Everyone seems to know what medical science is, but no one in E2 seems to want to define it. Starting with the easy part first, the essential ingredients of science are accurate observation and rigorous testing. Also, facts revealed by science must be reproducible by other scientists. They also must be able to predict new facts, based on the facts already discovered. At one time it seemed that logic was an essential ingredient of science, but recently scientific facts, particularly in physics, seem to fly in the face of common sense.

Medicine, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult to pin down. I like Kurt Vonnegut's definition of medicine (in his Cat's Cradle) as "magic that works." A more serious definition might be "the art and science of healing." Let's run with that.


Now, science would have us believe that only allopathic medicine deserves to be wedded with the term "science." In Allopathy the physician gives the patient instructions" to take two aspirin, call in the morning and I'll send you my bill at the end of the month." To some extent allopathy grew out of the alchemy of the Middle Ages and still depends for the most part on pharmacology. Sometimes it is called traditional medicine, but I'm tempted to ask, "whose tradition?"

Alternative Medicine

Any other form of treatment is collected up under the term alternative medicine, or holistic/wholistic medicine. Until very recently science has dismissed these "disciplines" as unscientific. However, times are changing and some of these forms of treatment are almost respectable. They include:
Perhaps the least objectionable form of alternative medicine to the doctors in the U.S. It is popular in Germany and I understand that some royals in Britain have homeopathic physicians. My mother, who didn't make it through high school, thought a homeopathic doctor had to be gay. This is not true, by the way. The treatment consists of the administration of minute quantities of a preparation that would in larger doses produce the symptoms that are being treated. How exactly that is supposed to help will be found in the homeopathy node.
This type of medicine is enjoying great popularity, although the theory behind would not be accepted as scientific. It is a traditional form of medicine, but the tradition happens to be Chinese, not western European and the treatment involves needles not drugs. The Acupuncture node provides more specific information.
This is another traditional approach to healing, which comes from India. This method of treatment moves further away from accepted science and impinges on religion. For more information consult the Ayurveda node.
This form of treatment moves even further away from what science would call acceptable. Treatment is purported to be completely natural, like sunlight, air and water, modification of diet and massage. Some exponents use high colonic enemas, which seems ratherf unnatural to me. The main theory is that the body is self-healing and the treatment consists of non-invasive techniques that promote self-healing. Under this heading you might find aroma therapy, color therapy and the like.
The theory behind chiropractic is the "belief that all diseases are caused by spinal mis-alignments" (quoted from the chiropractic node). Treatment consists of adjusting these mis-alignments to promote cure.
It looks like Vonnegut's "magic that works" is the only definition of medical science that works.

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