Placebo - Good or Bad?
#1
Question 
Hello, my fellow free thinkers,

I recently faced a very huge dilemma with respect to Homeopathy. My girlfriend whom I truly love, has almost completed a 5 year course in medicine - yes, Homeopathy. While the decision for taking up Homeo was something less than choice, I don't understand how to deal with the truth.

I recently had a discussion with a fellow atheist about Homeopathy and started researching about it. I also found out about the James Randi challenge and how nobody has yet won it even after many tried and failed.

This post is not about discussing whether Homeopathy works or not. I am facing a very complex situation in my relationship. Since my girlfriend dedicated 5 years of her life to learn medicine, it becomes infinitely difficult for me to discuss the validity of Homeopathy with her. Even though we maintain complete transparency on all issues, I am squeamish about this particular one.

Once when I told her about the James Randi challenge, she was devastated and said that I am the only person she trusts most and that she didn't think I would be arguing about her career choice. I somehow convinced her that I don't really understand how Homeopathy works and I didn't mean to say that I doubted whether it worked at all. This seemed to solve the issue.

However, I have been plagued with a sense of guilt for not telling her what I actually thought about this. I have convinced myself not to approach this topic in a harsh manner as I do not want to lose her. She respects my views about god even though she doesn't agree with me. But I don't think THIS is a topic that will be open for discussion between us.

Coming to the point of this post, do you guys think that I shouldn't approach this topic for the good of our relationship or that I should try to make her see her "flaw"? Do I maintain this "Placebo" for the sake of our relationship, or not?
[fon‌t=Trebuchet MS]The easiest answer to a difficult question is almost always not the right one.[/font]
Reply
#2
As you rightly say, "The easiest answer to a difficult question is almost always not the right one." Following is an attempt not at easy answers but at considering related questions to the very difficult question you pose, to see if at least those will have some feasible answers that can help you lay the ground at least.

What is the typical content of a homeopath's curriculum and are there items there which support other career paths besides being a full-time homeopathic practitioner? Are all 5 years devoted purely to the claims of 'Like cures like' and 'Less is more' or are there other science/management subjects taught as well? I ask because not all curricula feature courses exclusively related to the specialization, and often, the so called sidelights courses may offer interesting career options.

Would it be doable to open the topic not as a debunker but as a friendly devil's advocate? One possibly less risky way of broaching the topic of the effectiveness of homeopathy is to take the line of "Regular medicine seems to work remarkably well most of the time." more often than "Homeopathy is pseudoscience." In other words, conversations about the sound grounding and routinely demonstrated effectiveness of evidence-based scientific medicine maybe begun even with those emotionally invested in complementary-and-alternative-medicine, under the ostensible guise of playing 'devil's advocate' even though we know where our conviction lies. Your intent may well be to debunk, but adopting an overtly ambiguous stance with the possibility of just being a well-meaning devil's advocate, is a useful ambiguity that is useful in maintaining comfort-levels in relationships (Steven Pinker examines the merits of such relationship-saving ambiguity in communication styles, in this talk)

Going by the book, there is no better policy in dealing with those we love than "Trusting them with the truth." However, to say gravely that "Here's the hard truth and it's up to you come to terms with it." is not the only way. A more engaged way to serve our commitment to truth while also making an honest attempt to honour our personal commitments might be to say "Please help me understand why this does not seem right to me..." This way, your friend with whom you disagree on a point of science or philosophy, can see you less as a hostile interrogator, and feels more like you are really on their side making an honest attempt to figure out things together. So, how about attempting this as a way of seeking help from your friend, rather than as an attempt to save them?

If you decide to do this together, then one thing to think of beforehand, perhaps the most important thing, is "What alternative is available on offer if the current option which is so heavily invested in, is found to be untrustworthy?". This problem of finding reason-based alternatives is perhaps the single-most important endeavour of freethinkers, in which success stories are as yet few, since the primary preoccupation still seems to be to bust myths and hope that folks will be jolted to their senses to figure out alternatives themselves. This however is a tall order and we can't expect lone individuals, especially those going through tough times, to figure these out in a flash of insight. Some collective community inputs in this regard, for the case in point, maybe to look first for a "Homeopaths Anonymous" kind of resource which helps those trained in homeopathy but have lost their convictions, to build alternative careers.
Reply
#3
Anniyan, one thing that you need to answer to yourself is "whats at stake? ". And I mean this holistically. Whats at stake from your principles/values standpoint, from relationship standpoint, from social standpoint etc. I think the answer will unfold very well once you can come up with that list.

