The Un-Sciences of Medicine

MedicalScienceBrokenIs there a science of medicine? What are the fundamental theories of medicine? What are the fundamental theories of illness? Why doesn’t medicine have a basic theory of cures? What is the theory of prevention?

Is physics a science? Yes. Any university, in many countries can provide an introductory text to the concepts and theories of physics.  Chemistry is a science. The main theories of chemistry begin with the periodic table but they are so well developed that they intersect with the field of physics.  Is biology a science? Of course it is. Biology is the study of life, and all aspects of life.

Is medicine a science?

In The Modern Scientific Physician Series author Olli S. Miettinen tells us that “Practice without solid theory actually is the reality even in modern ‘scientific’ medicine of the Flexner-codified sort.” In the first chapter of the book he gives his conclusion: “the practice of medicine (medicine for short), like farming, for example, is art and not science” (Miettinen, 2001).

In 1855, anatomist and psychologist Xavier Bichat wrote: “Medicine is an incoherent assemblage of incoherent ideas, and is, perhaps, of all the physiological Sciences, that which best shows the caprice of the human mind. What did I say! It is not a Science for a methodical mind. It is a shapeless assemblage of inaccurate ideas, of observations often puerile, of deceptive remedies, and of formulae as fantastically conceived as they are tediously arranged.

Has much changed?

Ben Goldacre, author of “Bad Science” and “Bad Pharma”, says: “Medicine is broken…. We like to imagine that medicine is based on evidence, and the results of fair tests. In reality, those tests are often profoundly flawed.” Unfortunately, Ben is only looking at a very small part of the problem.

Is the field of medicine scientific?  If you think so, test yourself. Can you answer some simple questions?

What are the basic, fundamental theories of medicine?
… there are none…

Is medicine is a science, or the practice of treating illness?
… medicine is all practice.  It uses science, but it is not a science.

What is the first principle of ‘illness’? There are many practices of medicine, from ‘so called’ modern medicine, and many other fields like Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, Homeopahty, Naturopathic Medicine, etc. Is there a common theory or principle of illness? No, there is not.

I will answer this one:

The fundamental principle of illness, which is acknowledged by the actions of every field of medicine, but documented and studied by none of them, is both trivial, and profound.

Every illness has a cause.

Every illness has a cause, or causes. It’s so simple, it’s almost not worth stating. But by not stating this simple principle, by not studying this simple principle, every field of medicine finds it too easy to jump to treating symptoms of illness, rather than searching for cause.

I’m not talking about x, y, and z causes cancer, and other modern medical nonsense. I’m talking about each and every specific case of an illness.  For every specific case of cancer, for each and every specific case of an illness, there is a cause, or causes. That is the first and fundamental principle of illness. Sometimes, it is acknowledged by medicine, but more often, it is not. Of the top 100 best selling medicines in 2013, only 4 actually cure the illness being treated. The others address signs and symptoms of illness, but cannot cure.  Why not? Because they do not attempt to identify, much less address, the cause.

What is the definition of ‘cure’?  How can we cure?  How can we know when a cure is complete? MERCK’s manual of diagnosis and therapy does not have the word ‘cure’ in the index. It does not define the word ‘cure’. Neither does the authoritative Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine.  If you search for cure in either, you will find that the meaning of ‘cure’ changes with the illness, changes with the breeze.  If you want to find cures, or claims of cure, you will find more of them outside the field of conventional medicine. Only ‘alternative medicines’ dare to speak of cures. Modern medicine is silent.

Why is there no science of medicine? That reason is also trivial. Medicine cannot be a science, because it is incomplete by definition. Medicine is all about illness. Medicine is blind to health. If you are not ill, if you have no ‘diagnosis’, medicine has nothing to say – except perhaps to search for an earlier diagnosis.  Without a diagnosis, no treatment can be prescribed, except by random guesswork.

Without studies of health, of healthicine, medicine is incomplete.

What is the main principle of prevention of illness?  Pick up any medical news article and you’ll find the medical answer in a minute.  Eat a healthy diet.  Get lots of exercise. Don’t smoke. Wash your hands.  That’s it. Simplistic nonsense. We know that ‘health’ is the best preventative, but we don’t study health, we study illness instead.

Eat a healthy diet.  But what is a healthy diet? If we were looking for the healthiest diet, where should we look? The obvious place to look for the healthiest diet is in the temple of medicine, a hospital, or in a long term care facility. That’s where a healthy diet is most necessary, and could be most effective. Is hospital food the healthiest diet? Why not? Because the science of nutrition, as part of the un-sciences of medicine, is entirely based on illness, not on health.

Hippocrates said ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.’ What are the differences between food and medicines? What is the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration) official position on foods vs medicines? Answer: “(not a food)”. Which illnesses do we know that can only be cured by foods, and not by medicines?

What is an alternative medicine? How many official ‘alternative medicines’ exist, according to the FDA?  Answer: none.

Theory of Medicine?

There is no theory of medicine. There are many theories about causes of diseases, but none that are widely accepted by the medical profession.

There are no theories about the best treatments for disease, nor how to find the best treatments for disease, nor about the best ways to prevent disease.

The reason there are no theories of medicine is simple and clear.

Medicine is incomplete.

Medicine is a complex group of studies of illness, but no-one studies healthicine, the arts and sciences of health and healthiness. Without a science of healthicine, medicine jumps from one illness to another, from one treatment to another, from one side effect to another, from one patient to another, but never settles down to study fundamental concepts.

Medicine is very effective – from a commercial perspective.  Medicine is very effective, in life threatening situations.  Disclosure: modern medicine has saved my life several times. But, medicine is becoming less and less effective every day.  Why?  Medicine is drilling a hole, spiraling downward in the ‘search for cures’ ignoring the search for health.  In many cases today, health is the only effective cure, but medicine does not pursue health.

These questions, these ideas, are the foundation of the book I am currently writing: The Un-Sciences of Medicine.  Modern medicine has a blind spot: health. When we take a health view, a healthicine view, of modern medicine – we can see many omissions, many weaknesses, and even many solutions that are ignored, hardly noticed, much less acknowledged, today.

Can we fix medicine? I believe we need to ‘grow medicine’ to include studies of health. Or to develop the sciences of healthicine, to include the fields of medicine. When we do that, medicine will heal itself.

to your health, tracy

About Tracy Kolenchuk

Founder of Author of two books about healthicine; Healthicine: The Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness Healthicine: Introduction to Healthicine
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