Is it TIme for Science to Reinvent Itself?


Slow But Hopeful
Couchland, USA
I have been giving a lot of thought lately to the XMRV assays, and the issues surrounding them, and to clinical trials, and have come to the conclusion that scientific procedure is now outdated, and needs to be revised.

Let's take double-blind placebo tests or what have you. Recent evidence shows that placebo often works as well as medicine (we'll not go into why here) so given that, does it not now seem unscientific to proceed in comparing a trial medicine to a placebo? Not to mention, it is cruel to the patients in those trials who are receiving placebo while hoping to receive the treatment and become well. Seems like an ethics refresher is needed there as well.

Why not simply
-Agree what defines a disease
-Choose a patient population that fits those parameters
-Administer trial medication
-Measure if they improve

You already have a built in "control" in the sense that sick people will either:
-stay the same
-get worse

Just because it was decided by consensus some time ago that the current scientific methods
were the most accurate or appropriate, it doesn't mean they are still so. With the new info about placebo, it seems absurd to be using that as a measure against which to determine the effectiveness of any medicine.

So much of the argument going on in the XMRV replication studies seems to be related to another problem I notice in academia all the time: The terms are self-defined, and therefore all argument remains within a closed set of constructs. I realise this is part and parcel to much scientific study, but it can lead to a dangerous set of flaws in thinking, and in seeing reality for what it is, rather than how it appears within the confines of your predetermined criteria.

How can these procedures, both clinical and academic, be streamlined in a way that serves patients, and medicine in general, better? How can we raise the ethics to a standard that considers people and their lives before politics, procedure, and predetermined thought? How do we return medical science to a place more friendly to the genuine curiosity and benevolence of researchers and doctors, and less enslaved to political and financial bias?


Senior Member
excellent Leela. When I read the story and interview in Slade about Marshall's journey to get the truth about ulcers out and the pharm interests against it etc, well, its just appalling and ridiculous, like many doctors weren't even routinely testing for h pylori in the new millenium yet!