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What is alternology?
The term 'alternology' is used as a synonym for 'alternative medicine' or 'quackery'. It is used to avoid the word 'medicine'. There is no such thing as 'alternative medicine'. There is only 'medicine'.

Treatments that have never been tested, are not medicine (yet), and treatments that have been tested and found ineffective or even harmful are also not 'medicine'. These two types of treatment pooled together are essentially what is called 'alternative medicine'.

On the other hand, 'medicine' is the body of treatments that have both been tested and showed to work.

Many practitioners of 'alternative medicine' or 'quackery' are people who honestly, though very mistakenly believe that their administrations work. In order to be honest about what they do, while avoiding insulting them, the term 'alternology' was devised. The practitioners then, are called 'alternologists' instead of 'quacks' and their treatments are called alternological treatments or alternological services or alternological products.

This, however, does not preclude the sad reality that there are a bunch of sinister cynics out there who know very well that their alternology doesn't work. These people are rightly called 'quacks'. An example of such quacks are medical doctors who have switched to alternology. While they may be legally OK, morally speaking, these people are criminals.

The attentive reader will have noticed that there is something not entirely kosher here: it is indeed by no means certain that an untested treatment is not effective. If it was, the alternologist's treatment could be quite beneficial for her/his patient. This is true, but it is counter-balanced by the fact that the treatment could also be quite harmful or could possibly have no effect at all.

The point is that 'untested' means that we do not know whether or not a treatment is beneficial or harmful or merely useless. As a result, it would be reckless and irresponsible to use it, until it has been properly tested.

Honesty and completeness require that another aspect is mentioned as well. While 'medicine' is a body of practices, diagnoses and treatments that have been shown to work, it is by no means a secret that individual doctors sometimes resort to untested treatments. Would it then not be fair to call them alternologists or quacks as well? Not quite.

Some dubious practices are still being taught in med school. Call it tradition. Medicine has advanced enormously since Darwin's time, and many practices have been tested and accepted or weeded out. Not everything used in modern medicine has been tested yet, but the process is ongoing.

This is a very important distinction between medicine and alternology. Medicine tests, alternology does not.

To end, here are three definitions of 'quackery':

  1. Bad medical treatment from doctors who are not very good at their job, or from people who cheat other people by pretending to be doctors (Macmillan dictionary)
  2. Medical practice and advice based on observation and experience in ignorance of scientific findings (WordNet)
  3. The dishonesty of a charlatan (WordNet)

This is also what 'alternology' is.

This page was last updated on 7 June 2012