Minchin’s Mistake

At Less Wrong, Vladimir Nesov approvingly cites Tim Minchin's poem Storm, vid here, text here.  It is an entertaining, passionate, articulate rant against fuzzy-headed thinking.  It is also seriously misguided:

By definition, (I begin)
Alternative medicine, (I continue)
Is either not been proved to work,
Or been proved, not to work.
Do you know what they call
'Alternative Medicine'
That's been proved to work?
— Medicine …

But, here's what gives me a hard-on,
I'm a tiny, insignificant
Ignorant bit of carbon.
I have one life,
And it is short and unimportant,
But thanks to recent scientific advances…
I get to live twice as long,
As my great-great-great-great
uncleses and auntses.
Twice as long!

Sadly, most anti-mystics think their strongest case is medicine.  They don't realize that the vast majority of medical treatments have no better supporting "scientific" evidence than the alternative medicine they deride, nor that modern medicine can only claim credit for a small fraction of our lifespan gains.  Someone needs to school them; they make the rest of us anti-mystics look bad!

Added: A colleague assures me most economic historians estimate we would be  pretty much just as rich and healthy today had the only "scientists" been researchers funded directly by firms, with no government, charity, or student funding. 

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