Saturday, September 5, 2009

Placebo Revisited...

I blogged last week on a few articles about placebo.  In particular, I cited this article which seemed to indicate a rise in the effectiveness of placebo.  It seems that I, and possibly the cited Wired article writer, don't quite understand the whole concept of placebo.  This article, "Placebo Is Not What You Think It Is," by Peter Lipson, from the Science Based Medicine blog, clarifies some things about the placebo issue. I won't even bother trying to explain it because frankly I'm out of my league with this whole conversation.  And I know when I'm beat.  I don't really understand placebo and the terminology or science involved.  But I won't give up trying to understand it.  I shall prevail.  Eventually.  

In the meantime, I'll stick to discussing things I know, like unicorns and butterflies.  Oh wait, I don't know them so well either. Hmm...perhaps I should just link to stuff and keep quiet. Good thing I'm not so worried anymore about looking dumb.  It happens pretty often these days.  :)

tall penguin

7 comments:

Steve Silberman said...

tall penguin, if you look at the other copy of Peter's blog here...

http://scienceblogs.com/whitecoatunderground/2009/09/placebo_is_not_what_you_think.php

...you'll see that I answered his challenges to the article quite thoroughly. I wasn't going to go through the whole thing again on another blog, but at least read what I wrote. The response to my article from placebo researchers, people at the NIH, and even drug developers has been very positive.

tall penguin said...

Hey there Steve, thanks for stopping by. I'll definitely check out your response. I'm still pretty sure I'm out of my league though on this. Although I refuse to admit defeat quite yet. The tall penguin is a pretty stubborn breed.

Call me Paul said...

Hmm, I don't think Lipson's article is all that on point. He seems to be arguing about the title rather than the content, when the title was almost certainly the one part of the Wired article the author did not create. I don't agree that the writer of the Wired article does not understand placebo. And I think Lipson's article unfairly criticises him for things he didn't really say.

tall penguin said...

No, it looks like I, not Steve (the Wired article writer), don't understand the subject matter. It takes me long enough to understand the main points of an article, that by the time the comments roll around I have a hard time even sorting out what is fair criticism and what is not. I'm seriously thinking I need to take a course in critical thinking. My brain feels like a big ole hodgepodge sometimes. It would be nice to have a few basic principles to sort things out.

Steve and I actually had an email exchange. He's pretty cool. And a fine writer to boot.

Steve Silberman said...

> the title was almost certainly the one part of the Wired article the author did not create

That's absolutely true. The title I signed off on, which appears in the magazine, is "The Placebo Problem." (My own provocative title was "The Healing Lie.")

Thanks so much, tall penguin!

CyberLizard said...

I went through Peter's post and the comments and still was unsure of some of the semantic details. Unfortunately I was at Dragon*Con, so my brain was otherwise occupied.

What impressed me most was that the author of the original article was able to come on the site and have a discussion where both parties respectfully discussed their positions and it didn't devolve into a shouting match. Much appreciation to Steve for rationally dealing with criticism, whether said criticism was accurate or not.

tall penguin said...

Yes, the discussion has been civil, which is better than what I've seen on a lot of SBM and skeptic blogs over the years.

I have read through the comments now by Lipson and Silberman and can't say I understand much. As I said, I'm out of my league on this one. But, to their credit, they've opened up more questions for me to investigate which I will do to the best of my ability.