Response (indirect) to Skeptic article By Skeptic contributor Harriet Hall MD
Harriet Hall MD, a contributor to Skeptic magazine posted the website science based medicine on 03 Mar 2008 at 2:16 pm (http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=61).
AFMA/EFMA/JFMA is analogous to the cholesterol skeptics (THINCS) organization in that they both start with a conviction, cherry pick the literature to find support for that conviction, and try to substitute activism for the scientific process.
Their own words betray them: “we seek to demonstrate.” That’s what pseudoscience does. Real science doesn’t seek to demonstrate, it asks questions.
Her response was actually a response to a very long diatribe by David H. Gorski, MD, PhD who (according to the website) is a surgical oncologist specializing in breast cancer and an Associate Professor of Surgery at the Wayne State University School of Medicine based at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute as well as an NIH-funded investigator. To address Gorski’s entire rant would require a book (we refer the reader to Animal Models in Light of Evolution). But we will address Dr Hall’s brief comment here.
Dr Hall writes a column for Skeptic and AFMA applauds her efforts in educating readers to the differences between science and pseudoscience. Her columns provide nice illustrations and demonstrate the thinking process involved in real science and scientific evidence. She defends critical thinking and AFMA strongly defends all efforts at demonstrating and teaching critical thought.
However, in this case we must disagree with Dr Hall. Contrary to Dr Hall’s statement that pseudoscience seeks to demonstrate whereas real science questions, science teaching and the teaching of critical thought seek to demonstrate. AFMA’s computer dictionary on Microsoft Word (Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation) defines demonstrate as:
- to explain or describe how something works or how to do something
- to show or prove something clearly and convincingly
AFMA is primarily an educational not for profit. Other educational not for profit organizations include the National Center for Science Education (http://www.natcenscied.org/default.asp), which provides educational material and lectures on evolution. On their website (as of 6-20-08) they state: “(NCSE) defends the teaching of evolution in public schools.” If Dr Hall objects to organizations involved with science that demonstrate principles or defend positions we respectfully suggest she rethink her position, as we seriously doubt she really thinks such organizations are pseudoscience groups.
Science or critical thought education do not perform the same function as scientists doing research. A physics textbook or class does not question the 2nd law of thermodynamics, it teaches or demonstrates (in the laboratory portion of the class) why it is true. Neither do organizations that defend evolution question it in the sense of the word Dr Hall is using it. AFMA does research and in that sense we do question. Indeed in the Skeptic article Dr Hall was indirectly commenting on we delineate what would falsify our position. That is consistent with true science.