Monday, January 12, 2009

New Year Sense?

I wonder if it’s too much to hope that 2009 will be a year characterised by rationalism? Is it too much to ask that we start the year committing ourselves, as individuals, as families and as a nation to being realistic, thoughtful and rational?

Sometimes I think it IS too much to hope but I’m an optimist.

I hope that this year we can put the so-called alternative, or complementary medical community in it’s place. I hope we can see that there’s no such thing as “conventional medicine” or “alternative medicine”. There is only medicine that works and that which doesn’t. There are drugs that help you recover from illnesses are those that don’t. It doesn’t matter whether they came from a test tube or tree bark. Some have been shown, by experiment, by research, by science to work and others have not. It really IS that simple.

I hope we can put behind us the whole “detox” nonsense. A study by a UK group called Sense about Science published just after Christmas showed that almost all the so-called detox products on the market in the UK (and they’re available in Botswana as well) made ludicrous claims that were totally unsupported by the facts. The group also state that the suppliers of these silly products “were forced to admit that they are renaming mundane things, like cleaning or brushing, as ‘detox’”.

None of us need to “detox”, it’s just a made up term used to push pseudoscience and, more importantly, to sell us useless products. The secret the detox industry don’t want you and me to know is that we all already have nature’s greatest detoxifier. It’s called a liver. All it needs is clean water and a fairly healthy diet and it will clean out the toxins for you. For free.

Maybe this year we can also ignore all the silly conspiracy theories about medicine. The conspiracy theories that lead to illness, misery and death. AIDS is not a conspiracy by the CIA or aliens. Vaccinations are a truly wonderful way to protect children and adults from illness and are not another conspiracy to enslave the poor. The medical profession aren’t evil oppressors doing their best to keep us in bondage.

We should remember our local example of what modern medicine can do. Our PMTCT program reduced the proportion of babies born with HIV to HIV positive mothers from 40% to 4%. It was modern medicine that did that, not superstition, denial or a conspiracy.

Perhaps this year we can also do away with the more revolting aspects of corrupt religion. Maybe we can all see that a preacher to whom you give money who then drives a hugely expensive car and lives in a dream home is almost certainly a liar, a thief and a crook. Maybe we can see that a significant number of religious leaders, particularly those in the American TV evangelist mould, are just in it for the cash. They really do see their flock as sheep: stupid, woolly-headed and ready for slaughter.

Is it too much to ask that we can all be a little bit more skeptical in 2009? That we can use our heads before we give away our money, our health and our beliefs? I hope so.

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