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Why the need to prove?

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  • aelindemann
    Hi, I m a recently retired molecular biologist, mostly doing genetic engineering funded by the pharmaceutical industry - Merck (lipitor - like drug), Eli Lily/
    Message 1 of 3 , Jul 25, 2004
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      Hi,

      I'm a recently retired molecular biologist, mostly doing genetic
      engineering funded by the pharmaceutical industry - Merck (lipitor -
      like drug), Eli Lily/ ICOS (cialis and humanized anti-body
      therapeutics).

      My retirement is due to a disability and not age.

      While I enjoy the discussions here, I often read of personal
      anecdotes about "someone or another" who believes in magic, or
      homeopathy, or creationism and an ensuing debate.

      My concerns are:

      1. Isn't it "begging the question" when you argue fundamental belief
      systems? So, for a skeptic and a fundamentalist Christian to argue
      about who is "right" is ultimately futile, correct? Arguing science
      with someone who simply does not believe in science is absurd as the
      reverse, correct?

      I've never felt the need to "prove" that my belief system is the only
      correct one. Therefore, if someone wants to believe in homeopathy, or
      Creation Science, if I find the discussion offensive or just plain
      old stupid, I just walk away. This is a free country and people have
      a right to be stupid and/or ignorant if they chose.

      Sure, lobby to keep religion out of the classroom, and out of
      government, but save your energy that is wasted on one dumb
      individual and save it for activism.

      Life is just to short to be arguing with idiots. Who cares about
      the "Shroud of Turin" anyway?

      2. Technology vs. Science

      Having worked for the pharmaceutical industry, and having also been
      ripped off by alternative therapists who I desperately sought for
      treatment of my disability - I came to be more trusting of
      science/pharmaceuticals than alternative therapies.

      However, I don't see how you can ignore the tremendous profits that
      can be made if a pharmaceutical is successful. When hundreds of
      millions of dollars are involved, corruption is typically not far
      behind.

      On the list of pharmaceuticals that I have taken, for my disability,
      it seems like every other month, there is a criminal conviction,
      criminal investigation, or civil action for misrepresenting facts or
      outright fraud. I'm not talking about any "minor" problems, but
      reckless endangerment of human life in the name of profits.

      A good example would be Neurontin, which has FDA approval for
      ancillary compound in treatment of epilepsy. However, they falsified
      information regarding off label applications and mislead doctors.
      Neurontin has been marketed for migraines (for example) when there
      was no scientific evidence for it. I believe that Pfizer has paid
      half a billion in criminal penalties, half a billion in civil
      penalties and I believe 27 million as "whistle blower compensation"
      to a scientist who first brought this deception to light.

      Most doctors who have prescribed Neurontin, and who do not also want
      to be sued, will make some statement regarding their own "personal
      clinical experience", which sounds a lot like self-serving mumbo-
      jumbo by a horrified doctor who shouldn't have taken that trip to the
      Bahamas that Pfizer offered them almost a decade ago.

      The next month, you read that a pharmaceutical you may have taken a
      year ago falsified records regarding serious side-effects and
      mortality rates.

      In the case of Neurontin, my insurance company has paid approximately
      $40,000 over the last eight years, based on the false marketing
      scheme. And I've been personally subjected to taking a medication
      with side effects that has no scientific validity for any application
      that was not part of the false marketing scheme.

      When pharmaceutical companies or other forms of technology make
      claims in the name of "science", and are later found to be
      fraudulent, this does far, far, more damage to the public's
      perception of Science, overall, than any other single factor.

      My own belief in science is unshaken, but I no longer
      trust "scientific" claims of pharmaceutical companies, for my
      particular disability due to over half of the prescriptions which
      I've taken which have later been found to be enitirely fraudulent or
      far more dangerous than represented.

      Guinea pigs are supposed to be used pre-human trial. To the best of
      my knowledge, human beings are not supposed to be used as the guinea
      pigs for profit-driven technology in the name of "science".

      AEL
    • Tom Morris
      ... Not in some places. Take India. They have homeopathy as part of the state-funded health system. In Britain (my country of residence), we have homeopathy
      Message 2 of 3 , Aug 3 2:14 AM
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        On 25 Jul 2004, at 22:51, aelindemann wrote:

        > My concerns are:
        >
        > 1. Isn't it "begging the question" when you argue fundamental belief
        > systems? So, for a skeptic and a fundamentalist Christian to argue
        > about who is "right" is ultimately futile, correct? Arguing science
        > with someone who simply does not believe in science is absurd as the
        > reverse, correct?
        >
        > I've never felt the need to "prove" that my belief system is the only
        > correct one. Therefore, if someone wants to believe in homeopathy, or
        > Creation Science, if I find the discussion offensive or just plain
        > old stupid, I just walk away. This is a free country and people have
        > a right to be stupid and/or ignorant if they chose.

