This leads to another topic that has been discussed heatedly at several skeptic meetings and on a lot of the skeptic forums. When it comes to correcting misinformation, should you be polite, calm, and reasonable, or should you be as loud and emotional as the supporters of Woo are? Some people say do one, some say the other. Me, I say do both. If you're in a debate in front of an audience with someone denouncing vaccinations, and they are yelling, screaming, and trying to win the audiences sympathy for being "misrepresented by the mainstream media" and talking about "the dangerous side effects on children", it is best if you show the intellectual side of the argument, and try to impress the group with facts, but it would be fine to show your emotions over the numbers of sick and dying that didn't get immunized. If you are talking to a family member about their deciding to use homeopathy and naturopathy to treat their cancer, by all means, get loud and try and make them see sense, almost like an intervention, and who hasn't been there? An even more balanced approach is to gauge what the opposition is doing, and how their information is being presented, and nearly match them. I know that it is difficult to make numbers and facts come across as emotionally provoking as some of the "facts" that conspiracy theorists, anti-vaccers, anti-evolutionists, and "natural healers" use, but with a little work, and a lot of good P.R., we can do it, and show the world that we aren't just "liberal minded, cold-hearted science types", but caring responsible science types.
And now for a few definitions that are often confused for real science. And yes there will be a test, but don't worry, it'll be open book, or is that open internet? This was spawned during a dinner conversation with a good friend of ours, and it brought back a topic I had been wanting to discuss for a while.
Astrology is the study of the signs of your birth i.e. "Cancer is in the house of Pisces".
Astronomy (astrophysics) is the study of the universe and how it works i.e. "Proxima Centauri is the nearest star to Earth at 4.2 light years.
With these, unless you are using astrology to make important decisions, such as "The stars say to avoid anyone wearing a white coat, so I shouldn't go to the doctor to have this strange bleeding from my ears looked at." (and yes, it happens. insert facepalm here), the confusion doesn't cause much harm, unless you say it to Neil Degrasse Tyson, then, there may be some harm.
Homeopathy is an alternative form of medicine (and I mean alternative) that uses "a highly diluted toxin to cure a disease". Basically, you're taking a sugar pill, but I will grant that the placebo effect can do some amazing things. Currently however, there is NO proof that homeopathy actually works and relying solely on it can be harmful.
Holistic medicine is an approach that takes the entire person into account as to why they are ill, which so far, isn't a bad idea. But it also deals with imbalances in a persons spirit or Chi. Some of the ways that a holistic healer will attempt to cure something is :
For the most part, fine and dandy. And who doesn't like a nice massage, but outside of exercise, most of these have at best a placebo effect, and if they are used in place of western medicine for a serious problem, they can lead to death.
Naturopathy is basically using plants and herbs to treat problems in the body, and the normal argument is "It comes from nature, so it must be good for you." This is also called the Natural Fallacy. Another point that naturopaths make is "Native Americans and the Chinese have used these cures for centuries." This logical fallacy is called an Argument from Antiquity. Concerning the "comes from nature" argument, I hate to be the one to point it out, but Arsenic, Cyanide, comets, radiation, scorpions, and Bobcat Goldthwaite are all naturally occurring, but I wouldn't exactly call any of them good for you, especially in large amounts.
And the last definition is Medicine which is, according to dictionary.com
1. any substance or substances used in treating disease or illness; medicament; remedy.