You know, I seriously _was not_ setting out to be the anti skeptic skeptic or anything, but you know dismissing stuff that works and is evidence based medicine because it sounds like woo, or because you don’t approve of the diseases, symptoms and syndromes that it treats, seriously, when you ignore science because it doesn’t suit your agenda, well I would prefer the word for that wasn’t skeptic. While I think PZ is too strong dismissing the evidence he quotes an author saying
Mindful meditation may be relatively innocuous fluff
Where as I would call it evidence based treatment this is mostly about his commentors, not him, but I think he is writing in good faith. One commentor said
You miss one point. If one sees years and years of bad studies, without proper controls, small sample sizes, and self reporting, we are right to be skeptical. Do you have any studies, with thousands of subjects and non-self reporting for endpoints, and the proper controls in place, that show anything better than PLACEBO, the wonder drug? Then, and only then, can a real statement be made. You just sound like you are gullible with weak evidence.
Do you have any idea? Any idea at all how much thousands of people in a study cost? Do you understand that statistical significance? Can you suggest any non self reported end points for chronic pain or mental illness? (if anyone can, I am not an expert, feel free to jump in, I would be really interested in signs of pain or mental illness). Are you in fact suggesting that we throw everything we know about mental health care out, deregister all the psych drugs out there because OCD doesn’t cause a distinctive rash? At this point the bartender in my brain started taking the good bottles off the shelf.
I didn’t mind the original article that much, I think PZ raises some good points about the funding of non scientific organizations, and just because mindfulness meditation has some evidence doesn’t mean this group hasn’t just picked up the name without offering anything useful, and yes, the cost of a day session is really high which sets off my bulshit user alarm. However when it does come to the usefulness of mindfulness meditation for stress and mental illness. Some of the commentors have talked about claims suggesting that mindfulness lowers your risk of cancer and/or will fix everything, I want to be clear here, as far as I know these claims are totally unsupported by the evidence and should be stamped on whenever they turn up, exactly in the same way you would stamp on the same claims made about antibiotics.
You see, I am crazy, we could go into DSM IV diagnosis’s but for now lets stick to crazy. I have a very good doctor, she knows her stuff, but she is a big big hippy, she is really into green tea and long flowery skirts so when she suggested mindfulness meditation I quietly dismissed it, I was busy, when she brought it up again, I looked it up when I got home I was impressed enough that I thought I would try it, and I am glad I did. I know the research isn’t perfect, but it is good enough for me, given the low cost (around 20 dollars a bookstore) and low risk of harm I decided it was worth a go.
But this isn’t about me, it is about evidence, and it is about evidence in imperfect setting, you know what a statistician like me likes? A machine that goes bing with describable errors, when you get humans involved, actually humans who are really susceptible to placebo (both from hippies and pharmacological agents) who have good days and bad days it gets really hard to measure, and that is even with something that you can measure like blood pressure, when you get into really wacky stuff, stuff we can’t measure, like pain or mental illness well then your well past proof. If you want to trial a new painkiller, a new psych drug or know how effective meditation is as say an agent to avoid depression relapse you can’t avoid talking to actual people, and if the evidence for mindfulness isn’t good enough for you, I suggest you head to your local chemist and stop them selling NSAID’s