Talk:Alternative medicine (theories)

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The CZ Constables have been asked to take a look at this page and to respond to what evidently amounts to a less than congenial interaction. I do not write here and I am not an editor so this is strictly about policy here at CZ.


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CZ Constabulary, Thomas Simmons 00:45, 26 December 2008 (UTC)

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CZ Constabulary, Thomas Simmons 00:45, 26 December 2008 (UTC)

Original Research Policy

The following text is what appears on Approval Standards:
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When discussing here on this page, there are some very good guidelines. Avoid personal perspectives and avoid saying "you" or "we" anything that makes the discussion here appear as a personal attack by one individual or a group--even if it isn't what you intend to say, you would best serve CZ and your fellow authors by avoiding the personal addresses that often appear here. Address issues and avoid framing them as such things as "ignorant of".

You are offering your opinions and your perspective. So write as it "appears" to you, it "seems" to you, you are "concerned with", not making a final judgement etched in stone as it were. Your point of view on the issue is what you bring here, form your responses so that it is clear you are addressing issues and you see possible ways of improving or expanding--not making it correct or right.

If you can not make any headway with what you believe to be the focus of the article, if you want to take this issue off on a divergent track, consider writing a new article, such as "Alternative Medicine: Experimental evidence" or what ever fits. Doing battle here with strong opinions one way or another will serve little else but to provoke less than collegial responses. A vast range of topics on the primary subject here present themselves and can be further exploited well within the CZ policy framework. Than you for taking time to read and think this through. CZ Constabulary, Thomas Simmons 00:45, 26 December 2008 (UTC)

Exceptional revert: Proposals for restoring page December 26 2008

Given the evident loss of coherence in the page text, that was previously noted by an independent (non-contributing) editor as 'nearly ready', I propose to revert the text to this version: 11:02, 22 December 2008

I apologise for the need as this will inconvenience many Citizens who made 'good faith' contributions to the page - including myself- as their work will then need to be reinserted.

But before doing this, I request that all Citizen's note and comply with both the Constable's emphasised points above, and discard edits not in conformity with the aims of the page. As noted below, I expect Howard to discuss and seek prior approval for all his edits on this talk page first as he still asserts an entirely contrary view of the page's nature and purpose - even refusing to accept it comes under the oversight of philosophy.

As per that, I propose to modify the page description from: Origins and historical development of concepts relating to health and healing... to say this: Overview of social, cultural and philosophical perspectives of concepts relating to human health and healing... Martin Cohen 11:32, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

This is turning into a battleground and a poison for the whole of citizendium. I suggest no one should edit this article for a while. Besides it is impossible to follow the arguments on this talk page in a coherent manner. Should I be looking for new content at the top or the bottom of the page? Maybe this whole topic should be discussed in the forums rather than here? Chris Day 15:27, 27 December 2008 (UTC)
I am perfectly willing to accept a moratorium, Chris. There seem to be policy issues involved here, above and beyond the article. Discussions, on the Forums or elsewhere, do need to address some of the policy issues first; some may be appropriate for the Editorial Council when they concern scope and authority of authors and editors.

A comment here was deleted by The Constabulary on grounds of making complaints about fellow Citizens. If you have a complaint about the behavior of another Citizen, e-mail It is contrary to Citizendium policy to air your complaints on the wiki. See also CZ:Professionalism.

[Note. the following text predates the above debate]

Reserve judgement

I am an editor in this work group; at present this article is a very preliminary stub and I think we should just wait awhile and see how it progresses. When it's more mature I'll take a look again. But I suggest we just relax and let's judge this not as it is now but as it becomes.Gareth Leng 18:42, 13 December 2008 (UTC)


Paul's concerns need to be followed up on. Martin, try contacting Kathleen and see what she says. Otherwise, it's looking good, particularly the use of prose. If we can get some more eyes on this to fact check and clarify or clean-up, we can approve this one and move on. D. Matt Innis 02:33, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
I really am somewhat puzzled about the emphasis on Kathleen Karlsen. The web publications I see [3] and [4], as well as her entry on LinkedIn, describe her primarily as an artist. She does, indeed, have commentary on alternative medicine through Bach flower therapy, visualization, and other fields. Chris, or someone with the access to an appropriate citation tool -- how widely is her work in alternative medicine cited in other research?
The question is why she is apparently being considered an authoritative source. She may be, but I don't have information one way or the other. For what it's worth, she is not cited in MEDLINE. Howard C. Berkowitz 04:20, 23 December 2008 (UTC)

Fair use provisions

(The text quoted appears at the front of books too.)

As I understand it, International copyright laws allow a certain amount of direct quotation and accredited paraphrasing, (indeed non-accredited quoting and paraphrasing too), and the accredited kind is all that we have here. Any finding that this article breaches copyright would be very worrying, in that it would seem to destroy the basis of reference works such as CZ which rely on such fundamental academic tools. Someone, indeed many do, can write 'no one may quote me' on their internet page, but that does not make it so. One might well ask KK for her' sources - can she copuright views she has assuredly borrowed from others - in a legitimate knowledge gathering exercise. Martin Cohen 22:41, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

I have added some references to more traditional book sources making the same (possibly the original) points as KK. Martin Cohen 20:22, 25 December 2008 (UTC)

Plato vs Democritus and atomism

Reference: Democritus � scientific wizard of the 5th century bc ROBERT L. OLDERSHAW

Abstract Roughly 2400 years ago, during an era largely characterized by unscientific thought, a school of natural philosophers led by Democritus of Abdera developed a remarkably accurate understanding of our physical world. How could this small group have discovered so much at a time when technology and mathematics were at such a rudimentary level? What if their methods and ideas had caught on immediately, instead of being virtually ignored for 2000 years?

[1] Looks interesting. quote:

Democritus �had a remarkably modern understanding of concepts like the conservation of mass/energy, the indirect nature of perception, the continual formation of and destruction of physical systems, the reality of empty space, the basic theory of colours and the fundamental principles of causality and determinism.

--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 07:25, 17 December 2008 (UTC)


Many things I like about this article, think it's progressing well. A few comments-

  • Think its Thomas Kuhn not Samuel; the quote though is unusually obscure for him?
(response by Pierre-Alain to Gareth:) God, I keep inverting these two names! Its Thomas Samuel Kuhn, so, yes Thomas.
--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 16:02, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
(response by Pierre-Alain to Gareth:) Obscure? I can't tell. We'd have to ask a philosopher. Martin? How does it sound to your trained ears? My understanding is that, as Kuhn complained himself, many people are unaware of how he evolved after his monumental, ultra-quoted, Structure of Scientific Revolutions. This quote comes from "The road since structure". I like the fact that he adresses in a simple, illustrative way, orally, the difficult notion of incommensurability. I thought it flowed well in this article. But I'd like to have Martin's judgment.
--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 16:22, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
It seems pretty much standard Kuhn fare- and it seems, re. Gareth, that Kuhn's original point was not as novel or radical as all that anyway - so he ended up 'defending' his position at the expense of not really saying anything. It's not a problem to take his 'received point' further than his 'intended' one. ...said Martin Cohen (talk) (Please sign your talk page posts by simply adding four tildes, ~~~~.)
  • Conventional emphasis on treatment not prevention? Really think this is not true. Think of the vaccination programmes, the mass screening programmes for early detection of pre-disease states, genetic screening for risk factors, prenatal diagnosis, well person clinics, preventative dentistry, the new generation drugs like statins, public health initiatives like anti smoking campaigns, clean water, food safety regulation, environmental expoxure monitoring, clean air initiatives, sanitation...
(response by Pierre-Alain to Gareth:) I think that this comment illustrates the kind of work we'll have to do soon: we'll have to provide an overview of the variety of CAM practices (versus conventional). One way to specify Martin's words, I believe, is to say: disease-centered, treatment-oriented (conventional) vs salutogenic (health-centered). There are two types of prevention; actually, conventional prevention means early treatment (with the associated risks of side-effects), while in CAM, prevention means health promotion (with side-benefits on a variety of risk factors). To exemplify:
vaccination programmes: vaccination primes the immune system against a single pathogen. It is disease-centered. This specialization of the immune system may have unwanted consequences (PMID: 15914231; just an example). CAMs are intended to make the immune system more competent: it works on the "terrain", it's health-centered (salutogenic). I'm not saying that a disease-centered practice cannot save lives (just to be very clear).
ps: CAMs are complementary to vaccination especially when dealing with the young and the aging, who are immunocompromised. Just a note for our future developments on the relationship of CAM with convmed.
(taking a pause)--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 17:22, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
(response by Pierre-Alain to Gareth:)
"the mass screening programmes for early detection of pre-disease states, genetic screening for risk factors, prenatal diagnosis"
I have some first hand experience with genetic diseases, as the proud bearer of a lethal inborn error of metabolism (you guessed it, it's recessive -- my wife has the same). Suppose you get a gene-based or marker-based diagnosis for you or your unborn child; the specialist will first say that gene therapy is still, unfortunately, experimental (in most cases). Convmed cannot fix your genes -- yet. Then, surprise, specialists will (often) say that they can "only" practice a form of CAM, vitamin/nutrition therapy, to compensate for the genetic-biochemical defect. Which leads to the surprising result that specialists will use vitamins, minerals, amino acids... orthomolecular medicine, in other words. There is CAM within the highest spheres of convmed. Is Pr Anthony Sebastian a naturopath? Some could get this impression. But no, he's a evolutionary biologist -- but you could find people within convmed who would say that it's CAM. We'll have to deal with the problem of demarcation. When I tell people (pharmacists, doctors) that therapy x using some molecule m is practiced by some specialist clinicians, I often get this strange look and the response: "but you're talking about alternative medicine here, right?". No. I am talking about a scientifically sound treatment that is under-funded and under-represented, because it is not patentable. It's more of a sociopolitical problem. Entering convmed is expensive. Would Pr Sebastian agree with my analysis?
Pierre-Alain and Gareth - I think the 'simple' point is that money-wise, the great majority (I think you will know the figures much better than me) is spent on 'treatment' rather than prevention. Correct me please if I'm misinformed!! Can I suggst a health editor/author improves the text though expanding (perhaps as a box) to reflect the finer points rehearsed here? ...said Martin Cohen (talk) (Please sign your talk page posts by simply adding four tildes, ~~~~.)
Also see the demarcation section, below.
--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 19:52, 17 December 2008 (UTC)

