Monday, May 16, 2011

I Guess Power Balance Magic Improves Dentistry Too!

So this morning, after I got my teeth cleaned, my dentist wandered in to give me the usual cursory examination before trying to talk me into a bunch of probably unnecessary dental work.  And the first thing I noticed as his hands drew near to my mouth was that he was wearing a Power Balance Bracelet!

I stopped him before he could start probing around in there and asked him how, as a doctor and a man of science, he could possibly be wearing (and therefore promoting) such nonsense.

His answer:  He’s a baseball coach (and a basketball and soccer coach). And, while he doesn’t see any benefit for his basketball and soccer players, it does appear to work for his baseball players. He said he knows it’s a basically a placebo effect, but baseball players are superstitious lot, and, in his words “the placebo effect works.”  That didn’t explain why he would wear the silly thing to work, though, and I didn’t press him on that (I find that it’s probably best not to be too confrontational with a man who will be wielding a drill in one’s mouth).

We chatted about this business for a bit, and he didn’t back off of the belief that the placebo effect, in and of itself, was a good thing.  Even though it was essentially ‘mind over matter,’ if that had good results on the diamond, then why fight it?

And I guess that’s a good question to ponder a bit. If an athlete truly believes that that bit of plastic around his wrist is improving his skills, and he therefore performs better as a result, is that, in fact, not a good thing?  I know the correct skeptical answer, but how do you answer someone like this – an educated man, a doctor, who is bought into the woo because he believes he sees it working?

1 comment:

  1. well, the thing is - placebo does work. Really. That's a scientific fact. That's why modern drugs are (or must, at least) all tested with a placebo control. Because placebo does work. On some part of the mankind. :)

    Of course, it doesn't really work in case of e.g. pneumonia or cancer (still some people could FEEL themselves better, but analysis show the truth). But it would work in case of flu or for some allergic etc. Other example: if a person with high blood pressure thinks he is taking some good medicine that helps him to keep normal blood pressure, then he'll be more calm and less nervous which mean lower blood pressure level. :))

    And in the case of superstitious peoples (like these baseball players) the placebo would work really well. Not because they are full of this 'energy' generated by this device (or whatever it does (not) :) ). Because they think they are in good form or lucky or something. They are feeling more confident and then perform well. :) Pure psychology, no pseudo-science.

    The disturbing thing about your dentist (IMHO :) ) is not that he use it while couching. A good doctor could use the placebo, no problems - it could help some of the patients (nervous, old, superstitious etc.). But the doctor must not use placebo 'because he saw it works', he must use it because he KNOWS HOW and WHY it works. :)

    Sorry for the length of this comment. :)