Do you believe in alternative medicine?

No. The witch doctors who take advantage of people’s fear, naivety, ignorance, and gullibility are people I find easiest to despise as a class. The vacuous excuse of “but what if they believe it themselves?” cuts no ice with me — because the imprimatur on what they’re selling is their supposed knowledge and understanding. Ignorance cannot be an excuse for them, since it would simply be a direct admission of the fraud they’re perpetrating.

That being said: from a medical perspective, I see the human body as a reasonably-complex system (not a hell of a lot more so than a modern car, for example) for which there are many good-quality “shade-tree mechanic” fixes that don’t require professional medical intervention. And for that class of things — those the average person really should be competent to do for themselves — there is a distinct lack of high-quality, inexpensive solutions in hospital-based medicine.

This may actually be the right way to do it. I don’t know; it would take more thought than I have put into the philosophy of medicine, and how it interacts with the rest of the social dynamics. But it does leave a hole in the solution space, into which a number of “folk remedies” — ones that actually have a history of effectiveness — fit quite well.

E.g., when expensive repeated visits to the doctor and prescriptions produced no effect on my ex-wife’s very painful problems with thrush while breast-feeding (except for the doctor eventually muttering about much more expensive lab tests, which was clearly a substitute for “I have no ideas left, but I don’t want the responsibility of saying so”), potassium permanganate — which I’d known about for ages as a mild antiseptic and antifungal agent — took care of it in a day. Ilana Halupovich mentioned aloe vera, which is a great topical for mild burns, scratches, etc. Hell, duct tape makes a wonderful medical tool if you happen to brush your hand across a cactus…

In short, the full-on application of medicine is not the right solution for all our ills. That’s not the fault of medicine; it seems to be a failure of basic education and a lack of a reasonable degree of self-reliance in our society.

But fuzzy-brained bullshit propagated by greedy scumbags, the effects of which range from ineffective to murderous, is not and never can be the right solution to that class of problems.

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