rather than the disease!
Here is one you, Edzard, and all your fellow CON-med lovers can take to heart.
Thou shalt not assume that evidence you like (e.g. extremely large placebo controlled double blind trials) is the only valid evidence.
nobody does, Roger!
but for testing the efficacy of therapies, RCTs are pretty dam good.
if you disagree, name a method that is superior, please.
thank you for confirming by your silence that you know of nothing better.
don’t hold your breath!