If it’s not modern it must be rubbish

Friday, 23rd March 2007 at 9:00 UTC Leave a comment

Well, that’s what one Professor has announced loud and clear to the world. He believes that teaching 19th Century knowledge about Homoeopathy in University in a science department is wrong. He doesn’t actually offer any scientific proof against Homoeopathy, just that it has changed little since the 19th Century. No longer must things stand the test of time, instead they must be new to be considered reliable. Well, I did a little poking around about the guy and found this…

My attention was drawn to this occurrence through an article on the BBC Newswire, which reported that the journal ‘Nature’ had published remarks by University College London Professor David Colquhoun saying of BSc courses in complimentary medicine that “this sort of gobbledygook is being taught in some UK universities as though it were science”.

My disclaimer that I shall put here is that I have only minor experience of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in practice, and that I don’t believe all the claims made of it. I’m aware that some outrageous claims have been made about some treatments, but I wish to consider each treatment separately.

Anyhow, the thing that struck me about Colquhoun straight away was how familiar he sounded. Its actually only as I write this a few hours later that I realise he must be to CAM what Dorkins is to Christianity. His tone strikes me as being less than measured; this is not the kind of language someone uses in a real intellectual conversation, but rather the language that an otherwise reasonable academic uses when venting fury over something they feel unwilling to give the honest academic time of day to.

So I went on a search. A Google search. Didn’t take long: 0.1 seconds apparently. Turns out that the guy uses his UCL webspace rather heavily. He no longer wishes to travel to the United States because of what he sees as threatening censorship, and wants to rant and rage about the rise of the religious right. Well, I guess we have a little in common. The weird thing I sense is that he wants to vent personal anger rather than take part in informed debate on an academic webspace.  He should maybe get a blog, rather than put the name of UCL to his, occasionally incoherent, fuming.

What really saddens me as I read this is the sense I get that he loathes anyone who has faith in anything without being able to prove it.  Faith is a natural human experience, yet he, like others, seems to find it necessary to trample on it.  To deny ourselves faith is to deny ourselves our natural human instincts.  Sadly, there are many on the left who still find this necessary; who still believe that we should somehow go beyond our humanity and into a realm of pure science.  Such thinking will never bring either contentment or wholeness.

The sad irony is that Complimentary and Alternative Medicine tends to be about exactly that: wholeness is key.  Instead of treating humans like bio-machines as conventional medicine does, my experience of CAM tells me that the whole of the patient and their well-being is much more valued there than with Conventional Medicine.  Its a pity that some people feel they must trample everything CAM comes up with on the basis it might not conform to depersonalised scientific understanding.

Conventional medicine works, but it is also highly toxic.  The medicine we use often doesn’t heal us (believe me, I use hydrocortisone cream, I know how that stuff works), but instead damages us to get rid of the bad stuff.  CAM differs because it is about healing and completing the whole human being.

Conventional Medicines values are the same as those that have brought us to the brink of environmental catastrophe: perhaps its the same values that caused the ruthless conquest of ancient civilisations as the west expanded.  Instead of other countries, ‘modern medicine’ has marched into our bodies and declared that might makes right and that ‘we’ know best.  I do wish some scientists could handle the ideas of humanity, compassion and emotion, preferably without trying to diagnose/analyse them like they’re somehow diseases.

(Theological endnote: I find it weird how Christians so often dismiss CAM off-hand.  Sure, some of it is dodgy, but two things remain: that if God created the Earth for our enjoyment, they he intended us to use plants in medicine, and that the spirit of CAM is much more in line with the gospels than Conventional Medicine.  Jesus came so we could have fullness of life, not cut out the bits we don’t like.)

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Entry filed under: Education, Health, Indigenous Rights, Theology.

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