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

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <dfsiemensjr@juno.com>
Date: Wed Dec 21 2005 - 18:42:41 EST

On Wed, 21 Dec 2005 13:00:52 -0500 (EST) Clarke Morledge <chmorl@wm.edu>
writes:
>
> On Tue, 20 Dec 2005, Iain Strachan wrote:
>
> > Clarke, I'd be interested to know what resources in traditional
> medicine
> > were used - my friends have given up on traditional methods, after
> an
> > "alternative" doctor diagnosed something wrong with her liver
> (something to
> > do with "detoxification pathways" ) and told them that no-one in
> the
> > National Health Service can detect this problem & that it is a gap
> in the
> > knowledge of the NHS. (The UK public health system)..
>
> My wife was wrongly diagnosed with asthma. She used high dosages of
>
> prednisone over long periods of time to try to combat the "asthma".
> It
> helped somewhat, but it basically got her endocrinological system
> out of
> whack. We were able to make significant progress with specialists
> at the
> University of Virginia Medical School hospital. But this was after
>
> exhausting every conceivable local medical resources and the
> alternative
> ones as well.
>
> A number of alternative treatments were suggested for my wife by
> different
> members of our church. Some were actually suggested by doctors, so
> this
> is where things started to get pretty grey. Various solutions were
>
> suggested (and some were tried) to correct her endocrinological
> problems,
> with varying degrees of scientific support (if any) behind them,
> such as:
>
> (1) blood-type diet (Peter D'Adamo).
> (2) muscle testing (derived from "applied kinesiology").
> (3) herbal remedies, with lots of vitamin supplements (homepathic).
> (4) staying away from electromagnetic fields (we live about 1/4 mile
> from
> a power line).
> (5) healing touch prayer.
> (6) Hulda Clark solutions (I finally had to put my foot down against
> this
> one!!)
>
> The list can go on and on.
>
> The problem I found was that most of the alternative medicine
> providers
> are generally folks with good intentions. But all of them have
> experienced some type of disillusionment with traditional Western
> medicine. Then you combine that with some curious cultural/biblical
>
> exegesis: e.g. the symbol of modern medicine, Aesculapius's snake
> and
> staff, is viewed as a pagan symbol at best -- Satanic at the worst
> (note
> the connection between the "snake" and the serpent in the Garden of
> Eden).
> I've heard some rather "creative" theories as to why modern medicine
> is
> either excessively narrow or founded on unbiblical presumptions;
> e.g. the
> Hippocratic Oath is a pledge of allegiance to paganism.
>
> I would argue that there is a crucial need for a biblical apologetic
>
> for modern medical science that can help the average evangelical
> church-goer to weed out the pseudo-science while promoting a solid,
>
> Scriptural view of promoting health.
>
> Clarke Morledge
> College of William and Mary
> Network Engineer
>
>
>
The situation with Clarke's wife seems to me to illustrate that we are
exceedingly complex creatures that are not well understood by all
physicians. On a simpler note, I recall a doctor who, when his diagnosis
of kidney stones didn't pan out, decided it was only acute indigestion.
It was a ruptured appendix which almost killed the patient. While some
diagnoses should be obvious, there are other sets of symptoms which can
indicate some fairly common ailments, but may also indicate some rarer
ones--or some that are not expected. I recall hearing of a presentation
in which virtually none of the physicians recognized that a well-off
businessman was suffering from scurvy, though the symptoms were classic.

As to alternative medicine, that based on traditional or tribal medicine
is probably superior to other approaches. I understand that Indian
physicians had a time persuading their Western counterparts that
Rauwolfia was effective. It's been decades since I read Needham's master
study of Chinese technology. But I recall that centuries back they
extracted estrogen from urine and used it in the rational treatment of
female ills. However, because of their traditions, they also used it in
ways that were not beneficial. Despite the combination of doses and
spells in the practice of shamans, companies have found it advantageous
to check out the herbal knowledge of tribal peoples. It's not all
superstition.

On the other hand, special devices that have not passed blind testing are
unlikely to have any worth. I think of a complex set from the '20s or
earlier, a variety of partially evacuated glass items with a single
electrode attached to a high tension device. The shape of the applicator
supposedly determined what problem would be "cured." But one could be
impressed by the blue glow and tingle. I don't know that Westerners would
be that impressed today. Most charlatans have to come up with something
that at least sounds more impressive. Nevertheless, I know practitioners
that get a lot of mileage out of high colonics to get rid of toxins. They
come up with a line that is persuasive unless one thinks that the colon
was "designed" to handle digestive waste, not clear water. But I have
little hope of reaching the average person with enough information to put
the rascals out of business. I recall the comment, "Barnum was an
optimist."
Dave
Received on Wed Dec 21 18:52:00 2005

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