Thursday, August 29, 2013

#684: David Freedman

David Freedman is a know-nothing altmed apologist who writes for The Atlantic. He is, of course, spectacularly wrong, and his primary tactics for getting things so wrong are – instead of reason and science – selective use of evidence (or “evidence”, since he doesn’t quite know how to distinguish evidence from anecdotes) and fallacious ad hominem attacks against altmed critics, trying to explain what’s griping such critics (hence blatantly violating the first rule of debate: you are not allowed to try to explain why someone is wrong before you have shown that they are, in fact, wrong). His efforts are also discussed here.

The next move, after the ad hominem, is of course to claim that altmed works by placebo. Freedman, of course, doesn’t really have any idea about what placebo effects are. Here is a nice primer on the placebo effect. The placebo effect is not like this (Robert Schiffman’s version, and – it seems – Freedman’s). Of course, if someone were to point out his lack of critical thinking skills Freedman does not hesitate to employ his arsenal of standard crank techniques: strawmen, bait-and-switch, and moving the goalposts (or perhaps rather taking the goalposts and walking home; also here).

It is thus rather exasperatingly ironic when Freedman himself attacks health journalism. “How personal-health journalism ignores the fundamental pitfalls baked into all scientific research and serves up a daily diet of unreliable information” – yes; that is the subtitle. Without a hint of irony. And if you need to read it (don’t; read this instead), note how Freedman uses “theory” in the creationist sense. And his latest book is called WRONG: Why experts keep failing us–and how to know when not to trust them. No, seriously; this guy has self-insight like a yogic flier.

Diagnosis: A slithery defender of wishful thinking and woo over reality, Freedman is, in fact, in a position to do quite a bit of harm. And no, he is not just another journalist played by the CAM monsters; he has become a convert and a proselytizer. Should be watched.

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