Science 2.0, Critical Thinking 0.

Science 2.0, Critical Thinking 0.

It is safe to say that science blogging from press releases produces garbage with little to do with science.

Take Acupuncture Works To Reduce Menopause Hot Flashes - Meta-analysis from Science 2.0, reporting on a press release about an article that will not be available until February 2015.

There is no reason what-so-ever to suspect that acupuncture would do anything for hot flashes, certainly not by classical Chinese Medicine theory of nonexistent chi and meridians.

The 2.0 article suggests

...that acupuncture caused a reduction in the concentration of β-endorphin in the hypothalamus, resulting from low concentrations of estrogen. These lower levels could trigger the release of CGRP, which affects thermoregulation.

Acupuncture aficionados love to point to endorphin release secondary to sticking someone with a sharp piece of metal for many of the alleged effects of acupuncture. It is much to do about nothing, and would not explain how the ever so laughable laser acupuncture and acupressure would have the same effects. For they included many types of acupuncture, some mutually exclusive, in the study:

including traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture (TCMA), acupressure, electroacupuncture, laser acupuncture and ear acupuncture.

The mappings in the ear for ear acupuncture are not the same as traditional Chinese acupuncture. But there is no acupuncture, but rather acupunctures plural, as many as there are practitioners, since there is zero standardization of diagnosis and practice of the many forms of this  pseudo-medicine.

If you are a Bayesian kind of gal, you would understand that if an intervention has no prior plausibility, then any likely positive results are likely false positives and due to bias.

And the report of the study suggests that any and all positive effects are due to poor methodology and bias. As a rule, effects of pseudo-medical interventions such as acupuncture only have effects for subjective, not objective, endpoints, and the number and intensity of hot flashes is a subjective endpoint.

Key to any clinical trial: if an intervention is no different from placebo, IT DOESN"T WORK. Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire, you would think a blog calling itself Science 2.0 would understand this. Nope. We get

either the effect on hot flash frequency or severity appeared to be linked to the number of treatment doses, number of sessions or duration of treatment. However, the findings showed that sham acupuncture could induce a treatment effect comparable with that of true acupuncture for the reduction of hot flash frequency.

The dose and the frequency of the drug made no difference in the outcome and it was no better than placebo. Therefore it works. 

And so we get a misleading headline suggesting efficacy of useless acupunctures.  How does Science 2.0 differ from 1.0?  I suspect they leave out the part of  science as "a body of knowledge itself, of the type that can be rationally explained and reliably applied."

Another in an endless series of examples of the thoughtless regugitation of pseudo-medicine spin.

I will have to keep an eye out for the paper in 2015. I suspect it will be even worse and more misleading than the press report. And I predict more mindless parroting of the press release without careful reading of the actual text. That's CAM reporting 2.0.  But it wil give me something to read and write about next February.

Points of Interest 7/15/2014
Points of Interest 7/14/2014