Hard News: An unexpectedly long post about supplements and stuff
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(Works just as well in this context as the religious one, I think).
Seriously, I think a large part of our disagreement above comes from using "science" to mean different things. Some of us are thinking about a body of knowledge, and some of us are thinking about the way that knowledge is assembled. Clearly, the body of knowledge is and always will be incomplete and subject to dispute. But in principle any systematic attempt to abstract from empirical observation is going to be some kind of science. And if your answers are not based on empirical evidence, I'm not interested in them.
Tze Ming: I have enormous respect for the powerful Mok brain, but acupuncture and homeopathy sharing the same bioenergetic basis? Give me a break. What is this bio-energy? Homeopathy doesn't have any demonstrated mechanism at all, and I suspect that the basis for acupuncture will turn out to have more to do with hypnosis and suggestion (hence Russell's fat doobie substitute). As I said earlier, the fact that a tradition is large and old and hard to master is not evidence of its validity (cf astrology, as ancient and complex in the west as it is in the east, which kicked the original post off).
It seems likely to me that the growing acceptance of complementary approaches by the medical profession has far more to do with the demands of their customers than any inherent merit.
Eleanor et al: despite my great skepticism about your practises, thank you for pointing out the problems with the legislation at hand, which I think are of real concern.
Maybe Bishop Tamaki is worried he won't be able to market a cure for homosexuality if this one gets passed?
I presume it's not a suppository.
If hetracil fails, there's always neuticles:
Joe, naturally doctors are patronizing too. But to me they're like the boxer who *knows* he can punch your lights out, as opposed to the Tai Chi person who *thinks* they can. The boxer's eye is based on dozens of fights they personally have been in, the Tai Chi based on thousands of fights that supposedly happened hundreds of years ago.
And don't get me wrong, Tai Chi is not without merit. It's a much healthier activity than boxing, I think. It may even serve some purpose as a martial art for self defence. But that's a big 'may'. There just isn't good enough evidence for it. I have never ever seen anyone professing to be a Tai Chi expert last more than 1 minute against an experienced fighter in any kind of ring fight, boxing, grappling, weaponry, anything. Unless they have more skills and experience than just the Tai Chi, that is.
I think this is analogous to the "western" vs "alternative" approach. I'm sure there are highly scientific ways to approach homeopathy. I just have never seen any of it in any practitioners I've ever dealt with. But 95% of the doctors I've dealt with have had a consistent and systematic approach. They've trained for many years and stood on the back of many centuries of knowledge reaching deeply into all aspects of human and biological science. They often specialize extremely deeply, and their specialties are similarly 'standing on the shoulders of giants'. They can be severely criticized by their own for making bad choices, and even lose their reputations and jobs permanently.
Sure, traditional medicine has even longer and deeper roots, going back well into prehistory. But so does thinking the earth is flat, and that doesn't make it right. It comes down to the method by which choices are made. From what I can tell about chinese medicine, the approach is different, coming from symptoms angle, rather than the underlying causes. When they do talk of underlying causes the theory is laughably simple when compared to the level of detail that "western" medicine has achieved. It may seem complicated to a layperson, as does anything that is not in your area of expertise. But it's really nowhere near as complicated as the thousands of competing theories being clinical tested over decades on millions of people that "western" medicine is.
I am not criticizing the chinese. They have probably done the best ever job that you can with an approach that most other cultures have tried and got nowhere near as far with. But any system that doesn't expose itself to critical tests eventually becomes dogmatic and anecdotal. The proponderance of evidence connection between symptoms and herbal (or other) treatment that the chinese have amassed is great. It's really helpful to "western" medicine, for starters. I'm sure it's been a great help to millions of chinese people for millennia. But too often it is seen as an "alternative", rather than "complementary" and people with minuscule skill, talent and training can claim a great deal with no comeback. This detracts from those with real talent and training in medicine, real testable training and skill in herbs and other therapies.
That is what I lament. That the quackery feeds off the arrogance and success of "western" medicine. Any time it fails (as it slowly has for me) people with poor logic conclude that it's time to turn one's back on "western" medicine and embrace every quack that claims to be a healer. And it sucks because the real healers are lost in the noise.
