November 27th, 2009


Comment of the Week... Month...?

It seems like I'm going to have to start commenting on comments here, because commenting on them in the original post just doesn't seem to be working, and because some days I just need something to talk about. :) Got a real doozy of one to get us started. It can be found here. This one will take a lot to unravel. So much nonsense in such a small space...

Dear God (aka "all knowing entity" aka inafoxhole),...

I think this commenter was trying for sarcasm, but he just comes across to me as being stupid. Is God an atheist? Or maybe a better question, can god believe in himself and count that as believing in god, or does he have to believe in a higher power than himself? While I am sometimes accused of being all-knowing, I certainly don't profess to be. There are plenty of things that I don't profess to know a lot about. Economics, art appreciation, British sports... And I still don't understand how my concern about my aunt trying to cure her cancer with juice gets translated into "I know everything". appear to be under the impression that science is infallible and that you knowledge of the former is all-encompassing. The models currently favored by the majority of scientists are imperfect, and so, by definition, are the conclusions we derive from them. If the science of medicine was perfect there would not be any side effects for any medicine and all illnesses would be curable. So in a perfect world I would do as my doctor says.

This is where it gets rich. I challenge anyone to read my entire blog and find one place where I said that science knew everything, or that science was perfect, or any of these other absurd claims. Only religion makes such claims. Science never does, and I have certainly not put more faith in science than it deserves.

However imperfect science may be, it is still the best option we have. All the easy answers have been discovered. What is left is found through hard, meticulous, careful work. Randomly making shit up, or following logical fallacies like post hoc, ergo propter hoc (it occurs after it, and therefore because of it) is essentially leaving yourself victim to random chance. The idea that you will randomly stumble upon a solution to your problem, an instant cure-all, while possible, is about as close to zero as you can get short of actually being zero; smaller even than the chance that you will win the PowerBall lottery if you only bought one ticket in your entire life. Science does not have to be perfect to increase those odds considerably. It was not alt med that turned cancer from being an instant death sentence into a condition that many people can treat and recover from. It was not alt med that saves the lives of accident victims everyday. It is science. Science is a vast improvement over what was before, and anything that there is to replace it. I can justifiably say that those who reject all of science in favour of quackery are fools and are far more likely to meet an early grave than I am from lacking health insurance.

I am also a bit astounded by this notion that side effects are generally so terrible that doctors must be avoided because the medicines they give to treat disease contain them. There is a medication I'm on right now that affects my balance. It's not great. Standing on one leg is a problem. Shifting my weight rapidly is another. At least we were able to stop me from walking into doorway frames like I did when I first started it. I certainly don't like it, but the fact is, the alternative would be far worse. The disease treated by this medication is degenerative, and would only get worse over time if left unchecked. So my choices are really balance issues but I might get to live to a ripe old age, and maintain my independence...or I can try reiki or some other fake cure and have to move back in with my parents because I couldn't take care of myself anymore. It's not really a choice. No more a choice than if you have cancer you can choose between drinking juice and hoping that you will be that one in ten million chance that the surgeon didn't leave behind a single cancer cell and maybe you will live, versus putting up with the chemo for a while. Sure it sucks, but your chances of surviving early stage cancer are rather significant for most types of cancer, certainly far better than drinking just juice. To believe otherwise is to deny reality, or to have been deceived by a charlatan.

In one of you previous posts you told us you did not think the pharma industry was corrupt. If you actually believe that, you not only fail at critical thinking, you don't even mange to pay attention. The pharma industry is a $643 billion industry with a 17% return on their revenues. Their income depends on people being sick! Let me repeat that (you need it). Their income depends on people being sick!!! Do you honestly think that our health is their goal? Just take a look at the people calling the shots at the FDA. Not few of them had been working in executive positions at the largest pharmaceutical companies (Pfizer et al.).

I never said that Big Pharma was to be trusted, but it is not corrupt in the way that the original poster (to whom the comment this guy refers to was made) intended it. Big Pharma does not make a profit on making people sick. Indeed, they make a profit on making people well. The more effective their drugs are at doing that, the more of the market share they gather. Problems with the drug industry relate to that it is a business (albeit, a regulated one). Business wants to make a profit; their goal is not to harm people because there is no profit in it. All you did is one company decide to actually cure people, and everyone will have to make a try at it. Our health is not their primary goal, no; their primary goal is short-term profit. That is why they would not be so corrupt as to conceal cures from the public once they find them, because there is no profit in doing so. They will not be able to conceal them for long, so they will try to get them to market as quickly as they can to gobble up the market for that product, lest some employee decide to give it away for free, or set up their own company to profit from it. Yes, one can argue about the business model, and why they are allowed to make so much profit, and the ethics of the market factors that drive which diseases they will research, and their pricing structure... but all of these are the same issues that effect any for-profit business. They are predictable, and as such, can be largely regulated into the same kind of semi-innocuous and occasionally beneficial entity as most other enterprises. Occasionally, they will lie and abuse the system to rush a drug to market that is not sufficiently tested, has serious side effects, etc., but that can't be done often, or they will get sued into oblivion. And the current speed with which drugs come to the market in the US is still slower than in most countries around the world, and was speeded up in the light of the AIDS crisis. Adjusting the regulations can again make them more effective, and prevent some of those issues, but at the same cost of a slower pace that we saw before the 80's.

I should also point out, since this commenter obviously needs it spelled out for him, that people will get sick regardless of whether Big Pharma exists or not. Even if they released drugs without side effects, people would still get sick. It is up to other industries, like fitness centers (and frankly, ourselves), to steal market share from Big Pharma and keeping people from getting so sick, so often, in the first place. Unless he is suggesting that their research budget goes to creating illnesses that they can later try to cure...which is nothing short of paranoid.

As for the FDA, under Bush, most of the government was snatched from industry to regulate industry. This was a systemic problem across the entire government, but the scale of it one that was new to our just-past President. No one before had ever been so blatant about it. And yet still under Bush, good people resigned from the FDA and other organizations to protest the over-politicization, and pro-business stances of the other board members to draw attention to the problem. Under most Presidents, not so much in the pocket of business, the FDA is run by scientists who are looking out more for effectiveness and safety, for us, rather than for "Big Pharma masters". And if Congress wishes to make this even more true, they can add additional regulation, or, as before, increase the requirements necessary for drugs to go to market.

But without the FDA, there would be no regulation at all, and they would be essentially in the hands of the alt med crowd, whose treatments are not regulated by the FDA for safety or effectivess. Juice is a food, so no one needs to prove it cures cancer in order to market it that way. The drug companies really would be our enemies, even more so than now, if they could peddle every elixir under the sun as a cure-all as those outside the medical establishment do now. They are doing no one any favours. He thinks Big Pharma is bad? He just doesn't want to admit that they are actually a shade of grey, and that alt med is the really feel-good guy well and truly on the dark side populated by crackpots who will let us die on false hope and still our money while they do it.

I'm gonna stop spelling it out for you at this point, since your mind is made up, and you seem to be too scared to even consider anything outside of your current view of the world (aka dogmatism).

I find it amazing how I'm the one always being accused of being "dogmatic". Show me the proof this alt med stuff works in a controlled clinic trial and I will be happy to embrace it (although, it would become part of the medical establishment then and h'd probably reject it). Until then, I see no reason to come to any other conclusion. Scared? I am scared for my aunt drinking herself to death on juice while cancer spreads through her body until it's too late. Scared? Amazing. Why do some many people project their own fears on me?