“— Based Medicine”: alternatives to “evidence”

1508 02 potion

potion, notion

Is it obvious that medical conclusions ought to be based on evidence and science? What are the alternatives? For a smile along with the serious point, I recommend this satirical list by two doctors: “Seven alternatives to evidence based medicine”. Vehemence-based medicine? Eminence-based medicine? The list predates the recent book on celebrity-based medicine with the splendid title Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? Looking at what people believe in medicine and why can be very funny — and very scary.

In his book debunking the specific health advice offered to her fans by influential actress Gwyneth Paltrow, Professor Timothy Caulfield is also dealing with a more general concern, and the implications of what people accept.  As he explains in an interview,

“Much of her advice simply does not have the science to back it up. Some of it sounds scientific – such as detoxing – but there really isn’t any evidence to support the practice.

“I also feel that her advice is often harmful and distracts us from the simple, evidence-based and effective things we can do to live a healthy lifestyle. The pseudoscience noise distracts and confuses.”

The full title of his book reads: Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? How the Famous Sell Us Elixirs of Health, Beauty & Happiness.

The famous can sell their notions and their elixirs – but need we buy? Ultimately, what writer Timothy Caulfield wants exactly what we want in Theory of Knowledge: to encourage a more aware and critical public. Sometimes we do it by encouraging HOW TO read, analyze, reach sound conclusions. But sometimes we do it – and possibly more humorously and effectively – by showing HOW NOT TO.


David Isaacs and Dominic Fitzgerald. “Seven alternatives to evidence based medicine” Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:1618. http://www.bmj.com/content/319/7225/1618

Celia Walden, “ Is Gwyneth Paltrow wrong about everything?” The Telegraph, May 9, 2015. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/11591936/Is-Gwyneth-Paltrow-wrong-about-everything.html

Suzannah Ramsdale, “Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? This Scientist Thinks So…” Marie Claire, May 13, 2015. http://www.marieclaire.co.uk/news/celebrity/549296/so-is-gwyneth-paltrow-wrong-about-everything-this-scientist-thinks-so.html#index=1&uiSynced=true

image: Potion, OpenClipartVectors, Creative Commons via Pixabay

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