I think Ben's posts sum it up the best. You have to believe in all the "natural" stuff and if it doesn't work, well, you didn't believe hard enough.
On a personal note, I did my back in ages ago, a sports injury that's taken a very long time to get over. Was persuaded to see a chiropractor who told me I had a "shear because of misdirected muscular energy". Being a polite idiot, I let her "treat" me. It didn't do any harm but absolutely no good whatsoever.
What helped however was having an MRI to accurately gauge the extent of the injury, going on painkillers and anti-inflammatories and continuing to exercise. I confess to ignoring the doctor's orders about being careful, but nevertheless, what he said and was not only correct but it was the only thing that worked.
It's very easy to write off modern medicine as a Big Pharma Plot Against Humanity, but you need to look at the other side of the coin: who benefits from that, without taking any responsibility for the outcome? Could it be the essential oil peddlers and holistic healing crowd who actually have commercial interest in flogging their products and services to people?
Also, Eleanor wrote:
I can prescribe a gargle containg essential oil of thymus vulgaris for strep throat, and it's really effective.
I thought only registered physicians and some nurses could prescribe medications?
Hetracil - Don't you love that rainbow kite
Disease info "pulling yourself together." Well worth a giggle.
It's an interesting science vs not-science debate. As always it comes back to the definition of science. I'm inclined to agree with Stephen Judd and include in science anything that follows a scientific process. Which includes a great deal of traditional/natural/alternative medicine. To talk of Science, as a body of facts, is to misunderstand it and treat it as a religion. Anyone engaged in science knows it is not like that at all, particularly wrt anything new. Sure, there are many scientific 'facts' meaning pieces of theory that are so well established that few rational people will believe otherwise. But most of the new stuff is highly controversial, and you will even find people working on the same research project who have profoundly different opinions on which theory is true. All they agree on, all that makes them scientists, is the belief that subjective opinion can be turned into experiments and thus become objective observations corroborating one theory or another (or more likely refuting it utterly).
It's not a club. I think it's pure twaddle to call it a western construct to oppress the colonized. The colonized were scientists too, they just didn't have so much access to other science, since the colonists were the ones moving around, exposing themselves to the knowledge of the world. So their science could not progress so rapidly. Science is knowledge, and knowledge is power, so it often isn't freely given away. But any rational culture took absolutely every bit of knowledge they could get their hands on. Those that didn't were eventually just left behind, and preyed on by those who did.
If there is a meaningful distinction, it is between *mainstream* and *fringe*. Mainstream is simply the area where the greatest level of consensus is. And it's not automatically right. It's not guaranteed to be right. It's just more likely to be. But very often a huge revolution happens and it turns out that what the mainstream thought was right is in fact completely wrong. These are the historic moments in science.
Usually, those revolutions are achieved by people who are deeply trained in the orthodox, but are simply choosing to forge in a direction that has been overlooked or not seen as promising. It is seldom quacks that make for these revolutions. It is seldom those that refuse to stand on the shoulders of giants. But occasionally it is - which is why fringe science should always be allowed.
Even animals engage in science. My cat works out through observation and experiment how to get through the catflap. She's shockingly slow and stupid, as most animals are, but she gets there in the end and gets a survival advantage from it. Some have even argued that evolution itself is simply nature engaging in science, where DNA is the theory, and survival to reproduction the critical test. But I'm not about to ask my cat to cure my eczema, and I'm not going to just die so that my DNA doesn't pass on. Some science is better than other science, for the purposes we want to achieve.
Thanks for your comment Stephen, really glad I can enlighten you about some of the practical flaws and downsides to the proposed legislation.
Juha, as I pointed out in my first post, practitioners are exempt from this legislation and so can prescribe treatments - within the bounds of their professional code, ethics and expertise. That's exactly as it stands now. Maybe you'd find another word more satisfactory, like "recommend"? "sell"? "peddle"????
You have to believe in all the "natural" stuff and if it doesn't work, well, you didn't believe hard enough.
the oils were found to act like oestrogen.
