The Sciences

CAM and the "War on Science"

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyMar 5, 2009 10:20 PM

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I realize I am a little bit late to this party. But recently (here, there, and everywhere) all of ScienceBlogs was abuzz about Sen. Tom Harkin's complaint that various complementary and alternative remedies are not being validated by the NIH office supposedly designed to do so--namely, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). I haven't written about alternative medicine in many years, though I used to follow it fairly closely. But here's what I don't understand. Whatever its suspicious origins, if NCCAM is now doing rigorous studies on the efficicacy of therapies that tons of people out there are already using, isn't this a very good thing? I certainly don't see how that's an attack on science. Senator Harkin himself may be displeased, and Senator Harkin may nourish sentiments that are pretty unscientific--especially if he's unhappy to see science run its course in this area, and separate wheat from chaff. But it seems like government-sponsored medical research itself is doing just what it's supposed to do in this instance. Am I missing something?

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