The Tragic Mirror

Well, I may as well get it out: I trust alternative medicine even less than conventional medicine. Which is not to say there are not many intelligent, caring workers of integrity in both fields. So don’t forget that as you read the following.

Medicine became unmoored from the Hippocratic principle of ‘first do no harm’ and the tenet that the relationship between the patient and his physician was a sacred one when the serpent of hubris snuck into the tent in the guise of antibiotics. Suddenly the humble craft of healing, fraught with uncertainty and mystery, became a science; well at least in the conceit of its own mind. Now to become scientific is a worthy goal but to forget the limits of knowledge and the tentative nature of all knowledge derived from scientific methodology is a terrible mistake. It leads to craziness like advocating a low-fat diet for the world’s population on tendentious, politically charged, poorly derived scientific results. Or  the idea of the polypill, a mishmash of super heart drugs, which some advocate should be a required medication for all over the age of 50; seriously, this has been discussed among the ‘leading lights’ of medicine.

Now the other problem with conventional medicine is that it became imbued with its own kind of magical thinking: that there was a magic elixir, Lipitor is the current favorite, that ‘heals’ this poor broken world of the flaws that evolution failed to rid the human race of. We are somehow just doomed to be sick without finding the magic cure. Well, yes, we are all going to die but far more than might seem likely at first blush we are actually designed, evolved, whatever, to be and stay healthy.

Now comes the tragic mirror: alternative medicine. Most of what goes under, in one guise or another, the name of alternative medicine is just a reaction, and a bad one, to conventional medicine. It, the personification of an idea must be done with care, it saw the prestige, the effectiveness and the invocation of the scientific method of conventional medicine and divined, correctly I believe, that something was wrong: very wrong. Conventional medicine heals its millions but kills its many thousands. This cannot be denied.

But my claim is that alternative medicine gazed too long into the face of conventional medicine and became just the left-hand image of the right-hand image of conventional medicine. By the way in my left-handed world that was not a prejudicial invocation of handedness. ‘Scientific methodology’ of auras and energy fields and ‘pharmacy’ of supplements; huge doses of supplements. Supplements with all the potential for harm of any pharmaceutical.

Truly a tragic mirror: billions of dollars spent and millions of ‘believers’ later alternative medicine has devolved to being little more than good useful therapeutic tools like massage and acupuncture or gone on to the truly tragic end of poisoning as many people as conventional medicine. Put aside your prejudices- ‘big-pharma’ is a capitalist conspiracy, they should have used mixed tocopherols rather than alpha, the AMA is Satan’s handmade (well…maybe)- and you will see almost no decent studies of any supplement that has shown anything but harm.

There is a ‘third way’, good name for a business, and that is to do the hard work of eliciting health from our illness. Now, this illness is many-headed and deceptive but it is actually simple, I did not say easy, to see: it is the bad food of agriculture as chemical manufacturing, the weak bones of too little exercise or too much, it is the conceit that we can be healthy without the hard work of intimate relationships, too busy for that, and the magical thinking that ‘there is a pill for that.’

Now this ‘third way’ requires unpacking all of these issues, and more besides, but it requires one more thing: a compass. And that is where my passion for quantifying everything comes from; if we do not measure change from a known baseline our belief that we are getting better- remember we are adrift and far from home, our healthy home- our belief that we are getting better is trussed up with nothing more than one political or cultural idea or another but not with facts, with science.

The third way is a sure way home. No drugs, well sometimes, no supplements, well sometimes, but the right food and the right exercise and the right spiritual discipline and that ‘right’ being shown by individually applied scientific quantification.

“Life Is Good”; I got that from an LG electronics logo. Or somewhere.

Smile, Have Fun and God Speed,

Dr. Mike

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