I wholeheartedly believe and know that essential oils work for targeted conditions, especially skin conditions. I do not believe they can cure you of any major disease or that they should replace medicine in many circumstances.
The most rewarding client experience I've had recently was creating a blend targeted to break a cycle of skin herpes outbreaks for a client, which was extremely painful and recurrent. The client applied it twice a day and the immediate soothing effect was described as miraculous - her herpes cleared up, stopped tingling and stabbing with pain and blistering, she was less stressed out and her overall mental state of health improved as a result of this. She had tried OTC medications for herpes and not had the success she would have liked. Nine weeks later she hasn't had a recurring attack but continues with topical application of the blend a couple of times a week.
I am not against Western medicine, or pharmaceutical drugs for the sake of it. I have used them, I was brought up to go to the doctor with any ills, there are surgeons, doctors, paramedics and nurses in my family. Who, I might add, are really supportive of my work and have just about all been treated with my products at various times!
The thyme gargle is probably the thing that has "trodden on the toes" of Western medicine more than anything else I've done; it cleared up a sore throat for pete's sake. What would a doctor have done for a sore throat? I don't prescribe essential oils for internal use.
Aromatherapy includes liniments, tiger balm, and vick's vapor rub. All tried and true by many of you I would think...
So again, if we're using these products anyway, and I can continue to recommend them in my practise whether this legislation comes through or not...
... then why jeopardise the locally-grown and produced ingredients that the industry needs, through suddenly applying crippling bureaucracy and manufacturing costs? Surely we should actually invest in these areas??
Then we would own our own research, too.
Sorry to hear about your Eczema. Ultimately it sounds like you have been let down by treatment in general. How bloody frustrating that nobody here can do anything about it!
As you say, the process of identifying the underlying cause is a personal and lengthy process. I have a couple of good friends with psoriasis who are doing the same thing. I must say that they are both pursuing their own research and haven't had a lot of assistance from doctors though. You have obviously found a very good specialists or just a very interested and good natured GP I guess.
I think one of the things that made people of my mothers generation head towards alternative therapies in the first place was the lack of interest, at the time, of the medical profession in discovering underlying causes. I'm generalising here but it did seem like they were much more interested in treating the symptoms than taking the time to work out what was causing the problem.
Anyway Cheers, and best of luck for your future health.
In regards to distrusting the medical establishment: The point that I was personally trying to make was not that I don't believe in contemporary medical science (I think it's bloody rude to call it western when you consider the amount of development that has occurred globally - Go Chinese stem cell research!!) it is just that doctors are not omniscient. They don't always know what's wrong with you and they often seem to feel some kind of pressure to prescribe anyway. If you treat them with reverence and expect them to be right all the time you will be badly let down at some point. You have to do your own research.
It's my cross to bear, and I don't feel let down by anyone but luck/god/fate, etc. The docs have always done what they could and what they have done has provided a lot of relief. I'm only giving my personal account to show a personal experience of fringe treatment. I don't write off the possibility there is someone out there with the meanest herbz I could ever need. I sure hope so. But I certainly don't find it likely at this stage, on experience.
The specialists I'm with now are at the hospital all paid for by the man. They're awesome and people who say public health is crap are full of crap. My experiences with hospitals was always the absolute best of the best. Private is much more hit and miss.
I totally agree about the "western" title which is why I'm putting it in quotes all the time. Science transcends political boundaries and the dichotomy is actually a political one, or a quack's way of getting brand distinction, IMHO. Or even worse it's postmodern (don't get me started). "Western" medicine has been ripping off Chinese herbz since before China was even discovered by the West. If the Chinese haven't been doing the same back, that's their loss. As for Western alternatives, if they insist on being quacks and people insist on believing in it, that's just an interesting sociological phenomenon. It doesn't really tell us much about which system is better. And even a stopped clock is right twice a day (unless it's digital). Quacks should be allowed. I just don't trust them.
It's not a club. I think it's pure twaddle to call it a western construct to oppress the colonized.
I think it's a mistake to leap from 'colonizing' to 'oppression'. Colonization, in whichever context you want to think of it (typically historically involving European powers/settlers and indigenous people's, but there are other contexts) was/is often a mixed process with negative and positive aspects.
