Book Club: Snake Oil Science
Posted: 15 June 2008 10:44 PM   [ Ignore ]
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The CFI/SF steering committee has talked a bit about creating book clubs and have decided that instead of a traditional book club we would try an online version.  If you’ve already read this book I invite you to comment and if you haven’t I encourage you to do so. 

As the first book we’ve chosen Snake Oil Science  by R. Barker Bausall.  This is a comprehensive survey of the current state of scientific research into “complementary and alternative medicine”.  It contains a list and comments on all “High Quality CAM Trials published in in High Quality Medical Journals, January 2000 - February 2007. It’s a short list, containing only 22 papers and only one positive study. Because this list was short, the author went on to look at “High Quality Systematic Reviews”.  There were of these. Bausall found 99 of them and provides details.  A modest number of these are positive, but the on closer examination Bausall concludes “there is no compelling, credible scientific evidence to suggest that any CAM therapy benefits and medical condition or reduces any medical symptom (poin or otherwise) better than a placebo.

But more important than the specific conclusions he reaches is the discussion of the placebo effect including an entertaining presentation of how an honest but not scientifically trained (fictional) physician could be drawn into believing that acupuncture is effective.  He makes a compelling case that placebo effects explain the apparent success of alternative medicine.

Bausall is well qualified to write this book.  By training he is a “research methodologist” and was for several years the director of research at the University of Mayland’s NIH-funded “Complementary Medicine Program”.

[ Edited: 15 June 2008 10:59 PM by Jerry Schwarz ]
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Jerry Schwarz

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Posted: 16 June 2008 12:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I read the book a few months ago, and it goes on my Indispensible list for dealing with the CAM quackery I see at work all the time. The only problem with it is that it presents a very sophisticated and counterintuitive argument, so it’s not likely that the average believer in CAM will read it closely enough to be pursuaded even if that were otherwise possible. Anyway, I learned a great deal about the pitfalls of even superficially well-structured research trials and why replication and the “test of time” are so important before jumping on new therapeutic bandwagons. Great book!

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Posted: 28 July 2008 01:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I will purchase it tomorrow, thanks for the heads-up!

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Church; where sheep congregate to worship a zombie on a stick that turns into a cracker on Sundays…

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Posted: 13 August 2008 08:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Can anyone recommend a book about Thomas Jefferson? Anyone here read “The Road to Monticello”?

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Posted: 17 August 2008 12:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Hi George,

I’m a podcast junkie and one I highly recommend it The Jefferson Hour.  Clay Jenkinson is a Humanities Scholar and adopts TJ persona each week for the podcast.  He lectures on TJ and some other key historical luminarieshttp://www.jeffersonhour.org and you can subscribe off iTunes

http://www.jeffersonhour.org/?id=9  is Clay’s recommended book list.  He also has a nice little book himself titled Becoming Jefferson’s People.  You’ll find it on the site.

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Terry

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Posted: 18 August 2008 06:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Thanks, Terry. The site looks very interesting.

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