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RFD for Cancer Cure Debate

whiteflame
Posts: 1,378
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8/27/2016 4:42:30 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
This is an RFD for the debate between Stupidape and sherlockholmesfan2798 that can be found here: http://www.debate.org...

Always happy to see a science debate, and particularly gratified to see that both sides took this one seriously and presented actual peer-reviewed studies.

I"m going to go through this debate chiefly focusing on the arguments from Pro because he carries the burden of proof. I will go through Con"s arguments, but they"ll chiefly be evaluated with regards to their effects on Pro"s ability to meet his BoP. Before I get into those arguments I think it"s important to address what that BoP was, and in order to do that, we have to start with the resolution and definitions.

"The cure for cancer has already been found."

To be perfectly frank, this was probably a poor choice for wording. I see 3 red flags immediately.

First of those is the word "cure." Con clearly recognized that this was a red flag, since his opening round sought to define the word and clarify the burden that Pro carried as a result. A cure is an intervention, and one that has a permanent effect to end a given disease state, in this case cancer. It"s not a means of preventing cancer because that"s not an intervention in the cancer itself, just an intervention in processes that could lead to cancer. It"s also not a treatment, i.e. it can"t just reduce the sizes of cancers and be called a cure. Honestly, though, I thought there was an opportunity to be much harsher on this. If a treatment is used 1000 times and only results in curing the patient once, should we still call it a cure? Con does eventually get here, and I"ll address those final round clarifications shortly, but it really should have been clear from the outset. Pro should have clarified it in his opening round.

The second red flag is "cancer." Again, Con jumps on this in R3, but it should have been clarified by someone somewhere else in the debate. When it"s as broad as "cancer," I"m thinking effective against at least several types, which sets the burden far higher for Pro. If you want to point to a specific example or set of examples pertinent to several cancer types, then maybe this is OK, but chances are you"re going to want to focus on proving that, for a single type of cancer, an actual cure exists. That burden is significantly lower.

The third red flag is "found." This is actually one Con only brushes past in the final round, though the burden that it must be inducible is sort of tangential to the problem with this one. This is about the standard of proof required. When I think of a cure being found, I"m expecting to be able to pinpoint the exact thing that is killing or reverting cancer cells. I should know exactly what is doing the curing without any shadow of a doubt, which means a full-blown mechanistic explanation for how it works. Maybe if the resolution had been "There is reason to believe that a cure for cancer exists," that might have worked better, since it sets the standard of proof at "there"s at least some reasonable support for this."

All of these affect my decision, as do Con"s other specifications in each round. The reason I"m still accepting the final round analysis is three-fold. First, since there was no discussion of these issues previously within the debate, the alternative would be for me to decide them myself, which is something I always side against if the debaters give me any reason to do so. Second, Pro"s set-up for the debate didn"t allow this clarification to happen earlier when it should have occurred, and since it does fit into the realm of counter-rebuttal, it"s allowed by the rules. Third, I don"t think any of the clarifications are unreasonable within the context of the debate, since they all seem to meet basic standards of how medical scientists would evaluate what a cure is.

With that, let"s move onto the arguments.

Pro starts off a little off track, talking about the need to prevent cancer by stopping DNA damage via free radicals. This point isn"t really argued throughout the debate, but it plays no role in the outcome, as Con points out. Preventative measures, no matter how effective, are never cures. So much as antioxidants can potentially be effective means of preventing cancer, that aspect of those effects, by definition, aren"t cancer cures. Later, Pro continues to point to the sources he used to bolster these points and state their importance, but no matter how well supported they are, if they are irrelevant to the debate, then that support is also irrelevant (and, just a note, if you're going to use documentaries as sources, find the transcripts so that you're not requiring your opponent to watch long movies). Pro does also argue that "having less cancerous cells would aid in the cure of cancer", but this makes little sense and appears to be just a late justification for a point that never met the definition of "cure" that Con put out in R1.

So, that turns my focus towards the immunology. This mostly focuses on the absence of various factors that make it more difficult to eliminate cancers. These include IGF-1 and bacterial endotoxins, which Pro argues obstruct imune system activity and bolster cancer growth, respectively. Following this, there's a logical leap that plant-based diets accomplish the goal of reducing the amount of these in the human body, asserting that this is "common knowledge" without much explanation. There's some explanation that white blood cells are important (particularly NK cells) and are destroyed by chemotherapy, but Pro doesn't provide us with any supporting information showing that these cells are bolstered under the Gerson Miracle or any other plant-based diet, nor that there's any reduction in IGF-1. Pro does assert that meat is the main source of bacterial endotoxins, but I don't see any support for that statement.