I was thinking more of the nature of the way that people seem to be using 'Science' these days (and perhaps for a long time, I've just noticed it in the past few years) as this kind of (largely) growing blob of truth, only able to be refuted with more science, with all things outside that set of 'Science' as at best 'unknown', and possibly worse 'wrong' or 'unscientific'.
Science trumps everything that isn't science. To prove something that something isn't scientific you have to use more science. To move something from outside the set of truth, to inside, you have to use science. Which wouldn't raise any issues at all with me, except Science and what it says is incredibly important in the world.
There's a lot of power in the way that the word science is waved around. I'm curious if anyone has written on the nature of that, particularly in relation to it being a colonial power in the world of ideas, and the 'power over' that 'science' exhibits, and where that has come from - has it come from the scientific community who have successfully elevated the results of their work in this way. Is there a hegemony in play?
Anyone know of anyone putting forth those ideas? Avoiding faith/magic/bermuda triangles/other things science can't explain etc writings, because a god vs science debate or similar doesn't interest me.
Kyle, yes, the way people talk about science shows a lot more about what they don't know than what they do.
And yes, a lot of people have written about it. Philosophy of science is a big field, one of my favorites. I even think postmodernists have some useful contributions, much though I hate to admit it. My favorite philosophers on the subject are Karl Popper (for the sheer originality), and Paul Feyerabend (for No-science-Nazis comeback). But most philosophers of the 20th century have plenty to say on the matter, even if they don't specialize.
Good start text: What is this thing called Science? By Alan Chalmers
the way people talk about science shows a lot more about what they don't know than what they do.
That's a keeper : )
Firstly, great to see Eleanor holding her corner so nicely.
acupuncture and homeopathy sharing the same bioenergetic basis? Give me a break. What is this bio-energy?
I wasn't referring to the basis of how homeopathy is meant to work on symptoms (don't ask me to explain or justify that whole memory of water thing... fuck, who knows?), but the method by which practioners make diagnoses - which in the homeopaths/doctors I've seen, is the same as the method that traditional Chinese practioners use (ring test, body meridians) to diagnose for acupuncture treatments and other traditional 'qi' based or herbal treatments. Maybe it's not common for them to do that? Not sure - it's just been prevalent practice in the practitioners I've seen. So broadly, when I refer to 'bio-energetic' I mean 'qi' related stuff - it's a term that the doctor I referred to used - the one who was registered by the Medical Council as a specialist after his many years of practice and training of that stuff as a GP, because his reputation was just too good (and you know, the Council kept paying him to train acupuncturists and that). Seems a good enough term as any, although I could just refer to 'qi/meridian related stuff' - such as kung fu, tai chi, qi gong, Chinese massage/acupressure, reflexology, etc. Someone above scoffed at the ability of tai chi 'fighters' to actually beat people in fights - probably because tai chi is not taught as a fighting style much, even though it is originally a fighting form - but it turned into a qi gong style. I wouldn't back a Tai Chi practitioner against a boxer either. The ones I see most often are the 80 yr old Chinese grannies doing gentle circular motions in the carpark of the Mt Roskill cricket club. They are lacking a little in the speed and muscle tone department. Kung fu though, is part of the same qi business - but rather faster. Jet Li might dispute the 'Western boxing always beats Chinese boxing' claim...
In terms of the diagnosis method, I've seen it done by various people to accurately and immediately diagnose numerous allergies and other chronic ailments which have been confirmed in the 'usual' way but not disclosed or hinted at in the least to the homeopath/doctor. A study I'd definitely like to see is a clinical trial of the accuracy of those *diagnosis* methods, rather than just treatments (which shouldn't be divorced from individual diagnoses really). Is there any information on that?
Homeopathy doesn't have any demonstrated mechanism at all, and I suspect that the basis for acupuncture will turn out to have more to do with hypnosis and suggestion.
