There was a story on alternative/complementary/integral medicine on the 7:30 Report last night that entered into the vexed debate about the status and validity of complementary medicine, and how it should be treated by the government with respect to funding and regulation. It was prompted by a UK case in which a pop-science journalist, Simon Singh, had been sued by the British Chiropractic Association for defamation after he alleged that the BCA “happily promotes bogus treatments.”
Western science in various fields has been wrought by paradigm shift after paradigm shift incessantly over the past 100 years. Among these are the painful revocation of the Cartesian mind-body split and the overthrow of Newtonian mechanics as the ultimate truth in physics.
Candace Pert’s Molecules of Emotion and Marcia Angell’s The Truth About the Drug Companies are two excellent books including accounts of how 20th and 21st century “science” has been distorted, retarded and even falsified by political, personal and economic imperatives. Neither Pert nor Angell are outsiders. Pert should have won the Nobel Prize for her discovery of the opiate receptor and Angell is former editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine.
Singh sticks to the “if it aint documented in peer-reviewed publications then it aint true” line. It’s discouraging that people purporting to be media between “hard science” and public awareness are trying to stifle the still-nascent progress in some Western scientific circles to document the relationship between the mind (which materialists consider a mere epiphenomenon of brain circuitry) and the body. “Science” wasn’t invented in the 17th or 20th centuries - 5000 years of empiricism is the basis of Ayurvedic medicine. Just because something hasn’t been published in a 20th century peer-reviewed journal doesn’t mean it isn’t true. People like John Dwyer from UNSW should understand this.
Singh has been defeated in a lower court ruling but is appealing with the support of this list of public identities.
Defamation laws in general are a hindrance to free speech and should be dispensed with. It seems odd that a scientific debate will be decided by a court. This puts into relief the situation that there is no Science God that we can defer to. If it is the Establishment then we’d all still think the Sun revolved around the Earth. Almost all worthy revolutions in science have come from people with deep spiritual beliefs and from people most definitely dismissed initially by the Establishment. This fact puts favourable light on the fact that legal cases arising from “science” are decided by 12 common folk on a jury. Common folk with common sense, or at least you’d hope.
Pert says “The argument that [alternative therapies] are untested , and therefore can’t be taken seriously, is not valid. So much of mainstream medicine itself is totally unproven - yet we do it anyway.” She also points out that understanding the exact mechanism behind a given medicinal treatment isn’t a prerequisite for its use.
So how to deal with medicinal treatments outside the purview of materialist science? There is an obvious danger of quack treatments. Perhaps each branch of complementary medicine should establish a self-regulating guild. Operators outside of each guild should still be allowed to practice but with patients being informed that they are not endorsed by the guild. Banning such operators would be another example of deferring to authority, which may be tainted by internal politics, etc. But in no circumstances should a governmental authority be permitted to stop people from obtaining the effective - or ineffective - treatments they desire.
One remaining issue would be how to deal with parents of children who die after receiving alternative but not mainstream medical treatment. Again, a vexed issue.
From personal experience evaluating different forms of yoga, I have realised that I need to be on my toes, research and pay attention to my personal experiences. There are many branches of yoga with many gurus - how do you know that you’re not entering a school devised by someone with subconscious megalomaniac tendencies? And that is the lesson for everyone: trust your own intuition.