So, let’s say we are looking for a new home. Can you imagine buying one without opening the basement door, walking down the stairs and peering at the foundation? (Imagine you live in a basementy bioregon please)
Would you take a realtor’s word for it that the foundation is fine? The person who is trying to sell you the house? I wouldn’t. I’d bust out my headlamp and see for myself. And I certainly would never suggest that others on the internet should buy that house without that information. Would you buy a car without looking under the hood, or at least kicking the tires? (Which…I don’t know, do people think the tires are going to explode or what? But anyway–let’s just imagine. It’s a thought experiment.)
So why are we taking overdramatic statements which have not been backed up from people who are selling the product or have something to gain as fact in the world of natural health, repeating these claims as if we’ve looked in the basement, when in fact we often haven’t even opened the front door?
For example, I frequently hear that oil pulling is miraculous, but you absolutely must spit out the oil after swishing as “it is FILLED with toxins”. What are all these toxins? How does coconut oil pull them out? Where did they come from? Come on, people. The reason why this is a problem is that it turns many more realistic people off, makes it much easier for them to dismiss alternative medicine in general, and allows us to live in unexamined delusion. Additionally, it obscures the basic idea that coconut oil may have some basic benefits in helping to reduce certain types of gum and skin inflammation.
If a claim is true but the foundation of it is fuzzy logic or magical thinking it is no better than a beautiful home built on a termite-infested base. It is easily knocked over.
If a claim is exaggerated it shows an inherent under-confidence in the claim. I often feel like IF the solutions alternative types are bringing to the table are so great THEN we do not have to use words like “miraculous”, “magical”, “the one solution” and so forth. LET THE REMEDY SPEAK FOR ITSELF. Because plants and foods have properties, they will stand or fall on their own merit in practice, and do not need fallacious thinking to promote them.
We in the natural health community often give those who dislike us on principle a proverbial box of ammo to use against us by failing to use logic, relying on fear-based tactics, denying basic scientific principles and/or failing to call out absurd marketing claims. Perhaps we should reconsider this approach?
Let’s stop trying to get blog clicks at the expense of reason.
Let’s stop fear-mongering.
Let’s recognize that integration may be more valuable, long-term, than separation.
Let’s recognize that some of our promotional materials make us, as a community, sound like judgmental douchebags.
And let’s let go of the naturalistic fallacy and open our minds to helping to discover what works best, which I believe includes plant-based medicine in many cases, as well as standardized medicine, movement, community-building, nutrition, addressing systemic and environmental issues which contribute to health outcomes and, occasionally, just letting people be heard.
Ultimately, let’s examine our motives. Are we trying to advance care for our community? Or are we trying to be rock stars? What unfolds as we build this house will depend in many ways on whether to not we are building our solutions on a strong foundation or on a slidy pile of sand, so let’s consider that next time we combine our hands, a laptop and an idea, eh?
Addendum: Please don’t think I am against case studies, narratives or personal stories, but I think they need to come with FULL disclosure and I think “It worked for me, I don’t know why but you could look into it and try it of you want” and “I heard it cures cancer” and “It is a miracle and you must use it now” are extremely different types of statements. Words have meaning, people.