Hanlon's Razor

Hanlon's Razor

I have no idea why people use pseudo-medicines. Well, I can understand why a particular person may use a given pseudo-medicine, but I find the surveys unsatisfying. There are probably as many motivations for using pseudo-medicines as they are people using them.

I empathize. To be human is to be susceptible to all the cognitive biases that make pseudo-medicine attractive.

I am sure those reading this have, at some time in their past, succumbed to the allure of one unsubstantiated or unfounded idea or another. Mine was Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Daniken back in high school. I was quite enamored of the concept that we were once visited by aliens, not a surprise for a sci-fi addict. It was discovering critical information in the Zetetic all those many years ago that sent me down the critical thinking path.

​Knowing and living both the strengths and weaknesses of modern medicine also gives me an understanding as to why people may turn to pseudo-medicine. The longer I am a doctor and a proponent of science-based medicine, the more I am aware that people do the darndest things with not only health care, but all aspects of their lives. People will admit to their physicians things they may only tell their priest.

But one aspect of pseudo-medicine I cannot wrap my head around is the conspiratorial themes that run through much of the criticism of medicine and used as a justification of using pseudo-medicine. Sure, pharmaceutical companies can be venal as can the occasional doctor. But the characterization of doctors as motivated by greed and paid off by big pharma to perpetuate illness for profit is completely at odds with the reality I know. It is, for example, a standard reason for why vaccines are supported. Not that they prevent disease, but because there is a ginormous conspiracy to push vaccines solely fro profit. I know such an attitude exists, but, like thinking the moon landing was a fake, is so alien to my understanding of the world I cannot begin to comprehend the attitude.

I ran across an odd article, Do Schizophrenics Live in Parallel Universes? that showed up in one of my Zite streams and I was reminded of conspiracy buffs in the pseudo-medicine world. No, I do not think they are insane. And no, I do not think they really live in a parallel universe. Metaphor anyone? But that is how odd that conspiracy proponents are to me, like a universe without shrimp.

But I naturally tend towards Hanlon’s razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.  It seems to fit the data better.

Points of Interest: 1/20/2014
First Principles

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