Public health initiatives

(response by Pierre-Alain to Gareth:)
"public health initiatives like anti smoking campaigns, clean water, food safety regulation, environmental expoxure monitoring, clean air initiatives, sanitation"
I think that presenting all these things as products of conventional medicine is an instance of (scientific) revisionism (as we say in philosophy of science). All these interventions were promoted by voting citizens and elected officials. We can trace most (all) of these policies -- not medical interventions -- to the modern naturopathic tradition, which was politically expelled from medical organizations in the beginning of the 1900 (Flexner report). We must be thankful to people driven by a sense of what's "natural" for the (re)introduction of all these notions (clean air, food, water) into the mainstream discourse.
--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 04:05, 18 December 2008 (UTC)
Just not true; the clearest example is smoking - the anti-smoking actions were a very direct response to clinical research, notably associated with Richard Dall in the 1950's, who showed the very strong link between cigarette smoking and lung leading to a campaign led by health professionals (see [cancer.]). Before then, smoking was populary regarded as healthy (and marketed as health promoting).Gareth Leng 11:19, 19 December 2008 (UTC)
Dana Ullman explained in his recent book how the American Medical Association promoted smoking and unhealthy food through the JAMA, earned huge revenues from ads for the food and tobacco industries, silenced the naturopaths (treating them as quacks) who were against these un-natural habits.
Today, history is rewritten as the winners claim that their research was necessary to "discover" that the very things they promoted before were unhealthy. So, yes, Richard Doll (not Dall), fought for the recognition of the carcinogenicity of tobacco. The part of the story that's missing from your "just not true" response is that Doll was payed to minimize the environmental roots of cancer (
This "clearest example" is far from clear. It is an example of how science (epidemiology, here) and doctors were in fact manipulated to protect the private industry, it's a success story of corporate influence, more than medical influence! Add to this that the medical institutions actually delayed the realization of what naturopaths had found (at least) decades before. So, okay, it took some medical experts to challenge the assumption, approved and promoted by conventional medicine and its corporate advertising partners, that smoking was no big deal.
The other public health issues were pushed by scientists as well, you're right. But, again, it was against a medical community who showed (and still shows) very little interest for the environmental causes of disease.
Finally, when you say : "the anti-smoking actions were a very direct response to clinical research, notably associated with Richard Dall in the 1950's, who showed the very strong link between cigarette smoking and lung leading to a campaign led by health professionals" I find that it is not so much in agreement with your supporting reference. What you call a very direct response, I call a very delayed, public-driven movement. Quotes:
Today's alliance between doctors and the government to influence individual lifestyles is a relatively recent phenomenon.
The connection between smoking and lung cancer had been elaborated in the 1950s by Richard Doll and Austen Bradford Hill. But they had not pressed their results on policy makers, preferring to keep science and politics separate. .... gastroenterologist from the Central Middlesex hospital, with whom Doll had originally worked, wrote to the President of the College, Lord Brain, urging that the College put out a statement on the effect of smoking on health 'with particular reference to the rising generation'. Brain, a shy reserved man, took a month to reply, only to turn the proposal down. The reasons for his refusal were typical of the time, revealing doctors' dislike of giving advice:
The work of Richard Doll and Bradford Hill has received very wide publicity and must be known, I should imagine, to every doctor in the country, so it is difficult to see that the College could add anything to the knowledge of the existing facts. If we go beyond facts, to the question of the giving of advice to the public as to what action they should take in the light of the facts, I doubt very much whether that should be a function of the College.
--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 05:11, 20 December 2008 (UTC)
It's very true that until recently medicine tended to keep clear of policy. And when that changed they were very influential. As far as environmental causes of disease - this as I know very well, has been the subject of massive research. Doll was partly funded through industry, but his colleagues have objected to any idea that this had any influence on him - of course now there are much clearer rules on conflict of interest than then. It's a tricky question - many pro-homeopathy studies are funded by Boiron, are they automatically suspect? Maybe. Whatever, I am sure that it was the establishment of a clear link between smoking and lung cancer that led to the change in public attitudes and policy.

Public campaigns have indeed influenced policy occasionally - as with DDT - in that case, according to the World Health Organisation and others, at the cost of a massive death toll for babies in Africa; the WHO is now campaigning to reverse the ban on DDT (see[5]). I don't know the truth there, all I do know is to doubt anything that anyone says without seeing the evidence. As far as I'm concerned naturopathy is a massive fraud, because they can sell their products with claims that require no evidence whatsoever - and that's just not good for anyone. Gareth Leng 18:25, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

Can we reflect the 'debate' please in the page, without going into too much detail? This is, after all, an overview. We can always create new pages for specific debates 'if needed'... Martin Cohen 23:36, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

Of course it depends on where these costs are attributed to - but they are very significant.

  • Some aspects are addressed in a way that is clearly "partial" For example "the 30 years from 1967 to 1998, just under 6000 �adverse events� world-wide can be traced back to the prescription of herbal and other alternative medicines, this figure can only be contrasted with those from a University of Toronto study in 1998 which found that there were at least 106 000 fatalities each year, in the US alone, from side-effects of officially sanctioned and proved drugs [9]." I think it's probably true to say that in the last four thousand years no adverse events can be definitively attributed to prayer, while many miracles have been attributed to prayer by the Roman Catholic Church. True, but really the nonsense should be obvious. Yes there is a very large toll from conventional drugs - but this needs to be looked at in the context of the dramatic falls in death rates from a very wide range of specific diseases that can now be treated effectively - including many cancers, heart conditions. Declaring the one side without the other is just wrong, and it would be irresponsible I think to project an unbalanced negative message about modern drugs.
Gareth, I presume? The quote is illustrating the irrationality of 'fear' of the use of 'alternative' methods, as opposed to conventional ones. In that sense, it is, rehearsing (I think reasonably) the statistical evidence in favour of the 'safety' of Alternative treatments. Now, we would have to be aware of a great deal more information to argue that conventional drugscausing large numbers of fatalites were AT THE SAME TIME saving so many that the fatalities dwindled into statistical insignificance. The cases described in some detail by the book being cited are very much of drugs causing large numbers of fatailites without saving many lives, and being withdrawn later from the market. But the debate is as I say, about the perception of risks. However, in Gareth's favour? one could, I suppose, construct a 'general' case for drugs where 'most drugs' are saving lives, and only a few are not. As I say, this would be a big claim and would seem to require a lot of evidence. Martin Cohen 23:36, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

I got to wondering myself about the accuracy of this section which has been deleted from the article. I did find and expect to find more of this:
From American College of Physicians website
How Many Deaths Are Due to Medical Error? Getting the Number Right
Effective Clinical Practice, November/December 2000.
Harold C. Sox, Jr, Steven Woloshin
Context. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on medical errors created an intense public response by stating that between 44,000 and 98,000 hospitalized Americans die each year as a result of preventable medical errors.
The Authors responded:
Conclusion. Using the published literature, we could not confirm the Institute of Medicine's reported number of deaths due to medical errors. Due to the potential impact of this number on policy, it is unfortunate that the IOM's estimate is not well substantiated.
Articles like this would be a good place to start on claims of adverse effects and how those claims are upheld--or not.
However, further to what Gareth states in Structure section here, this sort of tangent will overwhelm the article as is and would probably be serve CZ better as an article in and of itself. Thomas Simmons 23:32, 26 December 2008 (UTC)

