Dear Dr. Boli: There are so many different health and wellness modalities out there. How do I know which ones are scientifically sound? —Sincerely, Josephine P. Briggs, M.D., Director, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Dear Madam: Dr. Boli has a single rule that, while it may seem a bit odd at first, may help you distinguish science from pseudoscience. (By all the laws of the Internet, therefore, this article should be headed “Learn to Recognize Bogus Medicine with This One Weird Rule.” Yet, unaccountably, it is not.) This is the rule: Real knowledge does not have a trademark symbol after its name.
So when you are judging the scientific basis of a “health and wellness modality,” ask yourself this question: How much of the knowledge—not the products created from it, obviously, but the knowledge itself—underpinning this discipline is protected by trademark law? “Massage” is not; “Therapeutic Touch®” is. You can see the principle; go and apply it. You might allot a few million dollars to some worthy organization to study the matter. We might suggest, purely at random, the Boli Foundation for Integrative Research, the first research organization openly dedicated to integrating solid statistical research with wishful thinking.