Proof, Facts, and Alternative Medicine

Philosophers of science are a bit like Catholic priests as marriage counselors: They entertain ideas that are different from those of the practitioners. The foolhardy assumption that a hypothesis cannot be proved, but only disproved, is irrelevant to the workings of modern science, which is based on experiments. (In fact, strictly speaking, a hypothesis can neither be proven nor disproved). Experiments restrict the range of discussion on a subject. While it is axiomatic that, for a limited number of experiments there is an unlimited number of explanations, or hypotheses, the hypotheses have to be reasonable. When reasonable explanations are tested and excluded, the remaining explanation becomes the basis of the next experiment. It is this next experiment that theoreticians forget about: It is the accumulation of positive outcomes from successive experiments that establishes a fact, such as that DNA is the hereditary material. “Alternative” medicine is, at best, based on “experience,” not on experiments. While experiences no doubt constitute facts as well and, indeed, greatly outnumber facts established by experiments, experiences tend to be tied to various ad hoc explanations that fit the day. The therapy prescription to “throw enough cards (or remedies), and eventually some odds will go your way,” is questionable, as there are too many possibilities.