Tamoxifen and breast cancer mortality

Take just one particular example. In 1992, tamoxifen was introduced as a treatment for breast cancer. Since then, in Europe, mortality rates from breast cancer in women have fallen from 40/100,000 per year in 1991 to under 30/100,000 per year by 2006 [6]. This means that, in Europe alone, every year there are 20,000 fewer deaths from breast cancer mainly attributable to just this single drug.
I don't know where you got this in your reference. The graph of mortality rates indicates a plateau effect from 1985 to 1989, followed by a decline. All this happened before tamoxifen.
Figure 2.2 - from 1991 onwards there's a continuous fall. Did it start before? Dubious from the graph. Tamoxifen was in general use after 1992, but of course had been in large clinical trials for some years before, and of course it was these trial results that brought it into general use - I guess its possible that trial results started the fall. As you say, rightly, it's never possible to draw a firm conclusion from an association - there are always other confounding variables. Which is why conventional medicine generally expects a scientific basis for new treatments - validation of mechanism of action in controlled laboratory tests. Tamoxifen didn't come out of nowhere - it came from the laboratory from basic medical research that depended on (i) sequencing the human oestrogen receptor and (ii) developing techniques for mapping their expression in tissue and (iii)developing techniques for culturing cancer cells in vitro ; followed by showing a) the presence of oestrogen receptors in human breast cancer cells and b) the key role of oestrogen in cell proliferation in these cells followed by c) a drug discovery programme to identify ligands for the oestrogen receptor and d) a chemistry programme to modify those ligands to produce one which would act as an antagonist and then....a lot more to develop bioavailabily, test specificity and proof of principle in animal studies, test safety in animal studies and only then test first safety then efficacy in humans. It's a long path with a lot of very hard science there.Gareth Leng 18:53, 20 December 2008 (UTC)
Your enthusiasm for tamoxifen, which is still certainly justified to some extent, goes slightly beyond what your reference concludes:
"The reduction in breast cancer mortality rates is likely to have several different causes including screening, increasing specialisation of care and the widespread adoption of tamoxifen treatment since 1992."
It seems to me that this tendency to overestimate the role of tamoxifen parallels a general tendency to overestimate the role of medicine. I translated (to French) "State of the Evidence 2008, The Connection between breast cancer and the environment" Edited by Janet Gray, Ph.D. ( ::A couple of things I could say, which will resonate with what I answered to you above (public health):
Trends that we see in the population, especially with an hormone-sensitive cancer, often reflect changes in the environment that occured decades before. The intrauterine and peripubertal programming of breast cancer was modified decades ago by several environmental, often endocrine-disruptors related changes: the ban of DDT, the decline in diethylstilbestrol use, (nb: perhaps the ban of nuclear trials (thanks Linus)) and similar changes that occured after the free-for-all boom of the pharmaceutical-chemical conglomerates.
Again, the scientific institutions, claiming to be neutral, have been less than willing to take their responsibilities (see the story of Doll, above). And they still are: consider the absence of those considerations from the speculations of the Cancer Research UK report that you provide (see quote "The reduction in breast cancer mortality rates is likely to have several different causes including ..."). Prevention and the awareness of what's natural, environmentally responsible remain, even after years of research on xenoestrogens and on the early-life determinants of breast cancer incidence and mortality, incompatible with a treatment/disease-centered paradigm. This is a clear case where grassroot organizations, citizens and legislators have to join forces with the minority of (credentialed) scientists who have a preven(ta)tive, "health and nature" mindset.
--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 08:37, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

The evidence, when you do gather it, is often not as you might expect. In the case of environmental radioactive exposure, we may have got it quite wrong - the evidence from Chernobyl is on balance, surprisingly, that low levels of radiation might be beneficial, not harmful. Cancer Research UK is a very large independent charity, wholly funded by public subscriptions. It takes no money from industry or government. There has been a lot of money spent on xenoestrogen research, it's been very much a mainstream conventional science effort - but sadly it looks as though its turning out to be a false lead. Lots of our leads are like that. For breast cancer there is hope for even more progress, because unlike many diseases which are "environmentally driven" (which does not imply that they are linked to modern or unnatural things, only that they are linked to things other than our genes, including things like sunlight), it has a very strong genetic component - so there will be more potential drug targets.Gareth Leng 18:53, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

Well, first you don't respond, and second, your conclusions lack support.
Once again, i could spend time addressing your claims. But the list of claims you choose not to address becomes longer and heavier.
--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 04:33, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
However, the mortality figures are also misstated; in the USA there were just 10,000 deaths attributed to prescription errors in 1998 [7] - and of course these mainly arise because a drug is not prescribed that could have been effective. The number 100,000 is deaths from all medically associated interventions - and includes deaths during surgery and following post surgical complications, deaths from hospital-acquired infections, and deaths that were avoidable but because the condition was misdiagnosed, effective treatment was not given.
  • Generally, perhaps there's a bit of a lack of clarity about what conventional medicine is exactly. Personally, I go with Tom Meade's statement that the history of conventional medicine until the mid 20th century was mainly the history of the placebo effect. The first real conventional drug, aspirin, only came along at the start of the 20th century; vaccination had begun earlier but it only really took off in the 20th century, antibiotics came in the middle of the century - and almost all modern drugs since then. Almost every properly controlled clinical trial has been since the middle of the 20th century. So the earlier history of conventional medicine is really a history of organisational structures and a philosophical focus on approaching disease through scientific understanding of the causes of disease - an approach that only lately has borne fruit.
Could we incorporate this into the page proper? Wheere is Tom Meade's statement from, please?Martin Cohen 23:36, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

Sheldrake and his critics

  • Please avoid words like "respected" - they invite the question "respected by whom?" and vacillate between argument by authority and an invitation to derision. Rupert Sheldrake's scientific arguments are, as far as I am aware, not given any serious consideration in academic biology.
I will try to avoid this phrasing.
Sheldrake's scientific arguments have been disputed by: John Maddox, Michael Shermer, Lewis Wolpert, Richard Wiseman, David Marks, Richard Dawkins and of course the non-scientist James Randi. If you want to talk about academic biology specifically, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Sheldrake is a persona non grata, after reading this impressive (non-inclusive) list of respected/esteemed/? scientists.
I suggest you read some of these scientific debates. Just go on Sheldrake's website. Here's the direct link:
--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 09:16, 20 December 2008 (UTC)
  • Some bits I didn't recognise as being really true. "Conventional medicine, of course, is concerned with shapes, as exemplified by our modern icons : the double helix (DNA), the key-lock model of chemical messenger-receptor action, and the more elaborate 3D protein simulations that fascinate most of us. However, although molecular biochemistry is entirely based on the shape of proteins, molecules and electron clouds around nuclei"
Well,if I was to think of what conventional medicine is concerned with, shapes would come verylow on the list. The double helix is an icon of molecular biology because it elegantly displays a mechanism for protein replication. However molecular biology is about structure not shapes, and the structure includes sequence as well as conformation, and attributes particular functional significance to sequence - the ligand-receptor lock is primarily a molecular interaction not a topological interaction - the conformation is important to bring molecules together but it's how particular molecules are brought together and then interact that is important. But even then this is only a part of contemporary molecular biology, and frankly a part that we can't properly address yet because studying the structure of large proteins and how they fold and interact is very computationally demanding.
(response by Pierre-Alain to Gareth:) concerning "Well,if I was to think of what conventional medicine is concerned with, shapes would come verylow on the list"
Most of the money that is spent on medical R&D goes to identify the shapes or structures, at the molecular scale, that new drugs (new shapes) will interact with.
Simply not true on several levels -where on earth does this idea come from? First not remotely true about the money, on any interpretation, only a relatively tiny part is spent in this way, (even if you include commercial pharmaceutical R&D). Second, there is a misunderstanding here - molecular interactions arise from chemical properties, not shapes - the shapes are relevant only because when very large, complex molecules interact physically, their shapes constrain which particular chemical interactions are possible. To rationally design a drug to fit a receptor, you might model the receptor and then seek to design a drug with the right shape to fit, but you also have to design it with the right chemical elements to interact. This approach to drug design is relatively rare though, most approaches work from the chemical sequence alone, at least initially.Gareth Leng 11:29, 19 December 2008 (UTC)
I understand what you're saying, and I don't see exactly where your detailed illustration contradicts the point that is made, that is summarised as follows: "molecular biochemistry is entirely based on the shape of proteins, molecules and electron clouds around nuclei". I suggest that you wait until I compare how, in a holist paradigm, one thinks about shapes/structures. It will "resonate" with our onion business.
--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 02:10, 18 December 2008 (UTC)
PA - I think we need to modify the text, as you say, there is a link to be brought out with the 'ancients' and their search for significance. But this can be done gently, without making too bold a claim (as I agree with Gareth this one at present is) to start with. Martin Cohen 23:36, 22 December 2008 (UTC)
Yes, it's becoming more obvious the more I work on Sheldrake and the ancients. I'll keep this bold claim for later... or not!--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 08:08, 24 December 2008 (UTC)
  • "Under this paradigm, it is believed (but not provable) that, "
Please think about this phrasing. Yes of course it is true. But are you always going to qualify statements with "(but not provable)" when that is true? Are you happy to add this to the opening main text sentence: "The underlying (but not provable) assumptions of alternative medicine...." Please be careful about the tone introduced by phrasing that expresses a truth, but also displays an editorial bias.Gareth Leng 11:55, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
(response by Pierre-Alain to Gareth:) As I was writing that, I was wondering "what's this neutral, more technical, term I have on the tip of the tongue?" Being unable to remember with certainty, I left this as is until I remember. Axiom is the term I had in mind. But the more common "postulate" might be better.
--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 02:33, 18 December 2008 (UTC)
Actually (see Kuhn above!) it's often best to avoid the term paradigm as no one agrees on what it means or entails... Martin Cohen
I'll respond in the body of your message. Thanks Gareth.
--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 16:02, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
Thansk Gareth and Pierre, sorry for the delay in commenting! Martin Cohen 23:36, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