Well, other than my own subjective experiences acupuncturing myself, I do have a certain amount of trust in the ('western') clinical trials that were run on acupuncture effectiveness for certain conditions, which of course did have control populations. So - well - I'm not sure how hypnosis and suggestion would have impacted on those trials. Not that I have anything against doobies ('herbal', 'natural' etc etc...)
Chinese traditional medicine and physical energy practices such as acupuncture and wushu are of course, all stolen from the Vedas anyway.
Not all would say that, for instance Joseph Needham, author of the series Science and Civilisation in China, writes in his book, "Celestial Lancets: A History & Rationale of Acupuncture & Moxa" (Cambridge Press (UK), 1980):
...it is natural to look for parallels in medical ideology [in the Indian culture-area], even though acupuncture was never practised in the sub-contintent of the Ayurveda. In the time of the Samhitas, about the beginning of the era, praṇa was quite as prominent as Greek pneuma or Chinese qì, but not much was said about the vessels in which it flowed. Only in late Tantrism was there elaborated a system of such channels ... Since the main source for this pneumatic physiology dates only from +1577 (though perhaps embodying earlier materials), it may be reasonable to regard it as a somewhat garbled and theologised echo of the acu-tracts and qì channels so ancient in Chinese medicine.
I think there is a distinct lack in this debate of the separation between the different types of "Alternative and Complementary medicine" that is about as problematic as use of the word "drug" for any bioactive compound from coffee and aspirin through to LSD and crack. Its real use is perhaps limited. Much better to use proper terms - Psychoactive, Stimulant, Hallucinogen, Depressant, etc.
So let's start seeing this debate in colour.
1. "Traditional Chinese Medicine", "Eastern Medicine", "Oriental Medicine", the stuff developed from 200BC -> today and still practiced in most of Asia despite the huge shake-up of modernisation. This includes Acupuncture - which has been shown to have clinical efficacy as already pointed out - in fact as early as 1800's it was widely practiced in parts of Europe, by Western doctors. In terms of herbs there have been several large pharmacoepœia published in this time cataloging substances and their effects (albeit in a pre-scientific framework), eg from the 200BCE Shén Nóng Běncǎo Jīng to the 1596CE Běncǎo Gāng Mù. Has some older and somewhat vague works certainly, but these were largely superceded by the 1601CE Zhēnjiǔ Dàchéng. Note that there are no real religious works in their cannon, even the Tao Te Ching wimps out in trying to explain the cause of everything. China has slowly been modernising this huge body of medical knowledge. Each of the herbs is well documented and are generally prescribed in combinations of 4-10 herbs. They are sold loose by TCM Herbs practitioners or in extracted form which always are sold with Latin descriptions of the complete contents and usually their relative percentages. The schools in New Zealand that teach this stuff with NZQA degree programmes also have Western medical doctors and require their students to study Western Medical Science. You wouldn't believe the number of people who end up dropping out from these courses when they find out that it's not just la de da and holding hands and that yes indeed they too need to know anatomical charts like the back of their second metacarpal.
2. "Ayurvedic", "Yoga", etc. Lots of other Indian stuff like Yoga etc. I think their cannon includes books that you might find sold to you on the street by Kṛṣṇa consciousness devotees. Power to them, but not my thing.
3. Western herbology. I don't really know much about this but from what I gather it's largely simple cause and effect stuff, ie this specific herb or oil does this or that. Great, testable stuff, should be possible to classify them. I don't see a particular problem with asking people who manufacture them to be able to back up any assertions they make about its efficacy with some kind of study.
4. Homeopathy. AIUI they take substances with a specific effect, put them in a container and then rinse the container clean a ridiculous number of times (eg 14). Any rational explanation of its mechanism would have to include very uncharted waters in wacko fields like Water memory and Quantum Mechanics. [tongue firmly in cheek for that - see also the pallaver around What tнē #$*! Ďө ωΣ (k)πow!?].
I think there is need for regulation; there certainly are too many quacks around and a lot of stupid ideas out there. Perhaps there needs to be a generally safe category to cover very common substances, from coffee to lavender oil. In terms of the Chinese Patent Herb manufacturers, I think it would be more prudent to ask them to provide details of relevant trials that have been performed with the formulas and/or component ingredients for their assessment.
