Why the need to prove?
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
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
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
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
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".
- On 25 Jul 2004, at 22:51, aelindemann wrote:
> My concerns are:Not in some places. Take India. They have homeopathy as part of the
> 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.
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 ofOften skeptics will argue with people who aren't "true believers" but
> 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?
"fence sitters" (to use Michael Shermer's terminology). In that case,
you are trying to convince the audience not just the individuals.
- (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, skepticBut, wouldn't you say that, regardless of politics, regardless of
> list). I
> have excellent insurance which I worked for, just like my salary. I
> believe the indigent have the right to better healthcare access,
> 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
> 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
> 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
> and I know for a fact that no "nationalized" system would supply me
> the most up-to-date medications due to their phenomenal expense. Since
> past medications have been recalled, it's very important to get the
> 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
> last 4 or so years. No luck.
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
> But, what do I know! And I *won't* argue about homeopathy or any otherThat may be. But, it is important, as a society, to ensure that
> 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.
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 aYou do not have to be an atheist to be a skeptic. Look at Martin
> reject because I'm a scientist, but I am not an atheist. Having worked
> science for 20 years or so, I knew almost no other atheists, even
> brilliant minds.
Gardner. He's an über-skeptic and believes in God because it consoles
Thanks for your email!