Scientific content

I agree with Matt that the prose is of this article is fluent and better than the average CZ prose (especially mine). However, I'm worried about the scientific value of its content. To me quite a few of its statements have the smell of urban legend, comparable to the story about the 60 different words for snow of the Inuit, see here.

Take for instance the following quotation:

For example, according to Kathleen Karlsen, MA , an advocate of herbal medicine, a 60,000 year old burial site excavated in Iraq included eight different medicinal plants.

We have to trust a fairly arbitrary web site telling us that archeologists excavated a 60,000 year old burial site. This is extremely old, the Babylonian and Assyrian civilizations don't go further back than 4000 to 5000 years. Further we are asked to believe that identifiable remainders of plants were found and, moreover, that that they were medicinal.

The claim is most likley drawn from this book Goldfrank's Toxicologic Emergencies, By Lewis R. Goldfrank, Neal Flomenbaum, Robert S. Hoffman, Mary Ann Howland, Neal A. Lewin, Lewis S. Nelson

Published by McGraw-Hill Professional, 2006 ISBN 0071437630, 9780071437639 Page 665. Martin Cohen 23:58, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

Onions are also represented in scholarly books. Do some more googling! Martin Cohen 23:58, 22 December 2008 (UTC)
Paul, most of the comments you disparage as 'urban legend' are not worth treating as Journal paper statistics. What is worth doing is checking they are not erratic claims not shared by others. In fact, they are widley claimed,a nd this article is attempting to describe the ways people understand both human health and wider issues of humanity's place in 'creation' and the universe. Not so much science as cosmology. One does not need to google claims from Ancient Egypt about the univers being an onion to see that the claim has only a significance in the comparison of a humble plant with a conceptual, philosophical absolute. I've noted them, and here and there we could expand the footnotes (not that it would help much) but it honestly seems to me that your objections are really not germane to this kind of debate. But please do 'improve' the examples if you think you can! That's the other side of the coin with this sort of style, the examples are not so precise that they cannot be embellished.Martin Cohen 23:47, 22 December 2008 (UTC)
Paul, onion comes from the latin unus.
Googling is wise; etymologyzing can be even better.
--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 04:22, 23 December 2008 (UTC)


Some comments by Gareth led me to realize that the demarcation between CAM and convmed should be viewed from a sociopolitical perspective as well:

Ethical problems arising in evidence based complementary and alternative medicine, J Med Ethics. 2004 April; 30(2): 156�159. [8]


Funds are scarce for CAM research compared with most areas of medical research.21 Governments and other funding bodies usually allocate health resources on the basis of existing evidence.22 Because the evidence for CAM is fragmentary and evolving, research applications in CAM�other than to government agencies specifically created to fund CAM research, such as the (rather unique) National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the NIH in the US�have a lower chance of receiving funding than those in conventional medicine.

This situation creates a systemic bias, which results in allocation of resources to those areas of (conventional) medicine for which reasonably good evidence already exists. The resulting funding stream is at the expense of areas in which no or less evidence currently exists�for example, CAM.23 This impinges on the ethical principle of justice. In principle, it also perpetuates the under researched status of CAM.

Underresearched=alternative, very often: Some critics of CAM have said that there is no CAM, there's only medicine that work and medicine that doesn't work (Marcia Angell, former NEJM editor, right?). This is naive : who pays to enquire about that?

--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 19:26, 17 December 2008 (UTC)

Modus operandi

As I stated on the homeopathy talk page, it is better for me, and probably for most of us, to put more in related articles and less on talk pages; many profound disagrements are more likely to resolve if Citizens put their argumentative points in an encyclopedic form, to which they can link to in their discussion.

For instance, drug discovery, history of medicine (AMA subsection), Flexner report, gestalt (epistemology), breast cancer, endocrine disruptor, logical reductionism and eliminativism.

As I wrote on the CZ page Core controversial articles (

This page is intended to provide links to existing and not yet created articles that are likely to raise passions, attract contributors, encourage the creation of numerous ancillary articles, and provide Citizendium opportunities to show to the world how important and inevitable it is.

... and I should add, improve the quality of existing articles. --Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 19:35, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

Good advice; I have, indeed, put some additional material in John Snow (physician) and Phytotherapy. Nevertheless, if one chooses to write "controversial articles", one should not be surprised if there are strong dissents. A declared controversial article, if it is in main article space before it is well-developed, cannot reasonably expect questionable assertions not to be challenged when they appear. No one "owns" an article.
If some section is developing, I believe that many potential critics are far more willing to wait if there is a Talk Page note that briefly outlines the direction that a controversial section intends to take. When I see that a key point seems to be missing from the article page text, but is at least a bullet in an outline, I am far more willing to be patient, since I am aware that my concern has been recognized and will be addressed. When I see a position on the main page, which I believe ignores key data, I am much more likely to deal with it boldly than if I have some reassurance, from talk page comments on the authors' plans, that the apparently contrarian position will, in the reasonably short term, be balanced and presented in a neutral context. Howard C. Berkowitz 20:43, 25 December 2008 (UTC)

Conversations moved

In order to keep this articles discussion focused, I have moved some of the conversations that threaten to get us sidetracked to pages that are appropriate for their discussion and collaboration by the community as a whole. D. Matt Innis 20:35, 23 December 2008 (UTC)

Moved Talk Page Conventions conversation

I moved the Talk page conventions conversation, though important, to the CZ talk:How to use talk pages. Please do continue to work out these conventions so that it will likely be a value to every article. D. Matt Innis 20:20, 23 December 2008 (UTC)

Please see this conversation concerning the current status of this discussion. D. Matt Innis 16:34, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Moved Citations discussion

I moved the Citations discussion, again important, to the CZ talk:Original Research Policy where it can get a proper hearing and vetting while this page can concentrate on Alternative medicine (theories) D. Matt Innis 20:35, 23 December 2008 (UTC)

Just a note on article improvement

Clearly, it is not productive to conduct a debate on the talk page, although an encyclopedia has never, historically, been based on debate. Some directly sourced contrasts are provided for assertions in the article.

Lewis Thomas' book The Youngest Science: Notes of a Medicine-Watcher is extremely insightful, yet many alternative medicine advocates persist in making comparisons to times where, as Sir William Osler put it, there were medical cults, not science-based medicine. Howard C. Berkowitz 04:27, 24 December 2008 (UTC)

Additional information added to article

Since there was no response to my question about identifying original sources paraphrased by Goldberg, Bivins, etc., I inserted, without deleting the paraphrase but adding context, fully accessible material from at least the CDC, WHO, and NEJM. These, I believe, are needed within the neutrality policy of presenting opposing views.

I have tried not to be argumentative, although I have removed some subjective language. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:24, 24 December 2008 (UTC)


"Revisionism" is, bluntly, a buzzword. Snow's own work is extensively published. Find one example of Snow using "miasma" in his own works. He correlated a problem with a specific pump, using statistical methods. When the water officials refused to correct it, he broke the handle off the pump, a pump which he found using statistical methods; many of my epidemiology texts credit Snow as the father of statistical epidemiology.

Breaking the Broad Street pump stopped the epidemic. No miasmas. Cause and effect. Western rationality. Annoying, innit? Howard C. Berkowitz 02:25, 25 December 2008 (UTC)

Totally off the point. You're ignoring the quote i provided. --Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 04:02, 25 December 2008 (UTC)
You did not question the substantive additions about Snow on the talk page, as might have been something a reasonable adult might do. Instead, you threw a fundamentallly irrelevant quote into the article, ironically from the very same site that had Snow's specific ideas. It was irrelevant because it was a secondary or tertiary source focusing on miasmas, a concept that Snow explicitly rejected. Instead, you chose to add, in the body of the article, that it was "revisionist", which, in my experience, tends to mean "I don't agree with something".

