The distinction between science and pseudomedicine is increasingly endangered by the mixing of the two within scientific journals. But those involved in public health cannot in any way peddle hoaxes to enrich themselves and create a following
Distinguished strangers, in some cases in clear conflict of interest, but more often simply in deep cognitive dissonance, came to angrily comment on my article yesterday, which stigmatized not so much and not only the use of absurd remedies and without the shred of a test as a therapy or prevention for Covid (turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon and ginger, for those who have not read), but above all the publication of pseudoscientific articles in support of these amenities, in journals of qualified scientific publishers such as Elsevier. The problem is twofold: on the one hand, there is the classic proliferation of quackery during a pandemic, on the other hand there is the brand new accreditation effort through publication in journals., to obtain a scientific license and thereby sell not only material remedies, but an entire apparatus of pseudoscience – which it would be better to call pseudoculture – dangerous because it lays the foundations or reinforces the belief that science can be invented and practiced at random, so each belief is worth the other. The grave responsibilities of the journal editors and scientific committees were what I was interested in stressing yesterday; today I would like to discuss a few more points, precisely in response to the aggressive utterances of some fanatic of the pseudomedicine (in some cases even with a white coat on).
First of all, everyone is free to take what they want, unless it harms others; consequently, in addition (not in substitution) of what everyone has to do to limit the risk of spreading the virus, get vaccinated and use the usual precautions first of all, if you want to take diluted rinses, get decoctions, pray or to resort to voodoo you are quite free to do so. Everyone can waste their money as they see fit, and I will even say that the beneficial effects on the psyche of certain ritual behaviors are well known. Spend as you please, as long as you get vaccinated in addition, wear masks as long as necessary and respect the other measures: that’s fine. However, doctors, health personnel, researchers or decision makers on public health issues, in no way can sell hoaxes to enrich themselves and build a following based on popular credulity and the desire for magical thinking.. This is especially true when pseudosciences are used for the purpose, because these delude individuals that it is possible to resort to irrational and magical thinking methods to solve their own problems and those of the whole world, thereby generating opposition to the much more tiring. and sometimes more expensive but effective, rediscovered than the scientific method and rational thought. Abandoning oneself to the heuristics of our Paleolithic brain is comfortable, convenient and, until we are personally affected, apparently decisive; and it is by exploiting this highway based on our weakness that crooks in white coats and do not rob us of money and health, with belief systems that generally find their roots in some outdated fantasy of centuries ago.
Those who have made the defense of integrity and the scientific method a very long battle, cannot tolerate that Covid patients are treated with a joke called electro-homeopathy, invented in Italy two centuries ago by an eclectic charlatan with a noble title, and today transplanted to India; or with a clinical trial designed on obviously fallacious bases, which aims to test homeopathy for the treatment of Covid; or thousands of other nonsense like these, published in scientific journals (predatory and otherwise) with the aim of simulating the scientificity of theories that, if they were true, would falsify modern science, without however using anything but words to arrive at this result empty and smoky concepts. Science can and must be falsified, at least from Popper on; but not with rhetorical devices and false publications in glossy magazines. However, even if I only mentioned two examples for reasons of space, it is not cherry picking; the distinction between science and quackery is increasingly endangered by the mixing of the two within scientific journals, and to realize this it is enough to count the publications in which it is claimed to teach how to cure or prevent Covid with any of the pseudosciences that haunt our society.
It is necessary to react; unless you want to go back to the days of medicine practiced with leeches – which indeed seem to me too neglected in favor of other contemporary ravings, and which I’m sure someone, sooner or later, will rediscover.