A Statement in Defense of Scientific Medicine from the Council for Scientific Medicine

May 2, 2006

In recent years a wide range of unconventional therapies has appeared on the public scene. These are offered as “alternative” or “complementary” to mainstream medicine. And they include everything from herbal medicines, homeopathy, and aromatherapy to the use of acupuncture, therapeutic touch, prayer at a distance, faith healing, chelation therapy, and “miraculous” cancer cures.

We, the undersigned, believe that the need for objective, scientific critiques of the claims of “alternative” or non-conventional medicine has never been greater. This conclusion seems inescapable because . . .

  • There is a lack of readily available, reliable information about the efficacy of such treatments. This impairs peoples free choice and increases risks to their health. The potential harm is incalculable but appears to be growing. The trend is abetted by those who promote unproven treatments, especially those who are nave, greedy, or unscrupulous.
  • The media all too often dote on controversial and false claims but unfortunately provide few careful, critical examinations of them, usually preferring to titillate, pander, or entertain. Often what the public hears is anecdotal testimony of people allegedly cured, not the results of scientific research. Many best-selling books promote the power of such alleged healings, but they hardly pass the scrutiny of peer review.
  • Several new journals devoted exclusively to “alternative” medicine have appeared recently, but they merely advocate unconventional treatments and rarely assess them objectively.
  • Both the public and some medical professionals seem unaware that credible, scientific assessments of many “alternative” medicine claims already existand that new evaluations based on available information are possible.
  • There is a critical need to test new claims before they are marketed to the public.

We therefore welcome the founding of The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, the first peer-reviewed journal dedicated entirely to the scientific, rational evaluation of unconventional health claims.

Its purpose is to apply the best tools of science and reason to determine the validity of hypotheses and the effectiveness of treatments. It will dismiss no claim a priori, but consider it on its merits. It will reject no claim because it fits, or fails to fit, some paradigm. It will, using scientific methods and reasonable criteria, seek justified answers to two questions: “Is it true?” and “Does this treatment work?” It will call for double-blind controlled trials of “alternative” therapies.

We believe that the launching of The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine is now imperative. We therefore call for physicians, scientists, health practitioners, and citizens everywhere to join us in supporting this important venture to advance scientific medicine and to expand the benefits of peoples free and informed choice.

Signers of the statement are Charter Members of the Council for Scientific Medicine

This article was posted on May 2, 2006.