Cancerfighter’s Weblog

Alternative cancer therapies and ideas

If herbs worked someone would have proved it – right? Umm…actually…no

Posted by Jonathan Chamberlain on April 7, 2014


If herbs worked someone would have proved it – right? Umm…actually…no

“If these things DID work why aren’t they producing the science papers to prove it?

This is a question straight from the heart, it’s a question that is fundamentally right. It should be asked and it should be answered. Unfortunately it is a question that ignores the rules of the game.

First of all who is ‘they’? Who should be producing the papers? You might answer ‘people who believe this stuff’. OK. I believe this stuff (or a lot of it) but when I put my hands in my pocket I don’t find the money needed. When I look in the mirror I don’t see someone with a PhD attached to a prestigious research facility.

OK. So, this ‘they’ maybe should be the cancer charities. They are the people who should be doing this research. But, again, cancer charities actually don’t actually do any research themselves. They give the money (or part thereof) to universities and research facilities in response to applications for research funding.

OK So now we have to ask the universities why they are not looking into these things…and so it goes.

If you follow this line to the end you will get very knotted.

We must also understand the difference between ‘evidence’ and ‘proof’ – people switch these words around a lot, sometimes to pretend one is the other. So if you want proof then you are going to need $500,000,000 in your pocket, the backing of a company or university and approval from government agencies.

So how are you going to recoup this money? By selling something that ‘works’, that is ‘proven’ – which means it has to be patented, which means that it has to be artificial and man made, which means it can’t be natural. Also it has to be simple and single (i.e.a molecule) not complex and multiple, like the combined chemicals in any leaf of any plant in the world.

So, according to the rules of the game it is actually impossible to get proof.

And there are many other problems with research (see Goldacre’s Bad Pharma).

So we have to be very careful about assuming herbs and supplements don’t work.

Most scientific fundamentalists dismiss anecdotal evidence. I see them as shining examples of what’s really true. That is where we differ.

We also differ in assuming the discussion is about TRUTH. For me the discussion is always about making a decision – and the choice I am faced with can either be supported by a fact (that may be the result of fraudulent science) or a personal example standing in front of me. I know which way I will go when the time comes. In a world where nothing is certain any decision you make is a gamble. There it is. Scientific fundamentalists think their ‘facts’ are islands of certainty. They are not. My anecdotal cases are not islands of certainty. They are indications of possibility.

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