Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I May Have Said This Before...

Manto is a complete goddam idiot!

I'm not really all that surprised that that moron would spout such idiocy, but that doesn't shake my indignation.

I'm going to have to reproduce the article here to really give it justice:

African traditional medicines should not become "bogged down in clinical trials" when being subjected to research and development, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday.

Addressing members of the presidential task team on African traditional medicine, Tshabalala-Msimang said: "We cannot use Western models of protocols for research and development. We should guard against being bogged down with clinical trials."

She later explained that she was not against clinical trials per se. "But some of the medicines have been used by traditional healers for thousands of years. Clinical trials need protocols for traditional medicine."

She also warned against "charlatans tarnishing the image of this sector [traditional African medicine]" and "who promise our desperate help-seeking people all sorts of things that are not practically possible to deliver".

The task team is trying to come up with legal guidelines on traditional African medicines. It is expected to present these to the Cabinet early in March. It is also expected to discuss the naming of traditional medicines and patent and ownership rights.

"This lack of documentation [in traditional medicine] sometimes creates serious legal challenges," said Tshabalala-Msimang.
Ladies and gentlemen, our Minister of Health.

The woman who is responsible for making decisions that affect people's lives, quite literally, doesn't think that traditional medicines should be subject to "Western" test protocols.

In real science, there is no distinction between "Western" medicine and "African","Traditional" or "Alternative" medicine. There is only medicine, and a lot of other stuff that isn't medicine.

How do we know whether something is either medicine or not? We subject it to scientific testing. Not "Western" testing. Scientific testing.

If it works, it gets incorporated into the mainstream. if it doesn't, it gets discarded as being either worthless or harmful. Finished and klaar!

I can only laugh at Manto's little tirade at "charlatans". What exactly does she think "traditional medicine" is capable of delivering? Who are these people failing to deliver on their promises? I'll tell you who they are: anyone claiming to offer medicine who is not an MD, and even some who are!

In logical terms, in this statement Manto is committing the fallacy of special pleading: she somehow feels that African traditional medicine cannot be measured for efficacy by the same tools used to evaluate all other medicine. She feels that the tools of science - double-blind testing, clinical trials and so on - are insufficient to the task, since African traditional medicine is somehow exempt from the laws of the universe - the laws science makes its business of testing. As a Medical Doctor, she should be ashamed of herself for even thinking such a thing.

The other logical fallacy she commits here is found in this sentence:
some of the medicines have been used by traditional healers for thousands of years.
This is called the argument from antiquity, a special variant of the argument from special pleading combined with another logical fallacy: the argument from authority. She seems to assume that since these methods have been employed for a very long time, that they must work. The question that should be asked here is, when, at any point during those thousands of years, where any studies actually performed to evaluate the efficacy of the interventions? Is there any reason why they should be considered effective?

Bear in mind that practices like bloodletting and trepanning wre also practiced for centuries before they were critically evaluated and found to be useless and harmful. How do we know that the same is not true of African traditional "medicine"? We don't know, not until it has been subjected to testing... real scientific testing.

Idiocy of this nature is inexcusable. Based on this statement alone, and excluding the many, many other examples of Manto's incompetence, she should lose her job. Why is this woman still employed in the Health sector, let alone as its head?