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Friday, December 15, 2006

Post-modernism,EBM and George Orwell

Dr. Roy Poses in his Dec.01,2006 posting on Health Care Renewal tackled the topic of the attack of the post-modernists on Evidence Based Medicine (EBM). From time to time, I have written about the mis-use of EBM to cook the RCT books and hype the results and about how some may misunderstand EBM but the post-modernists attack on EBM seems to be basically self contradictory.

As pointed out by Steven Pinker (pg 426 ," The Blank Slate, the modern denial of human nature")

"It is ironic that a philosophy that prides itself on deconstructing the accoutrement's of power should embrace a relativism that makes challenges to power impossible, because it denies that there are objective benchmarks against which the deceptions of the powerful can be evaluated."

Pinker prefaces those remarks by discussing the totalitarian regime found in "Nineteen Eighty Four" and by describing their philosophy as "thoroughly postmodernist".

He quotes from the government agent, O' Brien, as he lectures the protagonist, Winston Smith, who is strapped to a table and tortured and "educated ".

"You believe that reality is something objective,external, existing in its own right. ...But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external .[it exists] only in the mind of the party, which is collective and immortal"

When there is no objective truth and no means of obtaining the truth,whoever is in charge determines what it true or not. "Who controls the past controls the future:who controls the present controls the past."

A frontal attack on the science of medicine or on science in general is fairly easily beaten back.Nonsense tends to fall on its own weight even if sometimes that fall may take longer than we would like. In regard to medicine and medical education the greater danger seems to be in the infiltration of alternative medicine elements-and its philosophic underpinnings,Post Modernism- into the curriculum of medical schools and even into the clinical services they offer. Dr. RW relentlessly keeps us well informed about the alarming instances of medical schools offering courses and sponsoring clinics for practitioners of the various categories of altie hokum.

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