Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Return Of The Primitive In Medicine

In the essay What is Capitalism? in her book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Ayn Rand wrote:
The disintegration of philosophy in the nineteenth century and its collapse in the twentieth have led to a similar, though much slower and less obvious, process in the course of modern science.

Today's frantic development in the field of technology has a quality reminiscent of the days preceding the economic crash of 1929: riding on the momentum of the past, on the unacknowledged remnants of an Aristotelian epistemology, it is a hectic, feverish expansion, heedless of the fact that its theoretical account is long since overdrawn—that in the field of scientific theory, unable to integrate or interpret their own data, scientists are abetting the resurgence of a primitive mysticism. In the humanities, however, the crash is past, the depression has set in, and the collapse of science is all but complete.
We see evidence of the growth of irrationality in the sciences all around us. science no longer relies on experiments and lab tests to prove that x causes (or doesn't cause) y. Instead, statistical studies have replaced experiments. Even in statistics, the move now is to treat correlations as if they were causations.

We see the spread of irrationality in the form of the creation of new diseases that don't seem to have a cause and the addition of many causes to known diseases by way of definitions by non-essentials. I am convinced this is happening with autism, diabetes, ADHD, and many others. As far as "...the resurgence of a primitive mysticism" is concerned, Sandy Szwarc at JunkfoodScience has scary evidence of that:
Once one becomes a nurse or a doctor, it is now possible to get the continuing medical education credit hours required to keep our licenses without ever reading a lick of science. That’s a terrifying thought as a patient and a disheartening one as a medical professional.

For years, professionals have been lamenting the growing pseudoscience and alternative modalities in university curriculums, including medical school and nursing programs. The latest list of continuing educational courses for nurses to maintain their professional licenses, accredited by our state nursing association for this quarter, was just issued. Once again, it was replete with unscientific woo, such as courses in alternative medicine, reiki (8.4 credit hours), Chi Nie Tsang (21 credit hours), energy medicine (35.8 credit hours) and homeopathy (7.6 credit hours). Chi Nei Tsang, nurses are taught, is a deep organ massage that purportedly heals by working “on internal dysfunctions and energy blocks” and includes a variety of energy techniques. A certification in purple light is also offered by the provider which, it explains, will “strengthen the pure alchemical and conscious evolutionary practices using Ancient Taoist modalities as a bridge to connect all lineages, and bring ancient teachings into present day situations. As the earth moves through her evolution, lineage traditions must come forward to clarify and share their understanding of the human experience.”
So what does Ms. Szwarc think of this?
Yikes. If my loved ones land in the emergency room suffering a stroke or massive head injury, I really hope their medical care provider has been studying the latest science and technology and is grounded in evidence-based medicine. The point of requiring CMEs is to ensure us healthcare professionals stay current on the latest scientific developments and keep our skills sharp. Those include skills using our minds and the scientific process to critically examine research, as well as sort through bogus marketing claims. It makes one worry that if energy fields are confused for sound science, how well is unsound information recognized from the sound stuff when it comes to issues like preventive health, obesity and nutrition?
My sentiments exactly. In fact, I'm worried that my grandkids, just toddlers now, will one day wind up in a hospital only to have the doctor or nurse hum incantations and shake rattles over the bed while practicing the new multiculturalism of medical treatment. Now that's scary.
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