Most of Con's opening round focuses on other treatments for cancer and never factors into the wider debate. Again, I'll focus on the immunotherapy points.

Con attacks this point chiefly at the points of cellular recognition of and response to cancer cells. He explains that, as a result of cancers either concealing themselves via antigen presentation or inhibiting immune response (pointing to the PD-L1 protein as an example), the immune system is often by itself insufficient to address cancers growing in the body. He even goes so far as to explain why the means for dealing with such inhibitions are themselves insufficient. While it's not meant to be directly responsive to Pro's case, it is nonetheless effective at undercutting his immunologic cure argument. It places a new burden on Pro: show that the Gerson Miracle is capable of enhancing immunologic activity to such a degree as to overcome these tumor-derived limitations.

I never see an effective response to this. Pro brings up coughing, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea and fever as means for removal/destruction that go beyond white blood cells (and I'll get to these on spontaneous remission), but even admits that they're not going to be effective in all cases. He doesn't give me a reason to believe that white blood cells can overcome the methods cancers use to defend themselves, and as such, I'm not even buying that they're broadly effective at curing cancers, regardless of the dietary input. As such, this point fails to meet Pro's BoP.
whiteflame
Posts: 1,378
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8/27/2016 4:42:49 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
Lacking that, we only have one point from Pro that could potentially meet his BoP, and that's spontaneous remission. From the moment I'm presented with it, I'm seeing a couple of problems, both of which revolve around the word "spontaneous." This word tells me that it occurs without an apparent external cause, and the lack of apparency and causality are really detrimental to Pro's argument. Con points this out the importance of these factors in his final round, examining why inducibility is important. So automatically, Pro is fighting an uphill battle with this one, as he has to establish that the term "spontaneous" is an umbrella term for something that is actually inducible.

Pro starts by pointing out that spontaneous remissions occur where the cancer is effectively eliminated, which gives some reason to believe that a cure may be somewhere in there. Pro attempts to establish what that cause is, but even with the sources, it's not entirely clear. "Acute infections" is a broad term that covers almost every infectious disease, and it doesn't specify what actually destroyed the tumor cells. Fever is a potential means of destruction, but even Pro's example seems to be inducing fever by entirely spontaneous means. It has to be clear what induces these fevers, and this isn't linked to any cause beyond "the immune system does it sometimes." Immunostimulation was a good opportunity, since it more directly and mechanistically implies some cause, but Pro doesn't delve into what does the stimulating, and how that stimulus overcomes tumor defenses. Maybe that's the fever, or maybe it's the various ejection systems Pro talks about in R3, but none of those are strongly linked to a means of induction. It doesn't help that, as Con points out in R3, this is all correlative evidence. Pro had to establish causation, and Con makes quite clear that causation has not been established yet. As a result, Pro can't seem to move beyond the spontaneous nature of spontaneous remission.

This leaves Pro with no clear means to meet his BoP. Lacking that, I automatically default to Con.
Stupidape
Posts: 171
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8/27/2016 6:51:29 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
Thanks for the RFD. One note, that I think was skipped over too much was the testimonial and anecdotal evidence. I'm not sure how to incorporate that into a debate. Would be much easier if I just have a peer reviewed article proving my point.

I think for my next debate, I have to go over what convinced me in the first place that the cure for cancer exists, yes I could word this differently. It was the testimonial and anecdotal evidence.

I've tried moving away from the conspiracy theory side and into science. Yet, as you've shown me, I don't think its possible to win with science alone. There just isn't enough scientific evidence or the scientific evidence exists, but I have not found it.
whiteflame
Posts: 1,378
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8/27/2016 10:46:18 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
At 8/27/2016 6:51:29 PM, Stupidape wrote:
Thanks for the RFD. One note, that I think was skipped over too much was the testimonial and anecdotal evidence. I'm not sure how to incorporate that into a debate. Would be much easier if I just have a peer reviewed article proving my point.

I think for my next debate, I have to go over what convinced me in the first place that the cure for cancer exists, yes I could word this differently. It was the testimonial and anecdotal evidence.

I've tried moving away from the conspiracy theory side and into science. Yet, as you've shown me, I don't think its possible to win with science alone. There just isn't enough scientific evidence or the scientific evidence exists, but I have not found it.

I think that you've got a good grasp of why the testimonial/anecdotal evidence didn't play a big role in the decision, mainly because such evidence doesn't suffice as scientific proof. The problem with that kind of evidence is that it's both irrefutable (in that you can't refute an individual person's experience) and personal (in that the experience may solely be that person's and not more broadly applicable). It sounds like what you were more interested in doing was provide people with a reason to try this as a cancer treatment, since you're providing experiences that show it could work for them with some background scientific support. It seems more like a forum topic than a debate, to be honest.