Saturday, 10 January 2009

Detoxes Dont Work, In Skeptisism We Trust


A common headline at this time of year.

This is generally said by a scientist of the evangelical skepticist type. Or by one of their disciples.

Of course they say this strutting along with their heads held high in the knowledge that they alone are saved from the fiery pits of superstition and are living in the kingdom of true and everlasting knowledge.

But as is often the case with those who state absolutes, their absoluteness makes them wrong.

In science there is not The Truth, there are only competing bodies of evidence. I have read evidence supporting some types of detox (fasting), no doubt the skeptics have some evidence that shows some types don't work, probably, or maybe not, some scientists are just as religious as the rest of us: once they have formed a set of beliefs they will dismiss or fight alternative beliefs and will criticise perfectly valid research. Once the scientific / medical world ridiculed the idea that washing hands before performing a medical procedure was a good idea!

OK, actually I want to make something clear, science is good and useful, it is dogmatic belief which is not. Science done properly is a remedy against dogmatic belief: if evidence comes to light that contradicts your beliefs you should take that evidence seriously and question your beliefs. Sadly in practice this isn't always done, instead evidence that contradicts beliefs is treated harshly while evidence that supports those same beliefs is warmly accepted no questions asked.

So anyway, if lots of people feel better after doing a detox it is no good going up to them, slapping them in the face and telling them to stop feeling good because actually their liver was doing a good enough job of detoxing them anyway. OK, the word detox is very poorly defined, and the money addicts are of course cashing in on this as much as anything else, but the statement 'Detoxes don't work' is wrong. Saying some detoxes or detox products don't work may very well be true, but for some people some types of detox do have a positive effect - or so I believe anyway!

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