Is Acupuncture Pseudoscience? Well, Yeah.

Is Acupuncture Pseudoscience?  Well, Yeah.

The question, Is Acupuncture Pseudoscience?, was asked by an acupuncturist over at the BMJ. As an aside, the article disproves Betteridge's Law of Headlines, although I discovered that Betteridge's law is only true 25% of the time. 75% of the time the answer to the headline is yes.

So, yeah, it's pseudoscience.

As noted by Edzard Ernst

Cummings' article promised to address this question. Sadly it did nothing of the sort. It turned out to be an incompetent rant about a Wiki page. If anything, Cummings contributed to the neutral reader of his text getting convinced that, indeed, acupuncture IS a pseudoscience!

And as best I can tell, the main argument I infer by the author is that he has been using acupuncture since 1989 and knows it is not a pseudo-science. Not convincing.

But what constitutes a pseudo-science? Sometimes, as in homeopathy, I can use the Justice Steven's argument, I know it when I see it. But acupunctures are doing something to a patient and could be having effects despite the underlying ludicrous traditional explanation of qi and meridians.

There are a lot of characteristics of pseudo-science, but no agreed upon definition. I tend to point Dr. Park's classic Seven Signs of Bogus Science:

    1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.
    2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.
    3. The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection.
    4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal.
    5. The discoverer says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries.
    6. The discoverer has worked in isolation.
    7. The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain an observation.

Acupuncture meets at least 5 of 7 (excluding 1 and 6) criteria.

But Dr. Park misses many other characteristics. The Wikipedia page on pseudo-science notes 5 characteristics of pseudo-scientific concepts:

    1. Use of vague, exaggerated or untestable claims 
    2. Over-reliance on confirmation rather than refutation 
    3. Lack of openness to testing by other experts 
    4. Absence of progress Personalization of issues 
    5. Use of misleading language

further divided into 28 characteristics, including 

Attacking the motives or character of anyone who questions the claims

To my mind acupunctures meets all 28 characteristics and the acupunctures field as a whole fits the characteristics of pseudo more than junk, fringe or cargo cult science. Although I would still characterize the studies on PubMed as more Tooth Fairy Science than anything else.

But then, as a

semi professional anti-CAM pseudosceptic and a scary looking bespectacled geek and science nut,

I would.

Points of Interest 01/04/2017
Points of Interest 01/03/2017

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