It’s super easy — “barely an inconvenience” — to design and publish a study of bullshit medicine that will produce results ambiguous enough to justify shouting “more study needed.” Just a little statistical jiggery pokery, and presto! A crappy little clinical trial of something silly can become a “promising” part of a “growing body of evidence.”
How many studies like this are necessary to call it “growing”? Zero or one will do if you’re selling snake oil! Two if you’re the average uncritical science journalist hack. Three if you’re ethical/diligent but prone to wishful thinking.
But why stop there? These days there is an industry pumping out low quality papers like this (and that was true even before the disastrous innovation of “predatory journals”). Alternative medicine has mastered the art of dead-horse-beating with this kind of pseudoscience, fanning naïve hopes about treatments that should have been left in the dustbin of medical history decades ago.
Dr. Harriet Hall passed away in January after a long career in medicine, and then many more years of educational writing and anti-quackery activism. I’ll be making a point of quoting her work for the rest of my career. Here’s my memorial post.