Sunday, 15 May 2011

Are you chronically skeptical?

Update: The website Chronically Skeptical is now live.

Anyone who frequents on-line forums relating to chronic illnesses will know that they are riddled with bullshit. Sufferers of chronic illness are often desperate for some form of relief, and their conditions are often cyclical, and this makes the more gullible among them easy meat for the so-called Complementary and Alternative Medicine industry. All kinds of claims are put forward as fact without the now legendary "jot of evidence", and anyone expressing skepticism is accused of trying to deny people their relief or being in the pockets of big pharma. Often the afflicted feel let down by the conventional medicine that has failed to offer them the cure they felt sure would be available. This can lead to a mistrust of doctors and scientists, when one media-sensationalised study after another turns out to be wrong, or the silver bullet they felt was on the horizon turns out to be a blank, or to have unpleasant side-effects. In addition to this many people cling to religion to help them through, and while I would not wish to deny a sufferer the small comfort that this may bring them, it does make for annoying reading when someone writes that, f'rinstance, it's been revealed her by divine inspiration that her daughter was crippled by arthritis at an early age as part of god's will to teach them both to appreciate life more.
All this said, these forums are a valuable resource for sufferers to share their experience, learn from others who share their condition, and share some much-needed camaraderie. But for the skeptic, this experience is easily marred by the proliferation of pseudo-scientific drivel that's trotted out unchallenged on these sites.
So what to do? Where is the resource for those who favour an evidence base for treatments and knowledge of their condition, uncoloured by god, crystal healers, homeopaths and Hopi ear-candling? Well it's about time we started one. But, I can't do it all myself, I'll need help moderating and administrating such a resource. So, if you're a skeptic, and chronic disease sufferer or partner or friend of someone who is, and you're inclined to help out with such a project, let me know. I've got server space and the know-how to set up web-sites and forums etc. but assistance with the day-to-day admin/design/rules/moderation etc. would make it much more likely to be a genuinely useful resource. So I've registered (which currently only points at this article); if you want to help out please contact me on describing the kind of help you are prepared to offer, and a little about your background and why you motivated to help.