I'm working on a little project about complementary and alternative medicines- a quick reference guide to the most common modalities, and how they differ in effectiveness, safety, theories etc. I've been using the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database- a great (but unfortunately rather expensive) site for balanced, evidence-based information on alternative medicines- for information on different modalities, and I came across a statement that I hadn't considered so far, but one which I think may actually be quite persuasive to some when it comes to alternative medicine. It's quite simple, but the thought just simply hadn't occurred to me before.
This is the fact that a lot of modalities were developed prior to any sort of scientific knowledge about how the body works, or pharmacology. For example, homeopathy was developed at a time where it was thought "humours" were to blame for illness- a time where blood-letting was treatment of choice for much sickness. And as for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), developed over 2000 years ago:
"At that time there was no scientific concept of disease or pharmacology in terms that can be related to our modern understanding of medicine. Therefore, the principles of TCM were formed based more on philosophy than on science"
The same goes for Ayurvedic medicine as well as anything that claims to be ancient.
So, on this basis, why should we believe that any of these modalities are scientific, or likely to work? How can homeopaths, for example, claim that it is "science-based medicine" when it fact it predates the science of medicine? Why on earth do we think this is a good thing?
Why, in days where calculators are easily available, should we be expected to believe that using an abacus will be more effective and safer?