Ben's Reviews > Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine

Trick or Treatment by Simon Singh
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's review
Dec 28, 10

bookshelves: nonfiction
Read from December 14 to 27, 2010

Welp, so much for grabbing that homeopathic remedy off the shelf at Walgreen's this afternoon.

I would recommend this book to anyone. I've never made much consideration, or even shown much interest, in alternative medicine before. And for those of you like me, this book is perfect. The authors speak plainly yet authoritatively to the leymen among us.

I found the brief histories and consistent approaches to the major alternative therapies appeasing and trustworthy.

Singh and Ernst begin the book validating the steadfast and infallible nature of the scientific method. Of course, this is necessary for the reader to give them credibility as they use it to break down the lack of efficacy in alternative medicines. Without touting the scientific method as the "harbinger of truth", we may question their conclusions. Though the authors' assessment is by and large negative regarding acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic therapy and herbal medicines, they are just as ready to tell us which ones may have credence (Saint John's wort, Echinacea, etc).

I do think the authors go a bit overboard in their deconstruction of alternative therapies and their practitioners. Not only do they discredit their scientific validity, but they continue by assessing homeopaths as profiteers and even chiropractors as likely sex offenders. Keep in mind, all of their claims are based on evidence - clinical trials, systematic reviews, meta-analysis, surveys, polls, etc. But their passion and zeal FOR science is proportionately mirrored in their disgust with aspects of alternative practices. I found some of the economic and characteristic bashing unnecessary in proving their claims. Yet they don't discredit the authors' findings either.

I know I wouldn't want to get in an argument regarding anything OUTSIDE of science with these men. In the introduction, they taunt readers to return the book to the bookstore if they are close-minded and denounce science as the only method of truth-seeking. Ironically, I would think Singh and Ernst close-minded if arguing anything that the scientific method can't assess. For example, they mention clinical studies that attempt to prove the efficacy of prayer for recovering patients. These studies, which used the tools and methods of evidence-based medicine, found that prayer cannot save patients. However, God is not a vending machine that we extract whatever it is that we THINK we need. Many people of faith ascribe to this idea, so using the scientific method to test prayer as something it's not, the quarter we pop in the vending machine, can lead to misconceptions and erroneous conclusions. Yet it is worth noting that patients who also see prayer as the quarter we pop in the vending machine are going to be grossly disappointed when it can't replace the effects of conventional medicine. So, Singh and Ernst can discredit prayer as a medicine, but I hope they wouldn't discredit it as a means of communication or meditation simply because the scientific method can't prove its validity as such.

In as far as the subject matter of THIS book is concerned, if one can put aside the passionate, zealous, even condescending tone of the authors, the material and its presentation is fantastic for those who have no background in alternative medicines but are vulnerable to their availability in our medical marketplace.

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Reading Progress

12/14/2010 page 6
2.0% "Wow...these guys are pompous. It's not that I disagree with their approach, persay, but I have a hard time adopting a perspective that limits the quality of "truth" to ONLY the validity of science. But, regarding medicine and alternate treatments, I'll play along." 1 comment
12/15/2010 page 31
9.0% "Very fluid read...despite the subject matter. Nice. Still bothers me that these guys define themselves, and science, as the only authority on Truth. I wonder how open minded THEY would be in a discussion of philosophy, religion, history, etc"
12/16/2010 page 55
16.0% "Accupuncture - is it possible, that Ch'i was the best way to describe a truth that we describe by different jargon today - namely the flow of blood and it's effect as our life source? Just because they could best describe it 2,000 years ago in more ethereal terms, doesn't change the TRUTH about what they were describing; in the same way as technical, scientific jargon describes that same truth in modern times."
12/16/2010 page 93
26.0% "These guys do a great job of anticipating rebuttals, questions, or attempts to poke holes in the material by the reader, regarding the science - which, to me, is not the only verifier or "arbiter" of Truth. But, for the sake of the subject matter, these guys are EXCELLENT!" 2 comments
12/18/2010 page 116
33.0% "Actually, I've never heard of Homeopathy, but, like a new medical practice before proper testing and implementation, it seems really far-fetched."
12/19/2010 page 147
42.0% "It seems that Hahnemann's philosophies and medical realizations have been grossly escalated, perhaps beyond his intentions, simply for profiteering. For me, there is no other explanation for homeopathy's continued rise, or even existence."
12/21/2010 page 182
52.0% "Wow...did Singh have a bad experience with a chiropractor in his younger days? He's attacking chiropractors' characters, not just their practice or methodology!" 2 comments
12/24/2010 page 198
56.0% "Initially, and before getting to far into the section, I like the herbalist's philosophy that "Mother Nature knows best." But I think it would only work comprehensibly if humans lived in total harmony and symbiotically with her."
12/27/2010 page 237
67.0% "Seeing is believing - the main reason why smart people ascribe to alternative medicines. Yet he outlines why seeing is NOT believing regarding medicine. I find it intriguing how such a pattern of argument can work for science, but not for faith or any humanity studies." 2 comments

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