the alternatives

the alternatives

.prologue

If Waze tells you I found an alternative route you’re happy. If a friend tells you well, there’s an alternative route you’re suspicious. Waze’s alternative is usually faster. Your friend’s alternative usually ends up with a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. Waze is not your friend.

.updated route

Waze runs the numbers on alternatives. It goes through all the possible routes and tells you which is the fastest one given what is known. When Waze tells you I’ve got an alternative it’s a better alternative.

When your friend prefixes something with alternative you know it’s something he found on some YouTube video. If he had done in depth research he would bring you the new experimental way or the the new proven way. If it’s neither the established proven way, the risky experimental way or the new proven way you know it’s bad news.

.the charlatans

There’s always been charlatans saying, my friend have I got an alternative for you. If you’re lucky they’re The Charlatans bringing you alternative rock. But they usually aren’t. There’s the well meaning ones bringing you something they find wonderful like radioactive cocaine. And there’s the true crooks promising jobs and delivering fascism.

The alternatives position themselves as alternatives to complicated egghead science. Simpler, natural, common sense approaches to daily problems. They appeal to the bucolic sense of communion with nature. What they don’t tell you is they’re the alternative to safe bridges, low birth mortality and safe drinking water. By rejecting the scientific method the alternatives are rejecting the methods that stoped doctors from murdering women at child birth. Alternative “medicines” such as homeopathy are supported by the same magical thinking which led doctors to rummage around in gangrenous corpses with their bare hands and immediately after go deliver babies.

.unconventional science

The alternatives are described as outside “conventional science”. Too advanced, esoteric and human for simple closed off scientists to understand. That red herring should tip off immediately, there’s no convencional and unconventional science. There’s just research following the scientific method and everything else. If you’re following the scientific method and other people can verify your results you are in the field of science. If you formulate an hypothesis, design an experiment which can objectively produce data to confirm or disprove the hypothesis and then publish your full results so that other researchers can analyze your experiment, replicate it, generate their own data and arrive at similar conclusions you established new science. Any other process doesn’t generate scientific results.

Scientists don’t need to understand a proven theory and agree it is in fact good thesis. That’s a fantasy propagated by media as it generates a much better story than the drudgery of work. One particular human deeply understanding an effect has no bearing on it being real or not. Strictly, we don’t deeply understand gravity but that doesn’t stop apples from falling to the ground and the earth going around the sun. More spectacularly, it doesn’t stop us from having models of its effects which were refined over centuries and allows us to go to the moon and have GPS. Either those models are true and anyone can use them to predict the future or they are false and anyone can prove they are are false. Astronomy predicts reliably where the planets will be. Astrology reliably predicts nothing. Astronomy is science, astrology is belief.

.science

The method of hypothesizing, proving, disproving and rethinking is why science moves in fits and starts, going forward and backward and forward again while the alternatives promise assurance. A team announced they discovered cold fusion. It was greatly propagated by mainstream media, all our energy problems were solved. A month latter no other team could successfully duplicate the experiment and the hypothesis was disproven. The general public was left feeling science pulled a fast one but in fact it was just mislead by the media eager for a breaking story. Science did what science does, weeded out the falsehood and carried on. No amount of believing or calling it alternative science could make cold fusion work because in fact it didn’t. The same way, no amount of conspiracy theory can make the multiple free energy and perpetual motion machines work. They don’t, not because conventional science doesn’t understand them but because their inventors are avoiding the scientific method to falsify their results.

.medicine

Where we are with alternative medicines is their proponents either refuse to have their hypothesis scientifically verified or refuse to accept the results. Alternatives medicines that were proven to work are not called alternative medicines, they are called medicine like all other medicine which was proven to work. Alternative medicines are not medicine, are a set of beliefs. Some might work, hopefully all would work. However the simple fact their proponents refuse to honestly investigate wether their hypothesis are true indicates alternative medicines do not work. In some extreme cases, charlatans continue pushing their fake medicines long after being debunked.

Homeopathy was debunked as ineffective shortly after being proposed two centuries ago and has been proven to be totally ineffective multiple times since but that doesn’t stop their proponents to profit from the ignorance they spread. Modern proponents of homeopathy try to deceive the public with scientific sounding claims about mysterious quantum effects, riding in the general poor understanding of quantum theory. As we know, homeopathy working or not is proven by measuring the effect of homeopathy, not by having convoluted hypothesis.

Science in the field of medicine is both hard and captured by a few conglomerates. Quite a few of the experiments which would directly prove or disprove medical hypothesis are unethical and modern democratic societies refuse them on principle. Simultaneously research is expensive and mostly happens secretively on the labs of private companies. The result is weakened proofs around claims of efficiency of medicine which are then scrutinised by public regulating bodies who at times by incapacity or unwillingness fail to find flaws in the proofs. Sometimes medicine which is either ineffective or has dire side effects is allowed on the market and this is the propaganda fodder used by the proponents of alternative medicine. The argument put forth is their alternative doesn’t come from an uncaring corrupt establishment bent on profit as opposed to “big pharma drugs”. This argument is of course corrupt, who can be more corrupt than charlatans who lobby not to be regulated so they can continue selling their fake medicine and directly profit from killing people. It is also pointless, the effectiveness of the medicine doesn’t depend on the good intentions of the inventor.

.politics

The same way some charlatans hawk sure fire solutions to medical problems via alternative medicines others hawk sure fire solutions to societal problems via alternative politics. The same way medicine that works is called medicine, politics which are viable are called politics. Just like the alternative medics live outside medicine the alternative politics live outside policy. They wrap bad ideas in platitudes and truisms. They use false logic and fake data to support their simplistic proposals to incredibly complex problems. And just like their medicine counterparts they seek personal gains. At the end all politicians seek power and wealth so alternative politicians are much more dangerous than alternative medics. Alternative politicians seek power outside the democratic system, the absolute power of dictators or the unchecked power of money.

.epilogue

Alternatives are great. Alternatives are the stuff innovation is made of and push us forward. Science and honest debate keep us from being pushed over the precipice. When considering your alternatives think about what you prefer, safe bridges or bridges built on hopes and prayers.

(c) Carlos Morgado 2019