Ancient, Alternative, Emerging Science and Medicine

In a recent discussion with an attorney about the US FDA and the current state of science and medicine, he shared this joke to summarize his view:

Comedian Tim Minchin sums this up best when he says,
“By definition, Alternative Medicine has either not been proved to work, or been proved not to work. You know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work?
Medicine.”

He went to stake out the claim that a number of views of alternative medical community are anti-science.

My response to him is as follows:

In this description of what is Alternative vs (purportedly) Authentic Medicine, and the statement that [a particular alternative health news website] has many claims that are “anti-science” — I would just offer this response as a philosopher of science:

The “Science” and “Medicine” you are speaking of is actually the culture of empiricism that derived from Aristotle, but has mostly evolved in the West from the 1700s until the late 1900s… These are far from the only science and medicine the world has known, but unfortunately, empiricism leads these fields to take on a rather closed form where progress derived from existing theories is steady, but fundamental innovation is very hard.

And any honest scientist will tell you that while most of our specific results are verifiable, there are huge gaps in our essential understanding that require fundamental innovation, whether in physics or neurobiology. Any honest medical professional who has thought deeply on it will freely admit, we actually have no positive theory of health, and that our current models of development, metabolism, nutrition, and wellness are disjoint and woefully incomplete.

However, there are both older medical systems from the east (Ayurveda and Chinese Traditional Medicine) as well as an emerging new science at the intersection of theoretical/quantum physics, genomics, systems biology and information theory — which point us toward a larger context than we can yet fully empirically, reproducibly test, but which is nonetheless are very observable and which offer applicable approaches and insights worth exploring, applying and testing.

These translate into a new holistic science of energetic health and medicine, which have at their core a deep regard for the profound interconnectedness and intelligence embedded within each of our individual molecules, cellular organelles, tissues, organs and bodies, seeing them each in themselves as a unique society or ecosystem, as well as occupying a unique place in our larger human society and global ecosystem.

These ideas are paving the way to a new vision of personal health and medicine, one that is also meaningfully integrated with a healthy vision for our world society and environment — and this change has already been afoot since the 1980s or so, and will become mainstream “Science and Medicine” in perhaps 20 to 40 years.

So to put things quite as patly in tearing down “Alternative Medicine” and “anti-science” — well, yes, that may stand up in a court of law today, but it misses one of the most important and exciting changes in the history of humanity in how we think about ourselves, our relationship to each other, to our truth, and to our planet.

While there will be many wrong turns in this process, the basic intent — to establish a broader, more integrated and holistic perspective on what we really are and how we really work best — is a good one — and shouldn’t be dismissed as quackery just because some of claims that come of it are the inevitable wrong turns, or, even worse, just haven’t yet been empirically, reproducibly demonstrated … That’s closed-minded and unfair, and hinders the process of fundamental change needed in our theories of science and medicine. Just because this new science’s practice and application aren’t yet perfected enough to be defensible in a court of law doesn’t mean anyone, including lawyers, should be closed-minded about it.

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