August 31, 2008
At the beginning of the 20th century, science-based medicine had been catching on in China, at the expense of traditional Chinese medicine, because of its efficacy. As Mao and the communists swept through China, however, many or most of the doctors who practiced “western” medicine fled to Taiwan (they no doubt used their evidence-based, logical thinking to predict what was going to happen, and decided to get the hell out).
So, Mao and his cronies were left with a dearth of doctors, and no money for medicine or medical technologies anyway, and started to promote traditional Chinese medicine so that people would think they were at least being provided some form of treatment by the government.
In this propaganda painting, Acupuncture Anesthesia, check out the serene smile on the patient, saved from the unimaginable pain of the surgery by a kind nurse and needle in his finger.
From Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World (which is a fantastic book and the greatest title ever):
“Pseudoscience differs from erroneous science. Science thrives on errors, cutting them away one by one. False conclusions are drawn all the time, but they are drawn tentatively. Hypotheses are framed so they are capable of being disproved. A succession of alternative hypotheses is confronted by experiment and observation. Science gropes and staggers toward improved understanding. Proprietary feelings are of course offended when a scientific hypothesis is disproved, but such disproofs are recognized as central to the scientific enterprise.
“Pseudoscience is just the opposite. Hypotheses are often framed preecisely so they are invulnerable to any experiment that offers a prospect of disproof, so even in principle they cannot be invalidated. Practitioners are defensive and wary. Skeptical scrutiny is opposed. When they pseudoscientific hypothesis fails to catch fire with scientists, conspiracies to suppress it are deduced. ”
“The candle flame flutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.”
“Finding the occasional straw of truth awash in a great ocean of confusion and bamboozle requires vigilance, dedication, and courage. But if we don’t practice these tough habits of thought, we cannot hope to solve the truly serious problems that face us – and we risk becoming a nation of suckers, a world of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan who saunters along.”