Of course I have a vested interest in this. I find Eastern Medicine effective for maintaining my own health and losing access to the extremely cheap mass-market versions of Chinese Herbs is therefore a direct threat to my health.
I totally agree about the "western" title which is why I'm putting it in quotes all the time. Science transcends political boundaries and the dichotomy is actually a political one, or a quack's way of getting brand distinction, IMHO. Or even worse it's postmodern (don't get me started). "Western" medicine has been ripping off Chinese herbz since before China was even discovered by the West.
Heh, good point, but I don't think it's that awful to call it Western Medical Science as that term frequently appears in literature. Though after reading this I think I will use the terms Biomedicine and Scientific Medicine more.
And Juha... seeing as you place a lot of faith in case reports I present a solution for the next time you find yourself with an intractible case of hiccups. From PubMed
Willing Guinea Pig for Herbal Cures
I was out last night got a chill/raspy throat & phlem. After ripping up the dace floor (thankfully a stylish concrete one) then out to the freezing night air for conversation under the gas heaters.
No cures for hiccups please.
I'm so glad I don't get hiccoughs... especially in your presence, Sam. :P
My mum didn't believe in allergies - I was just 'putting on' that voice & swelling of my face when I ate various fresh fruits & veges (yes I'm allegic to health food - It could kill me) oh arrogant hippies.
I'm having lemon, manuka honey,& garlic hot drink now (but needs whiskey). Cheers
Please note I do not have anything in particular against homeopathy. In the early 20th century homeopathy, naturopathy and herbology represented approximately 80% of practiced medicine. The 1910 Flexner Report, subsidized by the Oil/Railroad barons Carnegie and Rockefeller recommended Federal funding be withdrawn from schools not practicing Scientific medicine, and some would say this movement is what led to their decline and the rise of the pharmaceutical industry.
Why would 80% of people subscribe to systems of healing which were ineffective? Is it because these systems all worked, if via some unknown physical effect? Is it the nebulous and Scientifically off-limits "placebo effect" ?
Whatever the reason, to me it remains somewhat fringe because the practice has almost died out; the large schools have shut and you just can't find huge volumes of well referenced material, or huge amounts of research happening on it. So while it might not be scientific to discard it out of hand, I'm not interested in investigating it.
However I have no problem whatsoever with people selling homeopathic medicines that have big stickers plastered on them saying "WARNING: SCIENTISTS HAVE REACHED THE CONSENSUS THAT THIS IS SNAKE OIL. ANY ACTUAL POSTIVE RESULTS EXPERIENCED WOULD PROBABLY HAVE HAPPENED IF WE REPLACED THIS MEDICINE WITH TAPWATER" or whatever. Just so long as they don't make claims for effects as truth without the studies to back it up.
"Someone above scoffed at the ability of tai chi 'fighters' to actually beat people in fights - probably because tai chi is not taught as a fighting style much, even though it is originally a fighting form - but it turned into a qi gong style. I wouldn't back a Tai Chi practitioner against a boxer either. The ones I see most often are the 80 yr old Chinese grannies doing gentle circular motions in the carpark of the Mt Roskill cricket club. They are lacking a little in the speed and muscle tone department. Kung fu though, is part of the same qi business - but rather faster. Jet Li might dispute the 'Western boxing always beats Chinese boxing' claim..."
*Someone* has a name. They did not scoff, they were making a very simple point about the *reason* that Tai Chi is unlikely to successfully go head to head with any other martial art where competition is allowed. The reason is because they do not test whether they can, therefore they don't refine their skill in the crucible of practical experience. And it was clearly stated that Tai Chi still has merit as a form of exercise. It's especially excellent that old grannies can do it. I'm considering it for my first Chinese martial art myself. To me it captures the essence of what China has to contribute to the martial arts, which is a very healthy form of lifelong exercise, rather than success in international competitions.
As for Jet Li, he is most welcome to test his skills in a boxing ring anywhere in the world. There will no doubt be millions of scrappy bogans just in China alone who would love to beat him up. Let alone those annoying barbarians who don't have the good taste to be born in China.
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