An idea presented as a valid scientific belief but not grounded in any scientific method and so baseless it is hard to disprove is pseudoscience. Practicing medicine places the physician assistant (PA) in the center ring as a punching bag for pseudoscientific beliefs. This type of thinking ranges from the essentially harmless—“I caught a cold from being in the rain”—to the totally reckless—“vaccines cause autism.” Pseudoscience is transmitted through old wives’ tales and mainstream media. It is pervasive and disturbing. However, it is not as disturbing as antiscience.
In his book Antifragile, Nassim Nicholas Taleb describes antifragility as something that benefits from randomness or shocks to the status quo. As it applies to medicine, he writes, “The hidden costs of healthcare are largely in the denial of antifragility … the attempt by humans to make life comfortable for ourselves against our own interest, since the comfortable is what fragilizes.”
Wrapped in Taleb’s antifragility argument is a discussion of iatrogenesis, the inadvertent adverse reactions that can be caused by medical treatment itself–or the process in which the cure turns out to be more harmful than the disease. Taleb points out processes that continue to fragilize our society. Shockingly, American medicine has cultivated a process by which patients actually request iatrogenesis.