A freethinker is supposed to have scientific temper and implicitly obliged to spread it. But unfortunately choices in life aren't this black/white and uncomfortable situations like this need to be handled based on the factors present in the above mentioned list.

Also Freethought is "an umbrella term encompassing a number of ideas including skepticism, application of the scientific method (scientific naturalism), philosophical naturalism, atheism, rationalism, humanism etc." It has a lot of "isms" and you need to figure out which matter to you most. I remember Ajita once commenting that "He is incompatible with a person who lacks compassion". You need to figure out your own factors.
Reply
#4
(27-Aug-2012, 01:50 AM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote: Anniyan, one thing that you need to answer to yourself is "whats at stake? ". And I mean this holistically. Whats at stake from your principles/values standpoint, from relationship standpoint, from social standpoint etc. I think the answer will unfold very well once you can come up with that list.

The question Kanad raises is arguably the single-most important one, which needs to be asked before placing this in any ethical framework. Different frameworks have been discussed in various threads here, but before venturing to apply any one, clarity on "What is at stake?" is indispensable. Even so, we can survey briefly how different schools of ethics would approach the case laid out in the OP.

Utilitarianism:
A utilitarian approach would require us to first rank different potential sufferings in order of severity, and choose a suitable quantitative measure of pleasure or pain (based commonly on intensity, duration, remoteness and so forth). In the case at hand, two sources of suffering are "remaining in a dubious occupation" and "losing a cherished relationship". At the outset itself, clarity is demanded by the utilitarians on which of these is to be viewed as the greater suffering. A utilitarian may also invoke the sunk-costs dilemma and ask a question like " Does the expense of five years in preparation for a dubious occupation warrant not breaking the hard truth to the person concerned, at risk of wasting indefinitely many years in the same profession if we refrain from intervening now?"

Deontology:
The Second Formulation of Kant's Categorical Imperative reads:
Quote:Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.
The essence of humanity, according to Kant is in the exercise of Reason and Autonomy. Here is one interpretation the Categorical Imperative lends itself to when applied to the case at hand. Viewing the partner as endowed with Reason, they must be trusted with the truth and their judgment must be requested. Viewing them as autonomous agents, we must be willing to abide by their reasoned judgments without any coercion, so long as they have been provided to the extent possible with the true picture to assist in their decision.

Moral Foundations Theory:
According to this framework (outlined briefly here), it is recommended that we consider the following criteria (which we do by some representative questions below) in order to arrive at a decision that seems moral to us.

Care/harm : Is greater harm caused by the trauma of knowing that five years are wasted, or by continuing blissfully unaware for a lifetime in service of quackery?

Fairness/cheating : What is more unfair: one partner having to make a difficult career switch, or another partner having to spend potentially a lifetime with someone whose very occupation is an affront to their convictions? Who gets a rawer deal here?

Liberty/oppression : To what extent can a partner's lifestyle choices be expected to conform to the convictions and ideology of the other partner, and when is intervention warranted?

Loyalty/betrayal : Is primary loyalty to the relationship itself or to the welfare of the partner irrespective of the relationship? (The care/harm question also is a way of asking, which of the available courses of action is a greater betrayal of the welfare of the partner)

Authority/subversion : How can a decision be collectively made by the couple so that both feel least coerced into a decision by the other? How can the choice of both be respected, without the initiative being unbalanced in favour of one partner?

Sanctity/degradation : Which is the one value that we consider sacrosanct and trumping all else: unconditional love, or devotion to truth?

