Science in Healthcare: MIA
Updated: Jul 21, 2018
NB: This is part of a series on Romantic Healthcare, setting out the foundational ideas of a system of healthcare based on vital nature and vital science. Each can be read independently, though it is recommended to read the introductory article, 'What If You Gave a Revolution and No One Came', first. Some articles refer to previous ones, so this can guide you to go and read these as well, either before or after the article you are on.
Science is the defining characteristic of the modern age. To be scientific is what renders an intervention objective, legitimate and justifiable, and not simply a matter of opinion, belief, dictate or habit. The problem is that there is little science to be found in Western healthcare, whether ‘mainstream’ or ‘alternative’. Science, in the Age of science, is conspicuously MIA.
The currently dominant model, variously labelled ‘Western’, ‘modern’, or ‘allopathic’ medicine, has long lain claim to be scientific and the only such system to be so considered. Everything else is held to be beyond the pale of science, or ‘occult’. Now, that’s what today we would call ‘weaponizing’ a word.
The word ‘occult’ comes from a Latin term meaning ‘covered, hidden’, and generally referred to that which was impossible to perceive and difficult to discern by means of the senses (mentation via the intellect), but could be approached using another capacity of mind (noetic ideation via what the Greeks called ‘sophia’, or wisdom, or more prosaically, body-mind, or gut instinct, but raised to a refined and conscious level, hence the discipline developed by the Greeks called philosophia or philosophy - ‘love of wisdom’ literally, meaning a desire to study, know and apply this powerful aspect of mind more consciously). Many European languages preserve this distinction in the two ways of knowing (Dutch - weten/kennen; German - wissen/kennen; French - savoir/connaître; Spanish - saber/conocer). English, until fairly recently, also held this distinction (to wit/to ken) now only found in certain idiomatic expressions - ‘keep your wits about you’, ‘at my wit’s end’; ‘that is beyond my ken’.
As this deeper way of knowing that goes beyond sense perception came increasingly to be dominated by knowledge gained through the senses, or one’s wits (mentation), science came to be reduced to knowledge gained through the brain mind (wits), seen clearly in the later German term for science (Wissenschaft). Now, it is true that the mentative capacity is necessary for rational thought, but the intellect divorced from its counterpart, noetic ideation, results not in true reason or knowledge of the laws and principles governing the universe, but hypothetical reasoning and abstraction.
And this is what happened to science. Initially, in the first Scientific Revolution involving inert nature, the role of wisdom was important, but came to be overshadowed by the rise of intellectual knowledge of ‘objects’, that is, of their outer appearances via the external senses. However, there was still sufficient appreciation left for a knowledge that was able to penetrate the veil of appearances so that it could lead to its comeback when science was faced with the challenge of penetrating the even deeper mysteries of vital nature, giving rise to a profound cultural revolution known as the Romantic movement.
But the early fruits of Romantic science were not yet sufficient to resist the materialist tendency that existed and came to dominate as the industrial revolution proceeded apace from the early 1800’s on. Materialism is the presumption (derived from the intellect going it alone) that only knowledge gained from the senses that is, about the external, quantitative aspects of a thing, is valid. Any ‘thing’ is reduced to an ‘object’ and intellectual knowledge (mentation) of this object is therefore ‘objective’. Any other form of knowing of a thing, such as its inner essence or qualities, is well, not knowledge, but opinion, hearsay, not science. And since this other form of knowing involves a participation of the ‘thing-in-itself’ by the observer of subject, it is by nature ‘subjective’, and to the materialist ‘only’ subjective.
Thus, Science, that vast and commendable inquiry into the world and man himself that defines Western culture, is reduced first, to the study of inert nature (physics, chemistry), and second, to only that knowledge gained by sense perception. The world is reduced to matter - whirling particles’ measured and quantified, increasingly via statistical probabilities, as the particle becomes the wave form, and matter approaches the abyss of seeming ‘nothingness’.
In this reductionist worldview (Weltanschauung), Life or vital nature is considered only a result, an epi-phenomenon arising, by chance at that, out of inert particles, what Coleridge termed the position of life as the ‘chance whirlings of unproductive particles’. Thus, the organism becomes a machine, albeit an incredibly intricate and complex one, and medicine becomes itself materialist and mechanical in its approach to understanding and treating illness.
So, ‘modern’ medicine, was built on a materialist, reductionist science of inert nature, and laid claim to the whole of science. Its ‘dog in the manger’ attitude with respect to scientificity, however, had a ‘the-Emperor-has-no-clothes’ moment just at the time when it seemed at the height of influence and success. The problems and criticisms of the materialist ‘life-is-to-be- understood-only-through-death’ paradigm increased as the use of drugs (synthesized poisons), however artfully applied, increased. As ‘allopathic’ medicine sought to defend itself against the criticism and address the rising problems, it was revealed there was very little science behind allopathic medical treatments, even as narrowly defined by material science. In other words, even by its own standards, allopathic medicine had been given a failing grade.
In response, a movement arose to establish what was obviously missing, namely a ‘science-based’ medicine. A laudable goal, even if one accepts the limitation of science to inert nature and then only to matter, but the results, despite considerable research, have been less than stellar:
[S]ubstantial portions of clinical practice have decidedly questionable foundations in robust evidentiary medicine. (https://www.researchgate.net/post/What_proportion_of_medicine_is_evidence-based)
Myth: there is a high degree of scientific certainty in modern medicine … only a fraction of what physicians do is based on solid evidence…; the rest is based instead on weak or no evidence and on subjective judgment. (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/demand-better-health-care-book/)
This does not even take into account that even where solid evidence does exist, it is not consistently followed or applied, nor the disparity of analysis of a given case.
Patients with the same health problem who go to different physicians will get wildly different treatments. (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/demand-better-health-care-book/)
So, now we know that the ‘science-based medicine’ emperor has no clothes, or at least only very sheer and transparent ones, however elegant in presentational pretension. What is the sartorial state of the ‘alternative’, however, we next ask ourselves. Stay tuned.