Questionable Motives

February 18, 2010

Question for advocates of alternative health: is living to an average age of 35 really the Good Old Days?

Filed under: Argument,belief,CAM,Health care,Medicine,Science,vaccination — tildeb @ 1:49 pm

From ScienceBased Medicine by Dr Amy Tuteur:

There once was a time when all food was organic and no pesticides were used. Health problems were treated with folk wisdom and natural remedies. There was no obesity, and people got lots of exercise. And in that time gone by, the average lifespan was … 35!

That’s right. For most of human existence, according to fossil and anthropological data, the average human lifespan was 35 years. As recently as 1900, American average lifespan was only 48. Today, advocates of alternative health bemoan the current state of American health, the increasing numbers of obese people, the lack of exercise, the use of medications, the medicalization of childbirth. Yet lifespan has never been longer, currently 77.7 years in the US.

Advocates of alternative health have a romanticized and completely unrealistic notion of purported benefits of a “natural” lifestyle. Far from being a paradise, it was hell. The difference between an average lifespan of 48 and one of 77.7 can be accounted for by modern medicine and increased agricultural production brought about by industrial farming methods (including pesticides). Nothing fundamental has changed about human beings. They are still prey to the same illnesses and accidents, but now they can be effectively treated. Indeed, some diseases can be completely prevented by vaccination.

Alternative health as a form of fundamentalism also makes sense in that it has an almost religious fervor. It is not about scientific evidence. Indeed, it usually ignores scientific evidence entirely. All the existing scientific evidence shows that all of the myriad claims of alternative health are flat out false. None of it works, absolutely none of it. That’s not surprising when you consider that it never worked in times past; advocates of alternative health merely pretend that it did, without any regard for historical reality.

Alternative health is a belief system, a form of fundamentalism, and like most fundamentalisms, it longs for a past that never existed. It is not science; it has nothing to do with science; and it merely reflects wishful thinking about the past while ignoring reality.


  1. Did you only look here at this article before posting this?

    Comment by 4amzgkids — February 21, 2010 @ 2:36 am | Reply

  2. medicine is so widely practiced by physicians in Europe that it is no longer appropriate to consider it “alternative medicine” there. Approximately 30% of French doctors and 20% of German doctors use homeopathic medicines regularly, while over 40% of British physicians refer patients to homeopathic doctors, and almost half of Dutch physicians consider homeopathic medicines to be effective. The fact that the British Royal Family has used and supported homeopathy since the 1830s reflects its longstanding presence in Britain’s national health care system.

    Comment by 4amzgkids — February 21, 2010 @ 3:16 am | Reply

    • When the second sentence second paragraph contains something like this A handful of pests have already developed resistance against the ‘pesticide plant’, something the scientists had predicted would never happen, then we see a big red flag waving in front of our eyes. ‘Scientists’ of any intellectual caliber make no such ‘predictions’. That flag means that the author is being purposefully dishonest. Although we may take the time to inquire why and to what ends the author is trying to manipulate our credibility, what we know for sure is that the author has no problem using misrepresentation. That means that every claim will be highly questionable. As a source of legitimate information, this author has proved early in the page that this is a very poor choice.

      Comment by tildeb — February 21, 2010 @ 2:34 pm | Reply

  3. Yep two sugar pills work better than one – it is called a placebo, the power of the mind over body is remarkable, if you feel sick you will be sick, if you feel attended to and that someone is listening you will feel better – but there is a limit to this.

    The issue I have with homeopathy, is that it hypes up the placebo effect – and makes false claims, they charge a lot for, in addition the false claims can risk lives.

    The use of homoeopathy is frowned upon in the NHS because it is publicly funded – and there isn’t any scientific evidence that it works. Where as every other treatment has to be proven.

    You should read Ben Goldacre’s book on homeopathy before you spend any money on it.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — February 21, 2010 @ 9:09 am | Reply

    • Ben’s site has a lovely job posting here:

      Note how the Phd is misspelled? Again, a red flag that the writer doesn’t know enough science to appreciate that it should be PhD. The only part of the ad that is actually reliable is probably the last bit: no benefits.

      Comment by tildeb — February 21, 2010 @ 2:47 pm | Reply

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