You may not like it, but we do seem to live in the age of the ‘alternative truth’. It might necessitate reconsidering some of our definitions. A lie, for instance, was formerly defined as making an untrue statement with intent to deceive. Does that definition need to be revised in the age of the ‘alternative truth’?
Laura Kuenssberg, the political editor of the BBC, seems to think so. She recently published an interesting new definition of a lie: “… outright lying … is relatively rare. It is too easily found out. Only one senior politician still in the game has ever privately told me something that was utterly, entirely, and completely untrue.” She wrote this in an article about our PM, Boris Johnson who, by old standards, would probably qualify as a habitual liar. And as the BBC political editor cannot easily call him that, she conveniently moved the goal post and defined a lie to be something “utterly, entirely, and completely untrue”.
So, here we have it, the age of alternative truths has redefined the lie!
But I am not starting to write political rants – tempting though it often is – there is enough to rant about in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). The questions I asked myself are these: how does SCAM measure up to the new Kuenssberg definition, and how gullible have we become?
Let’s play a little game to find out, shall we?
I provide 10 statements commonly used by the SCAM fraternity, and I ask you to consider which of them is “utterly, entirely, and completely untrue”.
- Chiropractic manipulations have been proven to do more good than harm.
- Acupuncture is effective for chronic pain.
- Homeopathy is supported by sound evidence.
- Homeopathic remedies act as nano-particles.
- Natural means safe.
- Integrative medicine is in the best interest of patients.
- Chiropractic subluxations do exist.
- Detox is a concept that makes sense.
- SCAM practitioners treat the root causes of disease.
- SCAM is cost-effective.
Next, please count the number of statements that are “utterly, entirely, and completely untrue”. This will give you a figure between 0 and 10. I propose that it can be used as a measure of gullibility.
I suggest the following grading:
- 10 – 8 = not gullible
- 7 – 5 = gullible
- 4 – 2 = very gullible
- 1 – 0 = dangerously gullible.
And here you have the ‘Edzard Ernst measure of gullibility’!