As more cases appeared, Snow began examining sick patients. All of them reported that their first symptoms had been digestive problems. Snow reasoned that this proved that the disease must be ingested with polluted food or water. If the victims had absorbed cholera poison from polluted air, as the "miasma" theorists believed, then their first symptoms should have appeared in their noses or lungs -- not in their digestive tracts.[9]

It was hardly professional to attack the Snow material with what is demonstrably a theory to which he did not subscribe, and himself attacked. In fact, had you read farther on the very site from which you drew your counterargument, you might have found that you were describing a common opinion of the time, but one that Snow argued against.
Mr. Gouanvic, you have made a point of wanting to have "controversial" articles. Do not be surprised, then, if you generate controversy, and people that vehemently disagree with you and expect to see authoritative sourcing.
Insulting? No, not particularly more insulting that much of Burton Goldberg. Howard C. Berkowitz 04:48, 25 December 2008 (UTC)
I told the constables i wouldn't continue to argue until you properly adress the citation provided. --Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 05:56, 25 December 2008 (UTC)
But I have addressed it. You brought it up to counter Snow. Lo and behold, on the very webpage that you took it from, is text that specifically describes Snow's counterargument against miasma, two paragraphs above the paragraph that you took to support your position. In other words, I don't even need the separate Snow quote from 1831 as well as the 1850-ish Broad Street pump episode; his observational evidence, and argument for, the germ, instead of the miasma theory is on the very same webpage from which you took a quote that seemed to support your position. Did you just search for quotes that supported your argument and not read the rest of the page?
Please do call whomever you like, although I suspect a Healing Arts Editor is a bit more qualified to comment on whether one of us is misinterpreting or misquoting major events in the history of epidemiology. I have, in fact, made such an editor aware of the disagreement.
In fact, I have thoroughly addressed your out-of-context quote. It appears you don't like the way I addressed it. Snow's actual papers, I believe, are available from the Snow Society. Want to get an independent confirmation that Snow used statistics, evidence and causality, and thought miasmas were absurd? Howard C. Berkowitz 06:36, 25 December 2008 (UTC)

Howard, if you dislike my use of "revisionism", this is one thing. Let's see how and why I used it and discuss.

Here is the context (before you insert your text and broke the logic):

It would be, however, an instance of scientific revisionism to attribute to statistical analysis and evidence-based decisionmaking, the tools of modern clinical epidemiology and evidence-based medicine, the major improvements in population health that were observed in the XIXth century. The public health reforms that were initiated during this period were designed and enforced because thinkers of the time adhered to the view that decomposing matter and excreta were vectors of spirit-like entities that accounted for the epidemic nature of diseases like cholera. In the minds of clinicians and public health reformers, the miasmatic theory of disease allowed to design concerted efforts against major sources of disease. Only later was it possible to demonstrate that the miasms they were containing by promoting purity and eradicating unnatural accumulations of waste, were, in actuality, bacteria, amoebas and viruses.

The germ theory for cholera was finally established, although earlier changes in the sanitary environment, called for by the erroneous miasma theory, had actually done much to reduce the transmission of disease. London provides an example of how useful a wrong theory (miasma) can be for addressing an epidemic (improvement of air, solid waste and water supplies), in this example cholera.[11]

Now, let's see how you address that:

"Revisionism" is, bluntly, a buzzword. Snow's own work is extensively published. Find one example of Snow using "miasma" in his own works. (..., ..., ...)

So? You still don't get why I responded that you were off the point? --Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 17:15, 25 December 2008 (UTC

Your original first paragraph is not clear on the period you are discussing; it is unclear the first sentence that mentions a date implies that you are talking about the 19th century in general. Sourcing would have helped, and preferably, in the interest of neutrality, sources readily available online and from general historians, not partisans like Burton Goldberg.
You make general statements about miasmas driving 19th Century medicine, to which there are counterexamples. I began by pointing out two of them (Snow and Nightingale), and you didn't go to the talk page and discuss the issue. Instead, you went into a further essay complaining of revisionism. In partial support of that argument, you offered a source from UCLA's Department of Epidemiology, which ignored, two paragraphs before, on the same page, a specific statement of how Snow had rejected miasmas.
It may well be that what you want to say is that 19th century practitioners didn't have antibiotics. The reality is that antibiotics are not the only treatment for infectious disease. Other treatments exist, such as surgical debridement and passive immunization. There is also prevention on an individual basis.
Counterexamples? Snow's observations, as early as 1831. While Snow is often considered the father of epidemiology, a reexamine of Nightingale's work shows that she was using recognizable statistical methodology; the pie chart, for example, appears to be her invention. The pleasant compromise is to say that epidemiology had a mother and a father, although I don't know if they ever ment.
Just from memory, here are several 19th century counterexamples that there were no individual treatments, agreeing there were no systemic antibiotics:
  • Lister's revision of surgery to use antiseptic technique, so debridement and surgical treatment of infections were possible. Lister also made extensive use of phenol dressings, which often caused toxicity, but also certainly prevented a number of surgical wound infections or reinfections.
  • Passive immunization from von Behring, Pasteur and Roux.
  • Tragically rejected at the time, but Semmelweis' attempt to stop nosocomial transmission of what was called puerperal fever.
  • Ehrlich's dissertation on the differential effects of dyes on infection, and continue through to his work, still in the 19th century, that eventually led to systemic antimicrobials, some in the earliest century — but the work began in the 19th.
You may not want to hear it, but this article would be significantly improved if it concentrated more on the actual theories of alternative medicine, and less on attacking conventional medicine. I am the first to admit that there were things terribly wrong with medicine well into the 20th century, but write about alternative medicine, with less emphasis about how much more clever were the alternative theorists. There is reason to mention integrative approaches, such as the Chinese Three Roads restructuring of TCM.
Later in the section, it's hard to respond to allegations of the superiority of alternative medicine and the evils of conventional medicine, when there is either no sourcing, or indirect sourcing from people like Burton and Bivins, who have a clear ax to grind. In Burton's case, his website to have just as much economic interest, on a smaller scale, than those of major pharmaceutical companies.
The later paragraph,

And today, advocates of enlightenment thinking cite examples of treatment by Alternative Health practitioners as dire evidence of the spread of 'irrationality". Yet how rational is say, modern medicine, and how irrational are alternative remedies? It has been said that unidentified World Health Organisation (WHO) figures, in the 30 years from 1967 to 1998, just under 6000 adverse drug reactions world-wide can be traced back to the prescription of herbal and other alternative medicines.

The first two sentences are argumentative, condescending, and not representative of neutral encyclopedic writing. In the third sentence, I inserted "unidentified", as I will continue to do when there is an appeal to authority that cannot be independently verified. I also inserted some comments on the questionable use of statistics there.
The World Health Organization, in the specific, available report I cited, is not quite so generally supportive of herbalism as the article suggests. Do I reject herbal medicine? Absolutely not in the sense that there are phytochemicals that are effective in disease. The idea that the whole plant must be used for therapeutic effect, however, can be challeged on grounds including evolutionary botany.
In summary, I don't believe I was off point. I was, instead, showing that there are factual errors in an article that has a clear non-neutral agenda. When I raised concerns earlier, I was told to have patience while the article developed. The problem with having patience is that random new users may come to CZ and find this article, and have serious questions about CZ's claim about accuracy. They will not go to the talk page to find the assertions that it is developmental.
If the article page said. at the top, that this was a developing article, on controversial topics, and is not yet ready to be assumed as authoritative, I would have far less problem. If this were in userspace and an essay style article were being worked out there, I'd also be far more patient. None of these conditions, however, exist here. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:34, 25 December 2008 (UTC)

Suggestions on vocabulary

In the lead, I have variously either substituted the term used by the National Library of Medicine's Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) controlled vocabulary (e.g., spiritual healing vs. faith healing), or piped the definition, in order to be more compatible with other articles. Several contributors are putting the MeSH definitions into CZ, at least as stubs, to make it easier to search the general literature. MeSH is preferable to general dictionaries.

If there is a strong desire to use a non-MeSH term, than I strongly recommend a stub be created explaining the usage.Howard C. Berkowitz 21:06, 25 December 2008 (UTC)

John Snow

Howard, you've very solidly sourced John Snow's thinking; can you simply put the article straight on this without conducting an argument on the article page. This is clearly important to include; it's a key step in the divergence of thinking in modern medicine from precursor theories, but the quotes are overlong. Can you partly paraphrase?