That brings us back again to the moot question "What is at stake?"
Since this is a freethinkers' forum, I have refrained from bringing up Divine Command Theory to say, "Relationships are made in Heaven; so who are we to intervene because of our pet causes!" smile
Once there's clarity on the "What's at stake?" question, there's little more light than any from the galaxy of philosophers surveyed above can throw on the question.

[+] 1 user Likes arvindiyer's post
Reply
#5
Thanks for all the suggestions you gave me guys. I should have also mentioned one more important point. She wants to become a surgeon by taking up a course that would somehow allow her to take up M.D. in surgery.

arvindiyer Wrote: What is the typical content of a homeopath's curriculum and are there items there which support other career paths besides being a full-time homeopathic practitioner?

The syllabus is mostly the same except those of prescribing medicine. All subjects like anatomy, physiology, OBGyn, etc. are the same as the syllabus of an M.B.B.S. course. But, there are no valid courses that will let a person who has studied Homeopathy as a study in Medicine to even try to switch over to Allopathic medicine without starting all over again.
[fon‌t=Trebuchet MS]The easiest answer to a difficult question is almost always not the right one.[/font]
Reply
#6
(27-Aug-2012, 01:50 AM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote: Anniyan, one thing that you need to answer to yourself is "whats at stake? ". And I mean this holistically. Whats at stake from your principles/values standpoint, from relationship standpoint, from social standpoint etc. I think the answer will unfold very well once you can come up with that list.

That is the most important question that I asked myself. The answer is that I do not want to give up on this relationship just because our views are conflicting in one particular aspect. I feel I can compromise on this point because her ultimate aim is to become a Cardio-vascular surgeon. And to do this, she would have to take up Allopathy. This being the case, I think it is only wise that I make this one compromise of not telling her the hard facts when she needs my support the most.

(27-Aug-2012, 08:30 AM)arvindiyer Wrote: Moral Foundations Theory:
According to this framework (outlined briefly here), it is recommended that we consider the following criteria (which we do by some representative questions below) in order to arrive at a decision that seems moral to us.

Care/harm : Is greater harm caused by the trauma of knowing that five years are wasted, or by continuing blissfully unaware for a lifetime in service of quackery?

Fairness/cheating : What is more unfair: one partner having to make a difficult career switch, or another partner having to spend potentially a lifetime with someone whose very occupation is an affront to their convictions? Who gets a rawer deal here?

Liberty/oppression : To what extent can a partner's lifestyle choices be expected to conform to the convictions and ideology of the other partner, and when is intervention warranted?

Loyalty/betrayal : Is primary loyalty to the relationship itself or to the welfare of the partner irrespective of the relationship? (The care/harm question also is a way of asking, which of the available courses of action is a greater betrayal of the welfare of the partner)

Authority/subversion : How can a decision be collectively made by the couple so that both feel least coerced into a decision by the other? How can the choice of both be respected, without the initiative being unbalanced in favour of one partner?

Sanctity/degradation : Which is the one value that we consider sacrosanct and trumping all else: unconditional love, or devotion to truth?

That brings us back again to the moot question "What is at stake?"
Since this is a freethinkers' forum, I have refrained from bringing up Divine Command Theory to say, "Relationships are made in Heaven; so who are we to intervene because of our pet causes!" smile
Once there's clarity on the "What's at stake?" question, there's little more light than any from the galaxy of philosophers surveyed above can throw on the question.

I think I have analysed and understood my situation. The thing that I need to do is support her endeavors on getting into surgery. This way, both of us are happy. But it will take some time for that to happen. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with my dilemma.
[fon‌t=Trebuchet MS]The easiest answer to a difficult question is almost always not the right one.[/font]
Reply
#7
Anniyan,

With a homeo degree, can she get into health care management or hospital management or public health? If she is interested in doing so, she does not have to practice homeopathy, and yet can feel the degree was not a waste because it allowed her entry.

If I were in your shoes, I would rather tackle the issue now rather than having to live with it for the rest of my life or having to contend with it after getting married, and perhaps after a kid or two.
Reply


Possibly Related Threads...
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  power of placebo LMC 2 4,337 16-Jan-2012, 10:38 PM
Last Post: LMC



Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)