Creating Waves of Awareness
Over and over, I hear the Double Blind Study called "the gold standard of research." This is incorrect and this essay will explain why.
First, what is a Double Blind Study? First, there is a hypothesis to test. For instance, let's say a pharmaceutical company has developed a new selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) which it would like to market as an anti-depressant. We'll call it "BluesAway." In order to get it past government regulators and market it successfully, they have to have experimental data that demonstrates its effectiveness. They select a group of people with depression. One-half of the group gets BluesAway. The other half gets placebo. Neither the recipients, nor the people who administer the drug know what's in the numbered envelopes. Only the principal researcher knows the key to the code and can reveal who got the drug and who got placebo. This is to eliminate bias among either the test subjects or among those who distribute it, who might give subtle unconscious signals to the recipients as to which has been given.
This is not a bad way of doing it. However, it is often referred to as the best way, and this is incorrect. What it is, is the least expensive way.
Big Pharma exists to maximize profits. Period. It is perhaps a goal of some who work there to also provide treatment for the sick, but the company itself is in the business of making profits. So the less they spend, and the less time it takes to bring BluesAway from the laboratory to the clinic, the less money they spend and the more profit they make.
What the Double Blind study allows you to do is to work with small numbers over a short period of time with the least bias possible. Nothing wrong with that.
What is wrong? When supposedly "scientific" people say that unless there is a double blind study (or two or more) backing up a claim, then it has not been scientifically verified. These people don't understand simple statistics.
Another way to collect information. Sample a very large population, in widely separated places, with lots and lots of distributors, and amass a huge amount of data. If a given substance has been used with similar to identical results in hundreds of thousands of cases all around the world, then it can be asserted as "scientifically valid" that this substance functions as claimed. The placebo effect simply will not provide enough relief for enough people to withstand that kind of test, and the varying biases, personal and cultural, of the distributors will cancel each other out.
The homeopathic method. This is what we have done in homeopathy. We have amassed a body of data in every country of the globe for over two hundred years. Results such as this are able to be evaluated statistically and the results are valid (within a given margin of error, as is the case in Double Blind Studies as well.)
A lot of people who carp about "science" and "validity" have no real knowledge of either. They have a bias for which they will seek dominance by any means. We do not have to knuckle under to this sort of "requirement", if we understand how to gather and evaluate data. We would have to be as honest about our failures as we are about our cures, if we are not to fall into the same self-serving trap.
This would make a great PhD project for some enterprising student, to set up this kind of data collection system among homeopaths the world around.