A Society for a community of like-minded individuals, both in and out of health care, who support the goals of Science-Based Medicine.  

The mission of the Society for Science-Based Medicine includes, but is not limited to,

  1. Educating consumers, professionals, business people, legislators, law enforcement personnel, organizations and agencies about Science-Based Medicine.
  2. Providing resources and information concerning all aspects of Science-Based Medicine.
  3. Providing a central resource for communication between individuals and organizations concerned about Science-Based Medicine.
  4. Supporting sound consumer health laws for the practice of Science-Based Medicine and opposing legislation that undermines Science-Based Medicine.
  5. Encouraging and aiding legal actions in support of the practice of Science-Based Medicine.

To accomplish this mission we will become a repository for educational outreach, the specifics of which can be found on the Goals page.

Why another organization? Why a Society for Science-Based Medicine?

A problem with Science-Based Medicine (SBM) is what we support often manifests in what we oppose: those medical practices that are not based in science and reality.  Those who promote Supplements, Complementary and Alternative pseudo-Medicine are well organized and well funded:  There are organizations for every conceivable Complementary and Alternative pseudo-Medicine, dozens upon dozens of them.  

In contrast there are almost no organizations devoted promoting Science-Based Medicine.  There is the Institute for Science in Medicine, an excellent policy group, and in Australia the Friends of Science in Medicine.

That is it.

In the US there are the two organizations, CFI and the JREF, both of which address issues related to SBM but as a small component of their overall mission.

This lack is due in part to the expertise it requires to critically address issues related to Complementary and Alternative pseudo-Medicine.  If you have not spent a life immersed in medicine and the medical literature,  it is more difficult to critique a study on the efficacy of acupuncture or understand why antineoplastons are not an effective therapy for cancer.

And yet.

Medicine is a team sport.  Medicine cannot be practiced well by the lone provider. You need all the other medical and nonmedical colleagues. There are many who contribute to the care of patients.  The Society for Science-Based Medicine will be no different.  We will all get ill, we will all decline, and we will all die. We all need to participate in, and understand the complex issues around, medical care, both science-based and fantasy based.

We need to do it together. 

Health care providers and skeptics are notoriously difficult to organize.  We pay for our lack of organization.  Little voice in the political process, little recognition, and few resources to advocate for change.  Scattered bloggers, however eloquent, will not have the impact of even a small but organized and modestly funded organization.

Organization leads to the power to change the status quo, and in part due to well funded organizations, as well documented in the Bravewell report,  Complementary and Alternative pseudo-Medicine are becoming part the the status quo.  Organization results in a larger voice and money.  And, unfortunately, money is superior to a pure heart and good intentions for accomplishing goals.

The issues related to science-based medicine need a larger voice and more prominent position since there no areas of pseudo-science that result in as much daily morbidity, mortality and expense as the use of Complementary and Alternative pseudo-Medicine.

No one routinely declares bankruptcy over issues related UFO’s or dies because of Big Foot or has chronic disability from ghost hunting. Complementary and Alternative pseudo-Medicine routinely kill, damage, and financially exhaust patients and their families.

Complementary and Alternative pseudo-Medicine are a minor issue for main stream medical organizations who lack that interest and expertise to oppose them.  Most in the medical world shrug their shoulders when it comes to Complementary and Alternative pseudo-Medicine.  As the Bravewell Collaborative demonstrates, when busy people shrug their shoulders, medical nonsense insinuates itself into otherwise excellent medical schools and hospitals.

What we are for, our guiding principles, were summed up by Steven Novella, slightly modified: 

Respect for knowledge and truth – SBM values reality and what is true. We therefore endeavor to be as reality-based as possible in our beliefs and opinions. This means subjecting all claims to a valid process of evaluation.

Methodological Naturalism – SBM believes that the world is knowable because it follows certain rules, or laws of nature. The only legitimate methods for knowing anything empirical about the universe follows this naturalistic assumption. In other words – within the realm of the empirical, you don’t get to invoke magic or the supernatural.

Promotion of Science - Science is the only set of methods for investigating and understanding the natural world. Science is therefore a powerful tool, and one of the best developments of human civilization.  We therefore endeavor to promote the role of science in our society, public understanding of the findings and methods of science, and high quality science education. This includes protecting the integrity of science and education from ideological intrusion or anti-scientific attacks. This also includes promoting high quality science, which requires examining the process, culture, and institutions of science for flaws, biases, weaknesses, and fraud.

Promotion of Reason and Critical Thinking – Science works hand-in-hand with logic and philosophy, and therefore SBM also promotes understanding of these fields and the promotion of critical thinking skills.

Science vs Pseudo-science – SBM seeks to identify and elucidate the borders between legitimate science and pseudo-science, to expose pseudo-science for what it is, and to promote knowledge of how to tell the difference.

Ideological Freedom/Free Inquiry – Science and reason can only flourish in a secular society in which no ideology (religious or otherwise) is imposed upon individuals or the process of science or free inquiry.

Neuropsychological Humility – Being a functional SBM proponent requires knowledge of all the various ways in which we deceive ourselves, the limits and flaws in human perception and memory, the inherent biases and fallacies in cognition, and the methods that can help mitigate all these flaws and biases.

Consumer Protection – SBM endeavors to protect themselves and others from fraud and deception by exposing fraud and educating the public and policy-makers to recognize deceptive or misleading claims or practices.

What we oppose is  summarized in Dr. Mehmet Oz’s pronouncement:

“Medicine is a very religious experience. I have my religion and you have yours. It becomes difficult for us to agree on what we think works, since so much of it is in the eye of the beholder. Data is rarely clean. You find the arguments that support your data, and it’s my fact versus your fact.”

Dr. Oz is wrong. We have a way of determining what works: the methods of science.  Like all tools it is only as effective as the person wielding it.

So welcome to the Society for Science-Based Medicine.  Those who agree with the concept that the best medical care should be based on reality and science need a voice and an organization for everyone.

An educational organization devoted to understanding and education, 'exploring issues and controversies in the relationship between science and medicine'.

Welcome.

Mark Crislip MD

2/8/2013