Martin - you deleted a section of Howard's text - in general don't delecte text where it is possible to move it (into a stub article or footnote pending discussion. In this case I agree that the text you deleted in this case is not directly relevant - this article is about theories, not about the practice of alt med. Gareth Leng 23:41, 25 December 2008 (UTC)

Gareth, I have been moving the material into John Snow (physician). The problem was that the original reference to the history of medicine in the 19th century were factually wrong; miasmas seemed to be there to support...I'm not exactly sure what point. Perhaps a more direct statement of the point to be made, rather than trying for elegance in prose or to cast hard science into discussion of ideas.
I shall take a guess at what could be the essence of a valid point: "It may not be necessary to understand the mechanism of disease, or of prevention, or of treatment, as long as there is significant evidence of cause and effect. Those that do not understand the mechanism, however, may need to be willing to let go of approaches that are shown to be irrelevant when mechanisms are understood." Yes, I am quite aware "mechanistic" shows a certain philosophical view; it is one that needs to be accepted and not attacked; other views can be described as parallel to it.
I literally don't know what are being expounded as theories here; perhaps they need to be presented on the talk page if necessary, in more basic bullet/outline form. Elegance of prose is a secondary concern. As Churchill put it in a not completely irrelevant way, "Not end a sentence with a preposition? This is arrant nonsense up with which I shall not put!" Make the theories clear without flourishes.
I should add, Gareth, that I would rather not have created an argument in the article, and I regret having done so. Nevertheless, I did so because I believe there were substantive inaccuracies, and, for whatever reason, they were not being addressed on this talk page. Howard C. Berkowitz 00:06, 26 December 2008 (UTC)

Snow quotes fall, and more organizational ideas

As requested, I greatly cut back on the argumentation about snow, but I also cut back on inaccurate information about miasmas, and the development of both public health and specific treatment.

In trying to understand what is confusing in the next sections, I think I see several problems. A very basic help would be greater use of section headings, and not intertwining different concepts. For example, the subjects of dissection, apparently with respect to qi and other ideas of vital flow, are intermixed with discussion of phytotherapy. I shall try to sort out the separate issues of flow-based issues from herbal issues/issues of drug toxicity.

The text boxes, incidentally, do not help in editing; it's awfully easy to delete a formatting character and mangle the page. It's also difficult to address what seem related ideas that have been separated into text boxes. Ignoring the interface problems they create, I strongly recommend that the material under them simply be put under separate headings, so collaborative editing can take place without wrestling with format issues. Howard C. Berkowitz 01:47, 26 December 2008 (UTC)


At present this article is an uneasy blend between a) discussion of the theories underlying Alt Med (which seems to be what is intended) and b)arguments about Alt Med vs Conventional Medicine based on things like efficacy, safety, cost effectiveness, and influenced by society and culture - well these have nothing to do with Alt Med theories, won't go anywhere without engaging Health Sciences editors - I propose to simply delete these sections related to b) unless they can be moved elsewhere. Gareth Leng 09:08, 26 December 2008 (UTC)

That makes perfectly good sense to me, Gareth. I agree with some of your small changes to things that I wrote, but disliked the wording. "Saved lives", for example, only really means something it a specifically statistical context. If one compares the morbidity rates among cohorts that received CABG, PTCA, and aggressive pharmacologic treatment, only CABG shows a lower rate. As with any discussion of morbidity, it is applicable over a specific time period. So, if two cohorts, one that received herbal treatment and one CABG, and the mortality rate was lower in the herbal group, one could legitimately say that lives were saved over the measured period.
That sort of discussion doesn't fit well here, because there isn't the common context that "saved lives" means "reduced mortality rate in a particular cohort," a context that you will find in the readers of medical journals.
Oddly enough, there are some blurred-between-CAM-and-mainstream things that could fit into the title of this article. For example, visualization techniques for pain management, which are widely used — I've used them myself — are not totally inconsistent with the Melzack&Wall gate control theory of pain. One of my rheumatology texts has a chapter on studies in psychoneuroimmunology. Now, is mind-body therapy sufficiently alt med to mention here? I'd be inclined to say it does, but it may not fit what seems to be an argument about the Enlightenment. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:37, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
I think that Gareth, as an editor, has pinpointed a plan that will preserve the integrity of the intended purpose of this page and allow for CZ policy on cooperation and mechanics to be fulfilled. This is an important distinction since content is within Gareth's purview, not the CZ Constabulary. It looks like it will float so, just as a suggestion, someone could start on the articles from content that might detract from the topic here and simply create the links to this article. Thomas Simmons 22:57, 26 December 2008 (UTC)

Contrast of box background colour and text

Chris, I did want the boxes on different sides, yes, and I prefer different colours. I suggest we let the person who does the box choose the colour, no? Eventually, there may need be a general discussion about layout, but it is a bit early to start imposing one now, isn't it? Martin Cohen 21:21, 25 December 2008 (UTC)

First, I think we can all have input on layout and I think it is important that there are some general standards that cross all articles otherwise readers get confused by the different styles. Second, what is the point of having different box colours? Third, many here don't want boxers at all, so it is never too early to be talking about layout issues. Chris Day 16:38, 26 December 2008 (UTC)
Also, why do you think boxes alternating right and left is preferable? From my perspective it makes the article look chaotic. Chris Day 16:42, 26 December 2008 (UTC)

Martin, in one edit you wrote:

"box colours - in general creator of box can choose colours - please do not impose your colours ! The aim is to have contrast".

Is this not a little ironic given that one of my stated reason for changing the colours was:

"Why three different colours for the boxes? Using different colours implies there is some difference between the boxes. Also the two darker ones have poor contrast. Let's go with the lighter one."

And a further edit I made to "make boxes less saturated" was also aimed at improving the visability of the text. I will also note that your current preferred colour has less contrast than the last one I changed it too. So I'm unclear why you think it has more contrast. Is this an monitor issue? Chris Day 17:12, 26 December 2008 (UTC)

In the Computers Workgroup, we have started Usability, but I'll merely say that there is a very large professional knowledge base, in computer science and cognitive psychology, about the most effective visual design. Overuse of color presents many problems.
A general rule of thumb, in interface design, is called the Principle of Least Astonishment. In this case, boxes for asides are slightly astonishing, but it can be a valid technique. Nevertheless, I will have to search the Forums, but boxes do have effects and create some "astonishment", both for text-to-speech conversion and for small screens (laptop, PDA)/user adjustments for more readable font sizes.
Now, are there reasons to use alternating sides for exceptions to text? Yes. It's a reasonable thing to do when, for example, the article text refers to maps or photographs; putting them all on the same side can make them run together and be hard to find.
As a general rule, add features to a visual interface when there is a perceptual reason for doing so. A great many commercial websites are not effective for their business purpose of establishing information or even placing orders, because the graphic designers wanted to make an "artistic statement" that obscured the key information.
In this specific case, I found collaborative editing to be much harder, because I had to be sure I did not disrupt the formatting commands from the box. There were also times when a point that I believed should be mainline was off in a box. I'm willing to consider sidebars when the content of the article is reasonably agreed-to, but right now, they are imposing an unneeded amount of idiosyncratic individual preferences into a group effort. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:47, 26 December 2008 (UTC)

Different languages for discussing health

May I just point out that this section is a cut and paste and as such may run afoul of copyright. Compare:

CZ article

Roughly 2400 years ago, during an era largely characterized by unscientific thought, a school of natural philosophers led by Democritus of Abdera developed a remarkably accurate understanding of our physical world. How could this small group have discovered so much at a time when technology and mathematics were at such a rudimentary level? What if their methods and ideas had caught on immediately, instead of being virtually ignored for 2000 years?[1]

with source


Roughly 2400 years ago, during an era largely characterized by unscientific thought, a school of natural philosophers led by Democritus of Abdera developed a remarkably accurate understanding of our physical world. How could this small group have discovered so much at a time when technology and mathematics were at such a rudimentary level? What if their methods and ideas had caught on immediately, instead of being virtually ignored for 2000 years?

I also note that anyone who wants to access this source, which is only an abstract mind, the url is in the footnote but clicking on the citation will only reload the article page. To access this you must copy the URL onto the web address bar. Thomas Simmons 00:07, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

A comment here was deleted by The Constabulary on grounds of making complaints about fellow Citizens. If you have a complaint about the behavior of another Citizen, e-mail It is contrary to Citizendium policy to air your complaints on the wiki. See also CZ:Professionalism.

