Re: Alternative Medicine

From: jack syme <>
Date: Wed Dec 21 2005 - 00:17:41 EST

It is true that most alternative medicine practices have not been shown to
be effective in double blind, placebo controlled trials. But I think the
skepticism that should rightfully accompany these practices, at least from
the perspective of people living in "Western" societies, is that the
fundamental concepts of these practices are based on spiritual or religious,
and unscientific ideas. Ideas like kundalini, and the Veydas, and qi.

This is not to say that these alternative treatments dont work. I refer
people for acupuncture from time to time. They have been around for
thousands of years after all.

And I must also point out that more medicines are prescribed "off label"
than not, which essentially means that there has really been no adequate
data accumulated for the FDA to approve a medicine for that use. But even
in these off label uses there are physiological, and pharmacological reasons
to expect them to work.

Traditional medicine has a strong foundation in anatomy, physiology and
biochemistry. From my perspective it is preferrable because of its
rational and scientific foundation, to alternative medicine.

I think an interesting question is should Christian doctors, churches, and
authors refer other Christians for alternative therapies, if the underlying
beliefs of these other therapies is based on Eastern ideas of god,
consciousness, life, etc.?

----- Original Message -----
From: "Randy Isaac" <>
To: "Clarke Morledge" <>; <>
Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2005 3:02 PM
Subject: Re: Alternative Medicine

> Clarke,
> I certainly think this is a valid topic though I'm not sure we have
> many--or any--experts in the area. We do have a reasonable number of
> physicians in ASA but I believe the Christian Medical Society would be
> better suited to address it. I can, however, share a few personal
> observations.
> In general, most of us as scientists would tend to discount anything
> that hasn't been subjected to controlled, double-blind,
> statistically-significant studies with clear results. Unfortunately
> alternative medicine thrives in areas where such studies are difficult or
> nearly impossible to do. Decisions need to be made with insufficent data.
> I personally encountered the pull of alternative medicine while my
> father suffered from ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) from which he died 25
> years ago. The suffering of a loved one is hard to watch. Standard
> medicine admits they have no relief, let alone cure. Alternative medicine
> comes in with a powerful emotional force. At that time there was talk of
> a particular snake venom in Mexico that had been reported to slow the
> progress of ALS. Do we take Dad to Mexico just in case it has some merit?
> A true scientific study of this approach would take longer than his
> expected lifetime. And what if it really did help? How could I live with
> myself when we hadn't tried every possibility no matter how remote? No,
> we didn't go, but many similar situations come up where well-meaning
> friends in churches and elsewhere rely on anecdotal evidence to urge
> various cures where standard medicine fails.
> At the 2004 ASA annual meeting, I recall one talk where a physician
> reported on the healing effectiveness of prayer. During the Q&A he
> reaffirmed a comment that had raised a lot of eyebrows during the talk:
> it didn't matter to whom one prayed or whether the god to whom the prayer
> was made actually existed, the prayer was just as effective. Is prayer in
> the alternative medicine camp?
> A couple of weeks ago I attended a lecture at Harvard Medical School
> which I thought was going to be on the mind-body problem but turned out to
> be on psychosomatic illnesses, a different version of the mind-body issue.
> It was very interesting. Dr. Alice Flaherty decried the common public
> view of psychosomatic illnesses as being imaginary. She points out that
> these effects are very real and powerful. She did discuss placebo and
> nocebo effects as well. Her point was that symptoms can be a useful tool
> when recognized and dealt with in the proper context of the mind-body
> relationship. Not easy though in any specific individual.
> Randy
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Clarke Morledge" <>
> To: "asa" <>
> Sent: Sunday, December 18, 2005 11:51 PM
> Subject: Alternative Medicine (was Re: Skepticism - its uses and abuses)
>>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 Wed Dec 21 00:20:25 2005

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