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Here at the Prism, it is our thesis that one of the major issues with alternative medicine is their over-reliance on anecdotes (n = 1) as solid evidence for whatever treatment regimen or therapy they are promoting.  To be sure, an anecdote in and of itself is not de facto invalid; for example, when a proven therapy works, we have a positive anecdote to attest to it.  However, any self-respecting science based individual would not place any significant weight on a single anecdote, or even a small cluster of consistent anecdotes, without evaluating the context in which is it offered.

The philosophic heart of the anecdote-as-evidence issue is “The Problem of Induction,” elucidated most famously by David Hume in the 1700s.  Called “the glory of science and the scandal of philosophy” by philosopher C.D. Broad, inductive reasoning is a useful method of acquiring knowledge; however, it is not without its issues.

Before I confuse you by attempting to describe inductive reasoning and the problem of induction, please watch this excellent video from the excellent 365 Days of Philosophy blog at http://365daysofphilosophy.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/august-2nd-the-problem-of-induction-strong-claim/

(I’ll try to figure out how to embed one of these days…)

So you see that while it is useful (and often necessary) to apply to the general what is observed from the specific, the logic is not airtight.  The premise “the future will resemble the past” is the cornerstone of the argument, and it can never be shown to be true (at least not without a time machine!).

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