No-evidence medicine is all around us:
- “There is no evidence of human-to-human transmission of coronavirus.”
- “There is no evidence masks work to prevent transmission.”
- “There is no evidence of airborne transmission of COVID-19.”
- “There is no evidence that early life trauma affects people later in life.”
- “There is no evidence that infant circumcision causes long-term harm.”
- “There is no evidence that smoking tobacco causes lung cancer.”
No-evidence medicine is the idea that because a practitioner or organization is not aware of the evidence for an idea then there must not be any evidence, and the idea can be dismissed without further inquiry.
You’ve encountered no evidence medicine if you’ve ever had this exchange:
“Do you have a study for that?”
“Yes.” *provides study*
“Well, I’ve never heard of that study before!”
Or this exchange::
“We don’t have any evidence of that.”
“Well, shouldn’t we do some research?”
“Because there is no evidence!”
No-evidence medicine is a form of narcissism. When children hide their eyes, they think the world has gone away. Likewise, practitioners of no-evidence medicine think if they pretend the evidence isn’t there, the idea they ignore ceases to be true.
When a practitioner of no-evidence medicine is forced to acknowledge the evidence, they will never admit they once argued the opposite. Or if they do, they will say “but how could we have known!” as if there weren’t others trying to show them the evidence.
The response of medical organizations, media, and politicians to COVID-19 has provided many examples of no-evidence medicine:
Have any of these groups acknowledged that up until February they were calling COVID-19 “just the flu” and telling people to go out?
I also wrote a whole article detailing the no-evidence medicine medical establishments were practicing around COVID-19 that you can read here.
Another example: January 24 the World Health Organization wrote about potential COVID019 treatment Chloroquine that “there is insufficient evidence to support its further investigation.” In other words, ‘there is no-evidence… and don’t go researching to find more!’
Evidence-based medicine is about admitting what you do not know and researching it further. No-evidence medicine is about saying that what you currently know is the sum of all possible knowledge and refusing to research it further.
- Evidence-based medicine: “We don’t know, so we should research it further.”
- No-evidence medicine: “We don’t know and don’t want to, so don’t research it further.”
You can tell where no-evidence medicine is being practiced by what is not being researched. For example, in my documentary American Circumcision interview subjects bring up how there are no longitudinal studies on circumcision, and certainly none on its impact on men’s feelings or psychological experience.
The next time you see someone say there is “no evidence” of something, see if they are open to evidence. If not, you are talking to a practitioner of “no-evidence medicine” not evidence-based medicine.