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Cloves and toothache
Posted: 08 March 2012 12:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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George - 08 March 2012 11:29 AM
StephenLawrence - 08 March 2012 11:04 AM

I could switch the pain on by drinking a hot drink and switch it off with a clove.

Or maybe by the time you applied the clove the effect of the hot drink was already disappearing anyway. You can never be sure.

My claim is I was sure enough to know.

Stephen

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Posted: 08 March 2012 12:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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mckenzievmd - 08 March 2012 11:55 AM

I could switch the pain on by drinking a hot drink and switch it off with a clove. I really do think I knew I was doing that and it’s because some correlations are more definately cause and effect relationships than others.

The problem is that “less definate cases” don’t seem any less definite to those who have experienced them.

Nevertheless they are.

I am constantly bombarded by anecdotes that illustrate apparent cause/effect reelationships no less clear or immediate than yours but relating to prayer or energy healing or any number of other methods that can only be truly effective if the core principles of established science are wrong. The immediancy and replicability of the experience reinforces your sense of certainty about the meaning of the experience, but it actually does little to improve the accuracy of the conclusion.

Why?

Confounders, information bias, placebo effects, and lots of other factors make even such obvious cases less reliable than they feel.

Do you have an example?

The epistemologicaly appropriate response to such an experience is to view it as suggestive of a cause/effect relationship worth investigating in a more rigorous way. In the absence of such rigorous controlled evidence, the kind of replication of exerience you describe is a useful heuristic, and I don’t claim we should never use such experiences to guide our behavior or actions. However, the number of cases in which our conclusiions based on such experiences turn out to be wrong is enormous, and I think that justifies more skepticism and less certainty about their meaning.

So you think I didn’t know the cloves worked? I didn’t know that water relieved the pain? And I didn’t know that hot tea and coffee brought it on?

I think I knew all three.

Stephen

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Posted: 08 March 2012 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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The problem is that “less definate cases” don’t seem any less definite to those who have experienced them.

Nevertheless they are.

What, apart from the compelling nature of first-person experience, makes you say so? My point was that other people feel just as sure as you do that their experiences represent true cause/effect relationships even when scienctific evidence shows they cannot. You are responding to this by simply reasserting that you are right and they are wrong. What would be the evidence for that? Why is your experience different from those who rise from their wheelchairs at revival meetings?

On the the issue of certainty, you might have a look at On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not by Robert Burton. There’s a pretty strong case to be made that the sense of certainty we feel about our knowledge is generated independantly of the accuracy or reliability of our knowledge. Studies of eyewitnesses to staged events, for example, find know correlation between their degree of certainty and the accuracy of their recall (though their degree of certainty DID correlate with how likley others were to believe their accounts). So being sure isn’t itself evidence for the truth of a proposition.

As for why immediacy doesn’t strengthen the hypothesis of cause and ffect much, one reason is that the short time frame doesn’t eliminate the post hoc ergo propter hoc problem. While causes preceed effects by definition, one event preceding another is not itself sufficient evidence to assume the first causes the second. And the fact that you cannot readily think up other possible causes for the reduction in pain doesn’t mean the hypothesis you have is the right or only answer. Placebo effects, in particular, can work immediately and are especially relevant whent he outcome measure is purely subjective, such as pain. Peoplke believe doing something might help, and when they do something they perceive the change they expect, regardless of whether the agent actually does anything. That’s one major reason why placebo controls are used in clinical trials, and why they so successfully identify therapies which appear to work nut really don’t. 


Of course, the issue then arises that if you think your pain is better, since it is purely subjective anyway, it really is better regardless of whether any effect other than your belief is identifiable. That’s true to a point, but it doesn’t solve the problem of having concluded, on the basis of the experience, that the intervention is likley to be effective for you in the future or for others. Interventions validated by scientific testing are consistently, predictably effective, whereas interventions believed to work based on individual subjective experiences are not, suggesting that the accuracy of the subjective evidence is low and that the apparent effects may be due to factors other than a specific action of the intervention.

Counter irritant mechanisms are another possible explanation besides the one you have chosen. One can be distracted from one sensation by a competing sensation, so the taste or other sensory effects of clove in your mouth can reduce your attention to your pain while not diminishing any measurable physiological factor associated with it. Next time you have an itchy mosquito bite, try hitting your thumb with a hammer. I promise you, it doesn’t alter your mosquito bit one bit, but you won’t notice it for a while!

There are plenty alternative explanations besides the clove altered your physiology in a way that relieved your pain, but the point is that you seem to hold a confidence in your conclusions based on your experience which the study of human psychology and the history of medicine suggest is unjustified.

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Posted: 09 March 2012 01:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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mckenzievmd - 08 March 2012 03:33 PM

The problem is that “less definate cases” don’t seem any less definite to those who have experienced them.

Nevertheless they are.

What, apart from the compelling nature of first-person experience, makes you say so?

Say I take red paint and put it on a paint brush and then make contact with a piece of paper with the brush and the paper becomes red.

Here we have a very definate case of cause and effect.

It’s not the compelling nature of personal experience it is that some correlations are more definately cause and effect type correlations than others.

You are responding to this by simply reasserting that you are right and they are wrong.

No, there are differences, like if someone goes for Raki healing on his knee (this is a real example) and three days later his knee feels better, it’s much less definate that it’s a cause and effect relationship.

There are plenty alternative explanations besides the clove altered your physiology in a way that relieved your pain, but the point is that you seem to hold a confidence in your conclusions based on your experience which the study of human psychology and the history of medicine suggest is unjustified.

Based on my mini trial I have the confidence that the likleyhood of the pain relief being mere correlation was low enough to say I knew the cloves worked, yes.

Stephen

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Posted: 09 March 2012 09:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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Paint on paper and your subjectively experienced and reported pain are qualitatively different phenomena. If your pain was objectively observable by others and there was a consistent, repeatable change with a discrete intervention, then the two would be analagous. But they aren’t. I have a client who practices reiki, and she reports sensations of heat in her hands that clearly correlate with her opening up to the energy of the universe. And her patients report instantaneous relief from her ministrations. I’m not sure why you don’t see that from the perspective of the people having these experiences, the results of their chosen therapy are every bit as immediate and undeniable as the results of yours seem to you.

You are essentially making an argument from incredulity here. You cannot imagine the relationship between action and perceived effect being anything other than the one you suppose, and so you simply dismiss the fact that countless others before you have been mistaken when making the very same kinds of “mini trials,” which should at least open the possibility that you are mistaken about the meaning of yours. Not much more I can say. It’s an interesting illustration of the problem I deal with in trying to convince people that their experiences don’t always mean what they appear to mean.

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Posted: 10 March 2012 05:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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Howdy

May I suggest a prayer to the patron saint of teeth and dentist St. Apollonia?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Apollonia

I asked V.G. and She told me: 

http://www.livestrong.com/article/121752-toothache-remedies-using-whole-cloves/

It does appear that both whole cloves and clove oil do have an effect on relieving tooth pain. 

I have used Ambersol in the past as a temporary method to relieve toothaches. 

I don’t think it would be too difficult to get either whole cloves, clove oil or an over the counter medicine containing clove oil and test it on yourself. 

HAVE A THINKING DAY AND MAY REASON GUIDE YOU

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Posted: 11 March 2012 04:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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mckenzievmd - 09 March 2012 09:52 AM

You are essentially making an argument from incredulity here.

It’s not an argument from incredulity to say it’s unlikely to be a coincidence. Just like it’s unlikely to be a coincidence that the toothache was brought on by drinking hot tea or coffee. Or it was unlikely to be a coincidence that cold water provided a little relief.

Stephen

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