Alternative Medicine (was Re: Skepticism - its uses and abuses)

From: Clarke Morledge <>
Date: Sun Dec 18 2005 - 23:51:52 EST

I would like to narrow Iain's topic a bit to focus on the issues raised by
Alternative Medicine.

Christian resources that effectively relate faith and science together
regarding alternative medicine can be difficult to find. Larimore and
O'Mathuna's _Alternative Medicine_ stands out as one of the few helpful
books geared towards an evangelical audience. As far as Internet
resources go, I have had a lot trouble figuring out what is science and
what is pseudo-science. Even on the ASA website, there is no "medicine"
category under the PSCF collections, much less material geared towards
alternative medicine in particular.

Am I missing something here that would be helpful? Since part of ASA's
mission is to effectively relate science to the life of the church, this
appears to be a crucial need. Maybe there are other organizations like
ASA that are geared towards medical issues specifically that I am not
aware of? Are there many doctors who are also ASA members?

Would you all agree that this is a vital concern in many local churches?
I can relate to Iain's story in a very personal way. My wife has dealt
with a type of chronic fatigue for several years. Thankfully, the Lord
has graciously directed us towards the right resources in traditional
medicine that have greatly helped. However, along the way we have talked
with many Christians in our church and elsewhere who have suggested
numerous alternative medical approaches; e.g. special diets, herbalist,
naturapath, muscle testing --- and also Iain's example: staying away from
all electromagnetic fields. Turn off all of your motors and get away from
those power lines!

I can not help but to think that most of this is pure quackery But
it sure can *sound* scientific to many non-analytical, but often
desperate, suffering believers. I am confident that the placebo effect
plays a significant role in the alternative medicine success stories. But
I am greatly concerned that many well-meaning Christians have given up too
soon on traditional medicine in favor of well-meant, but flawed
pseudo-scientific solutions.

In the history of science, the quest for medical cures has sparked
significant advances in science by Christians. For example, where would
modern chemistry be if Robert Boyle had not been plagued with such ill
health, searching for healing? Where would modern neuroscience be if the
physician Thomas Willis had not dissected the human brain to discover its
inner workings? Maybe the ASA isn't the right forum for this discussion,
but given the critical need within the church and the value that the ASA
has in properly promoting good science within the church, I would hope
that the ASA has something significant to contribute.

Blessings this Christmas,

Clarke Morledge
College of William and Mary
Network Engineering

On Sun, 11 Dec 2005, Iain Strachan wrote:

> I'm writing this against the background of the trouble a couple of my
> Christian friends are in. I'm kind of closely involved having been the
> "best man" at their wedding. The wife has very bad depression, for which
> nothing seemed to work, and so as a couple, they sought the help of
> "alternative medicine" to try and treat her symptoms (some of which are
> physical). Since then, she has not got better, but has got steadily worse,
> being convinced, because one of these "alternative" doctors told her so that
> she is sensitive to electric fields, resulting in the fact that she's put
> herself beyond the help of her friends because she won't come into your
> house unless you unplug all the electrical appliances at the mains, and she
> won't walk with you unless you switch your mobile phone off. Everything in
> my understanding of science tells me that this is all bunk. However, the
> most helpful websites that support my view come from self-styled "Skeptics",
> notably the best one being which does a lot of
> debunking of alternative medicine (in fact most of the treatments that she
> has had). However, I find that quackwatch is linked to the so-called
> "skeptic ring" of internet sites, many of which like to bash Christianity
> (and not just the creationist kind).
> This kind of makes me uneasy - one has to be skeptical to a degree about
> these things, especially when it comes to health matters as there are a lot
> of people out there who want to make money out of you and will feed you any
> old pseudo-scientific gobbledegook.
Received on Sun Dec 18 23:53:15 2005

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