Paul, I'm aware of what you're saying! This is a view that I find very interesting and that will appeal to many readers, such as you! In this Theories page, it it of great interest to find, at the root of Western civilization, a debate between materialism and idealism, that resonates so well with our current debates.
The next section, or counterpoint, will cover the response of Plato to materialism, which will help a lot, I believe, to understand the general theories of Alternative medicine.
--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 17:39, 27 December 2008 (UTC)
Pierre-Alain, may I suggest, constructively I hope, that it might reassure others if you and Martin put an overall outline on the talk page, so others can see the "broad picture"? Remember, this article and discussion is accessible to the public. When well-meant criticisms seem brushed aside and the critic is told to "have patience" or "wait for the next section", it adds to the existing tension.
Also, try very hard to have the introduction give, in a few paragraphs, the overall scope of the article. I believe that to be recommended CZ style, rather than asking rhetorical questions and challenges.
Again, and with respect, you have made comments, in a number of places on CZ, that you would like what I believe you called "core controversial articles." First, I'm not at all convinced that there is a broad Citizen consensus that concentrating on controversial ideas is a good idea. That might be something for the Proposal process to the Editorial Council.
Second, if you do choose to bring up controversial topics, you are going to get hard arguments, and you won't like some of them. Do consider that in reacting to responses here, some of which are purely meant to be constructive, but some also are resulting from a great deal of frustration. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:34, 27 December 2008 (UTC)


No one here wants to get into a "citation needed" battle, as at the Other Place, less than I do. When a concept is common expert knowledge, we often accept comments. But how are we to regard a statement such as:

Where conventional medical treatment is seen as effective in dealing with certain emergencies, such as physical injuries, other long-term illnesses and bodily dysfunctions seem to some people to remain poorly understood and conventional treatments ineffective and even harmful.

Who are "some people"? What kinds of long-term illnesses and bodily dysfunctions? I'm having trouble sorting out the sentence -- is it that the illnesses are poorly understood, the treatments are poorly understood, both, or neither?

This seems to be a judgement about conventional medical treatment, which would seem to call for a Health Sciences expert (i.e., editor). Of course, if it stays at the level of "some people" and unspecified other conditions, it can't exactly be refuted — but it also doesn't at all qualify as authoritative.

I see no way in which this can be considered Philosophy. Sociology, perhaps.

Now, if I were to argue this case, I'd mention diffuse conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and indeed chronic pain conditions. I might argue that diffuse conditions lend themselves to description in terms of some form of vital energy flow. Certainly, this is a description that would not be at all surprising from traditional Chinese medicine practitioners with which I've discussed such things; many conventional physicians might well consider a trial of acupuncture or moxabustion. I'm not expert enough in chiropractic to know if this qualifies as a disturbance of innate intelligence, or if there is better terminology. Even a humor-oriented herbalist might speak of imbalances.

Now those would be examples of alt med theories. It would not surprise me at all if it was possible to find sourced studies describing theory and application. Why, as a Computers expert, with specific background in health literature information retrieval, I can think of several approaches I might try, if I were trying to present alt med theories, rather than something more elevated such as social-historical-political-philosophical, or something else I can't understand. What can I say? My problem is that it isn't rocket science?


  • Improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms with acupuncture: results of a randomized controlled trial. Mayo Clin Proc. 2006; 81(6):749-57 (ISSN: 0025-6196) Martin DP ; Sletten CD ; Williams BA ; Berger IH [10]
  • Traditional and Evidence-Based Acupuncture in Headache Management: Theory, Mechanism, and Practice. Chong-hao Zhao, MD, PhD, DABMA; Mark J. Stillman, MD; Todd D. Rozen, MD. Headache. 2005;45(6):716-730.[11]
  • Integrated Healthcare: A Complementary Approach to Pain Management. Meenakshi Khatta, MS, CRNP Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2007;7(1)[12]
  • The Psychosocial Aspects of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Jacintha S. Cauffield, Pharm.D., Pharmacotherapy 20(11):1289-1294, 2000 [13]

This article could have some promise if these assertions had sourcing, and were specific on the alternative medicine theories. Whether or not the Enlightenment was hijacked has little apparent connection. Could we get some sourcing on particular statements like this, or should they be removed?

Howard C. Berkowitz 09:10, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

With regard to the text:

Where conventional medical treatment is seen as effective in dealing with certain emergencies, such as physical injuries, other long-term illnesses and bodily dysfunctions seem to some people to remain poorly understood and conventional treatments ineffective and even harmful.

That Howard used as an example above, Martin wrote:

As an editor, I judge the statement 'in its context' to be entirely appropriate. Sources are givenn appropriately taking the page as a whole. It has also been raised and exhaustively disputed by you already. Please do not raise this or very similar points on this page again. Martin Cohen 11:10, 27 December 2008 (UTC)
Martin, you are not a health sciences editor and besides editors cannot bully their point of view into the articles if other editors disagree. There is only one way in such an instance and that is to discuss the issue and convince the others who disagree with you. For example, a second opinion from other editors in the field such as Gareth Leng would be a good start. Chris Day 15:20, 27 December 2008 (UTC)
First, there is no well-understood concept of sources "taking the page as a whole". I happen to have a Military and History article going through final review for Approval, Dien Bien Phu. In two cases, I used direct quotes from one of the generals commanding the battle. There are many cited quotes from this same general. The reviewing History editor asked that these quotes be individually sourced. That scared me for a moment, as the book had gone back from interlibrary loan, but I found them with Google Books.
The quotes and person to whom they were attributed seemed fairly noncontroversial, but I accepted that request as perfectly legitimate for a scholarly article. This was not "some people" but Vo Nguyen Giap talking about battle tactics. I could make a good argument that the statement is well known in the field, but I simply provided the reference, with some effort. Why am I not annoyed about that yet Martin is very upset that I challenged the readability and vagueness of a sentence, explained the reason for my concern over sourcing, and even gave four sources where there had been none.
I agree that this is bullying and outside the expertise of a philosophy editor. If "disfunction" is BE, that was fair. A superfluous "e" deleted? A redlinked chemical name made more accurate?
Of course, there is the possibility that the wrong version was reverted. I've done that myself, and learned that doing things deliberately, or explaining odd reversions on the talk page, help. The edit note did refer to "talk page", but I see no reference to this. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:52, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

Constable comment

This article is currently under the Philosophy and Healing Arts workgroups. So far, the only possible editors that I see are Martin and Gareth. I do see several authors making some useful comments. D. Matt Innis 16:26, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

Mystery revert

Some seemingly minor and neutral changes were reverted from my Revision as of 04:44, 27 December 2008 []. I'm guessing one might be British English, but the others seem either typo fixes or adding/clarying links:

  • I removed a superfluous letter in a line of text:
etiologic agents e that could be treated
  • In two places, I change "disfunction" to "dysfunction".
  • (this has to be nowiki'd): in a discussion I did introduce, having to do with conventional concepts of body dysfunction, I changed the source of a redlink such that it was more chemically accurate. Note that neither the new or old names yet had articless:
such as the inability to absorb [[Cobalamin|Vitamin B<sub>12</sub>]] creates [[pernicious anemia]],

Cobalamin, nothing else was deleted. The general trend is to use chemically-oriented names rather than a letter or number. Now, someone might argue that I should have used "cobalamins" since there are actually several related molecules, or even "cyclocobalamin"

?? I assume this was an error I'll revert.Dysfunction is what is used here.Gareth Leng 22:15, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

Tuning the introduction

First, I'm a little troubled by consistency of definitions. There is a widespread use of "complementary and alternative medicine", with slightly different meanings for the two. Is it desirable to use OED here but other sources in other related articles? Sources used elsewhere include the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and a U.K. Parliament report [14]. Medical Subject Headings also makes a distinction:

Therapeutic practices which are not currently considered an integral part of conventional allopathic medical practice. They may lack biomedical explanations but as they become better researched some ( PHYSICAL THERAPY MODALITIES; DIET; ACUPUNCTURE) become widely accepted whereas others (humors, radium therapy) quietly fade away, yet are important historical footnotes. Therapies are termed as Complementary when used in addition to conventional treatments and as Alternative when used instead of conventional treatment.

In fact, the World Health Organization is starting to use "traditional, complementary and alternative medicine" [15] as a more inclusive term.

So, my first question: is it really only alternative medicine that is being discussed here? If so, then the article certainly needs to address why complementary and possibly traditional practices are being excluded. There may be a perfectly good reason. If they are not excluded, then the generally accepted definition implies cooperation with conventional medicine, so health science viewpoints are quite appropriate. I'm not sure that cooperative approaches are helped by attacks on what is wrong with conventional medical thinking. Integrative medicine takes a very deliberately nonconfrontational approach of how the disciplines are finding ways to work together.

Second, while I understand the article is still developing, the introduction should, within a few paragraphs, it should explain the scope of the article. Indeed, the style calls for a bolded definition of the subject in the first sentence.

The first paragraph goes into detail about definitions of alternative medicine, as opposed to alternative medicine (theories). This could be just a link to existing definitions, and a concise statement made about what is meant by "theories", which presumably differentiate this article. "social and cultural dimensions to health policy as well as scientific and historical ones" are matters of health policy, which falls into several groups, but still doesn't directly address theories of alt med. It may address acceptance of alt med, but, so far, it doesn't say anything about theories. Vitalism, in contrast, is, to me all about a set of theories about alt med. It should, at least, be referenced.