        Not in some places. Take India. They have homeopathy as part of the
        state-funded health system. In Britain (my country of residence), we
        have homeopathy and acupuncture on the National Health Service (a
        socially funded health service that we all pay for via taxes).

        > Sure, lobby to keep religion out of the classroom, and out of
        > government, but save your energy that is wasted on one dumb
        > individual and save it for activism.
        >
        > Life is just to short to be arguing with idiots. Who cares about
        > the "Shroud of Turin" anyway?

        Often skeptics will argue with people who aren't "true believers" but
        "fence sitters" (to use Michael Shermer's terminology). In that case,
        you are trying to convince the audience not just the individuals.

        --
        Tom Morris
        http://www.bbcity.co.uk
      • Tom Morris
        (Sorry, Ari sent this direct to me, but I ve sent it back to the list, because it might foster discussion) Thanks for your email. ... But, wouldn t you say
        Message 3 of 3 , Aug 5 2:58 PM
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          (Sorry, Ari sent this direct to me, but I've sent it back to the list,
          because it might foster discussion)

          Thanks for your email.

          On 3 Aug 2004, at 16:37, Ari _s wrote (in private email):

          > We do not have nationalized healthcare, thank God (oops, skeptic
          > list). I
          > have excellent insurance which I worked for, just like my salary. I
          > believe the indigent have the right to better healthcare access,
          > however,
          > I believe that like any commodity - you have to work for it. It's not
          > free, and that means someone's got to pay for it. I find being in the
          > 40%
          > tax bracket sufficient as far as I'm concerned.
          >
          > I know the alternative argument, I worked for a British man for over a
          > year and he was a strong believer. However, the people who I know in
          > the
          > US who believe in HMO's (kind of like nationalized health care), and
          > nationalized healthcare have never been ill.
          >
          > I, on the other hand, have very expensive medications due to a
          > disability,
          > and I know for a fact that no "nationalized" system would supply me
          > with
          > the most up-to-date medications due to their phenomenal expense. Since
          > past medications have been recalled, it's very important to get the
          > most
          > up to date one. Sure, I'd like to give them all up, but I've tried and
          > it's just impossible. I've even spent $30,000 on alternative care in
          > the
          > last 4 or so years. No luck.

          But, wouldn't you say that, regardless of politics, regardless of
          whether or not you agree with something like social health care, it is
          a worthwhile ambition to bring rationality to politics?

          For example, I have recently lobbied my government on the topic of
          polygraph testing, demanding that their policy toward polygraph testing
          is based on rational and skeptical perspectives. Look at the evidence
          critically. Until the evidence shows a positive effect for the use of
          polygraph testing, don't use it.

          And, on the topic of finance, isn't it important that we should ensure
          that in either system - whether it be a system like in Britain or in
          the US - that healthcare is based on science and rationality rather
          than pseudo science. Of course, when it is a state-run national system,
          you have to do that by lobbying. While in a private system, you have to
          deal with individuals and health insurance providers. For example,
          wouldn't it be great if skeptic's decided to build a list of health
          insurers who didn't use homeopathy or acupuncture or any other
          fraudulent or irrational alt-med treatments? Then, imagine, if people
          decided to use their choice of health provider not to fund
          irrationality.

          > But, what do I know! And I *won't* argue about homeopathy or any other
          > modality. Homeopathy has no basis in science, defies physical laws, and
          > there's really no other argument. My best friend believes in homeopathy
          > and I keep my mouth shut. My friendship with her is more important than
          > what she does with her health.

          That may be. But, it is important, as a society, to ensure that
          irrationality doesn't get a foothold. I think debate does have a useful
          part to play in this.

          > Thank you for responding. To be honest, as I stated earlier, I'm a
          > skeptic
          > reject because I'm a scientist, but I am not an atheist. Having worked
          > in
          > science for 20 years or so, I knew almost no other atheists, even
          > amonst
          > brilliant minds.

          You do not have to be an atheist to be a skeptic. Look at Martin
          Gardner. He's an ├╝ber-skeptic and believes in God because it consoles
          him.

          Thanks for your email!

          --
          Tom Morris
          http://www.bbcity.co.uk
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