Posted in Psychology, Writing

If it Quacks Like a Duck, and Looks Like a Duck, its a Placebo.

Our society tries to seek out natural treatments and alternative medicines because we think of them as safer and just as effective (if not more effective) than the manufactured versions, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many of them don’t work at all. And even worse, some of them can cause illness, serious side effects, or even death. This is the myth, and the associated problems, Bill Nye takes on in his show “Bill Nye Saves the World.” The first episode entitled “Tune your Quack-o-meter”, examines natural cures, alternative medicine, and the placebo effect.

Purveyors of natural treatments often twist science in puzzling ways to make their ideas sound effective and magical. One magical medicine man featured in the episode claimed sound can heal cancer and other diseases. He claimed that, if you could match the specific vibration of the affected cells, sound could be more effective than modern medicines. Another healer claimed crystals, chakras, and chants could do the same. Unfortunately, these things do nothing except make hundreds of dollars disappear — money that could, and likely should, be used for medicine that has been tested and scientifically proven.

Alternative medicines are untested and unregulated. There is no empirical proof, but people still use them despite being dangerous and ineffective. Alternative medicine is “any of a range of medical therapies that are not regarded as orthodox by the medical profession, such as herbalism, homeopathy, and acupuncture.”

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Bill Nye Saves the world Season 1, episode 2. checklist for false alternative medicine in determining its authenticity

I believe that these “natural healing” methods lead to bigger issues. People are scammed out of hundreds of dollars. They lose valuable time that be used on scientifically-proven medications. They can interfere with medications they are taking, come with confounding side effects, and even lead to death. Even then, people claim they still work. This is due to the illusory placebo effect.

The placebo effect is the belief that a medicine or treatment works despite having no active ingredients. Natural and therapeutic tools  like dollar store crystals and sound are what I would label as an illusory placebo effect. This is where someone believes there has been an improvement due to the treatment when, in fact,  there hasn’t been any improvement whatsoever. This is enhanced when marketing agencies use terms like “a new study claims… ” or “scientists say…”. Here, the claims are subjective, biased, or completely false.

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Bill Nye Saves the world Season 1, episode 2. Explaining the Placebo Effect. 

With that being said, I believe there is a difference between a treatment and a tool. A tool in medicine or well-being is something that can assist alongside proper treatment. For example, crystals, sound vibrations, or different forms of therapy can help by making someone feel better and given them peace of mind, but they should never be labeled as a treatment. It is irresponsible and harmful to those needing treatment, their families, and the general public. This is no different than Peter Pan saying fairies only exist when people believe in them. Am I comparing these natural remedies to mythical creatures? Yes, yes I am.

“Although some might think this show is a waste of Netflix space, Bill Nye Saves the World” adds science and reasoning to controversial topics and brings them into the public eye. Alternative or natural treatments should not be seen as cures or even as a substitute for pharmaceutical medication or treatment. I do believe that, just like any other form of therapy, they can be used along side doctor recommended medicine.

Bill Nye saves the world series, although some might question the target audience or that say that this show is a waste of Netflix space, this show brings science and reason of controversial topics like homeopathic medicines into the public eye. Alternative or natural treatments should not be seen as cures or even as a substitute for pharmaceutical medication or treatment. I do believe that just like any other form of therapy like crystals, yoga, and sound therapy are tools in treatment along side doctor recommended medicine, but not as a solo remedy for such aliments as cancer. So, once again Bill Nye has saved the world.

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