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Commentators such as Goldacre, Dawkins, and Singh and Ernst are worried that the rise in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) represents a flight from science propagated by enemies of reason. We outline what kind of problem CAM use is for these commentators, and find that users of CAM have been constituted as duped, ignorant, irrational, or immoral in explaining CAM use. However, this form of problematization can be described as a flight from social science. We explore CAM use in light of a rigorous and robust social scientific body of knowledge about how individuals engage with CAM. By pointing to the push and pull factors, CAM user's experiences of their body, and the problem of patient choice in CAM use, we summarize some of the key findings made by social scientists and show how they trouble many of the reasoned assumptions about CAM use. © The Author(s) 2014.

Original publication




Journal article


Qualitative Health Research

Publication Date





114 - 123