Sunday, February 11, 2018

Is the wellness movement anti-science?

The Health and Wellness Expos of Canada are featuring a speaker who has been convicted of denying the necessities of life to his sick child--treating him with some kind of home remedies instead of what the actual doctors recommended.

The wellness movement, I take it, is based on logic something like this:

1. Modern Western medicine arrogantly assumes it knows all that can actually be known about treating the human body. It regards anything that hasn't passed specific laboratory-type tests as dubious folk medicine at best, dangerous at worst.

2. One result is that doctors cling to a faith in pills (somehow proven in lab tests), combined with advice to rest or something. There is a whole world of non-Western treatments that is completely disregarded.

3. Non-Western treatments tend to see the patient's body and soul as linked, both probably in need of some kind of therapy. Body and soul together are seen as part of nature in a larger sense. Therapy may take longer, involve more verbal and emotional interaction between therapist and patient, even physical touching.

4. Bill Moyers did at least one special in the U.S. on how much we all might learn from traditional Chinese medicine. Later I read a funny piece saying that when Mao took over, he knew he had no chance to deliver medical care that works to more than a tiny fraction of the population. Rather than admit defeat, especially in public, he spread the word that Western medicine was more likely to kill you than cure you; in fact it was all part of a Western capitalist plot to kill the Chinese people now that they had embraced Communism. To stay in good health, and live in a way that is altogether right-thinking and wholesome, the people should maintain and even re-discover traditional practices involving plants, tea and talk and such. (Acupuncture, or at least massage at critical places on the body?) Mao probably never thought this was actually a good approach to health care in the sense of curing disease and prolonging life. I guess it might be a good approach to hospice care--accepting death, and trying to ensure it can happen gracefully, and with company.

5. For the progressive left these ideas blend together: capitalism probably does more harm than good. Medical care in the modern West is difficult to separate from capitalism. Therefore modern medical care should be regarded with suspicion. Probably the result will be attacks on specific isolated measures such as specific vaccines or diets. Of course very few of these folks want to give up the benefits of modern hospitals for themselves.

6. The early moderns wanted to manipulate nature, in a way that is allowed by nature's laws, in order to make life better in a material sense for human beings. This somehow always implied that we might bring about better human beings--better able to appreciate nature, whether old or new and improved. (We might have to become less utopian in our natures, in an old-fashioned sense, to give up on the old utopias; the idea that if we settle for less in one way, we can have spectacular success in another without much danger, is itself probably utopian). But then if we decide people are plastic, and they can be made to put up with a lot (like 20th century totalitarianism), then we can teach them to sing and drink tea while nature remains its old nasty self. A joke was going around politicians for a while: do you think we can solve problems by joining hands and singing Kumbaya?

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