Now, if you want the article to address health policy, as well as social and cultural responses to alt med, say so, and possibly retitle the article. If you are going to bring up scientific and historical perspectives in the introduction, then don't complain if there are challenges to the science and history, and take out references to science and history.Howard C. Berkowitz 18:56, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

I have to agree with Howard's last couple paragraphs here. It opens up as a general article about alternative medicine, rather than about theories of alternative medicine. We are assuming (wrongly, as I suggest below) that we ought to have a separate article about the theories, right? Then the first paragraph should concern theories, not alt. medicine. But I think the better way forward would be to merge this article with Complementary and alternative medicine, as I said. --Larry Sanger 22:36, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Managing workgroups

I see no reason whatsoever to have Philosophy, or the other workgroups listed, as a managing workgroup for an article on theories of alternative medicine. Philosophers, even philosophers of medicine, are not the primary experts on this topic. Along these lines, philosophers are experts in philosophy of medicine, and perhaps (if there really were such a thing--I've never heard of it) philosophy of alternative medicine. Philosophy has connections, even deep and important connections, with virtually every field. That does not mean that philosophers may make themselves editors of articles in every field. After all, by the same reasoning, one may find mathematical aspects, historical aspects, and sociological aspects of almost every field. The mere existence of such aspects is not a reason to make mathematics, historians, and sociologists co-editors over articles in those fields.

Please bear in mind, in the future, that we have a hard three workgroup limit on the number of managing workgroups. If Chris has changed the template so that there is no longer such a limit, he ought to change it back...

I'm sorry I haven't been able to participate in all this business until now. I've been very busy over the Christmas holiday with family, but I'm back now. --Larry Sanger 20:43, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

It should only be three. If it can accommodate four that is a capability that was added for testing only and something i forgot to remove. I'll check. Chris Day 07:24, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

Name of this article

I think this article should be renamed and/or possibly merged with Complementary and alternative medicine. I see no reason to have a general article about theories of "alternative medicine" separate from the article about alternative medicine itself; after all, a large part of the interest in alternative medicine is in the theories behind it.

I'm not familiar enough with these two articles, or the fields that they are about, to make a decision or perform a merger. I do believe I am competent, however, to nix the idea of a separate "theories" article for alternative medicine. At the very least, let's develop the alt medicine article first, and then if necessary, we can spin off an article about theories. --Larry Sanger 20:49, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Larry, you might want to look at the existing vitalism article, which actually addresses some general theories of complementary and alternative medicine, and might be even a better place.
There are enough different CAM theories that it's hard to think of one theoretical model that covers all. There is one taxonomy NCCAM, updated in complementary and alternative medicine, that takes broad classes such as manipulative vs. mind-body vs. energy field. Within energy field, for example, traditional Chinese medicine, reflexology and therapeutic touch have different models.
Now, a different point, that I'd call more a combination of politics or sociology, healing arts, and health sciences, is integrative medicine, which is specifically focusing on where there is agreement and cooperation between mainstream and CAM, as it is being implemented in cited real-world, notable programs. That's starting to get some collaboration, and I think it is both well-defined in scope and has promise. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:00, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Re "vitalism" and this article, as Butler said, "Every thing is what it is, and not another thing." So, it's grand that there is an article about vitalism! But that is a different, if overlapping topic, from alternative medicine. The fact that there is an article about vitalism, or any other important topic, does not obviate the need for an article about alternative and complementary (or whatever) medicine.

I leave it to others to determine what the full list of alternative medicine (I won't use "CAM" and other acronyms that I'm unfamiliar with :-) because I'm unfamiliar with them) topics should be. All I'll say is that (1) there should be lots of healthy overlap between these topics, as there are about any closely related topics, but (2) there should not be two articles that are essentially about the same topic, because the title terms are nearly synonymous. I can't see an "alternative medicine" and also a "complementary medicine" article, both covering all the same different practices in equal detail. There should be just one "home" article for such close synonyms. But I could see different pages about each of these terms, explaining what each means rather better than one can find it explained in a dictionary, and then redirecting the reader to the "home" article. Since wikis have essentially unlimited space, we can help ourselves to brief articles about jargon.

I can give an example applying the latter approach, from my own field. I can imagine one article titled "morals" and another titled "ethics," but the main article being the latter, because most of what we want to say about "morals" is covered in the "ethics" article, and those who study ethics treat that subject matter under the title "ethics" rather than "morals." But it's still important to have an article titled "morals," because of the interesting semantic and historical comments we can make about the concept of morals under that name. So on "morals" we say what there is to say about morals per se (i.e., under the descriptor "morals"), then refer the reader to ethics for the more general details about the study of morality, details that do not have to do with the concept of morals per se. I hope that makes sense.

As to "integrative medicine," if your definition is correct, it sounds like an important topic, but it is importantly different and distinguishable from alternative medicine and also from vitalism (of course). I think that we should use whatever the most common general term for the general thing is. I assume that's either "alternative medicine" or "complementary medicine," and that integrative medicine is just a syncretic approach to these. Being a specific approach, it can't really serve as a general home article replacing "alternative medicine," can it? Surely we Citizens should not specifically recommend that people should be syncretists with respect to alternative medicines, as your suggestion would seem to imply. That would be contrary to our neutrality policy, I believe: I'm quite sure that some homeopaths would regard acupuncturists as quacks, and vice-versa. But maybe I am not understanding properly. --Larry Sanger 22:30, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Trying an experiment

Maybe a picture will help. On the right, you have (red) medicine, with a theoretical underpinning of biomedical sciences. Some of conventional medicine makes it through the filter of evidence-based medicine, and combines into orange: the best common practice of standalone conventional medicine. Some of conventional medicine doesn't have supporting evidence and as much quackery as the wildest alt theory.


Now, to the left, you have five boxes, not the neatest grouping but based on the NCCAM taxonomy. Alternative or whole systems, by definition, deal with all the healthcare needs of an individual and don't want to work with any other discipline. Perhaps the least controversial example would be a form of spiritual therapy that wants absolutely nothing but prayer, or sacrificing goats, or whatever. By its very definition, alternative medicine is alternative to everything else, and isn't going to be complementary or integrative.

To the right, there are four boxes of categories of technique. Now, there's no good way to draw something I'll explain: a given technique may be used in alternate medicine, or it might be used in complementary medicine. Complementary means "willing to play nicely with other disciplines".

Some blue complementary theories make it through the EBM filter and become light green. Bright green Integrative medicine is the combination of complementary and mainstream techniques, working together, which all meet varying standards for evidence-based medicine.

Each technique has verying levels of theory. Just like some conventional medicine doesn't make it through EBM and is quackery, some of the CAM techniques drop down and go quack-quack too.

My suspicion is that there's no one plausible theory article for CAM, any more than there's really common theory between the mechanical requirements of a replacement hip joint and the biochemical treatment of schizophrenia. The four types of CAM, to some extent, do have some commonality, although the assumptions of one energy technique, such as acupuncture , are very different from those of reflexology, and the specific discipline theory will be in the discipline-specific article.

There are cases where a given type of practitioner uses more than one class. For example, Traditional Chinese Medicine practioners use, among other things, herbals and acupuncture.

The team approach in integrated medicine can use all of the EBM-approved techiques. For some complementary techniques, the level of risk is so low, they don't interfere with other techniques, and are cheap enough that they don't need the same level of evidence as something more dangerous/interfering/costly. Howard C. Berkowitz 23:45, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Is this nice picture to help us here at talk or are you proposing some version of it for the article? If the latter, I would say emphatically NO. It's not intuitive, and, I would say, it's almost certainly Original Research.... (If it takes 500 words to explain a diagram, then it's not worth using. Hayford Peirce 01:39, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
For Talk, specifically addressed to Larry's questions about how articles fit together. I would put it as a challenge to anyone thinks there is a meaningful single theory of alt med: where does it go, given all these other pieces are reasonably well defined? What theory, for example, would be common to reflexology, acupuncture, reiki, and therapeutic touch, beyond a generic "they all involve energy". Howard C. Berkowitz 02:00, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
Though arguments could be made concerning the locations and sizes of the boxes, the jist of diagram is pretty close; that Howard shows a good understanding of the problem, which is halfway to the solution. Why don't we consider bringing this to the workgroup page where we can document the process and at the same time develop the plan for all the Healing Arts articles, not just this one. Then maybe this one will fall into place. D. Matt Innis 02:04, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
Don't read anything into the size of the boxes -- some are that way just because it was a quick way to get the necessary text into the boxes without changing fonts, or to have certain color changes (i.e., blue passing through yellow becomes green, red passing through yellow becomes orange). And yes, green and orange, as I think of it, should have been brown. I'll be happy to take comments and fix it up, but that was 15 minutes of PowerPoint, not a more powerful graphics package or hand-drawn and scanned.
Having a workgroup discussion is a great idea. Some of you may know this, but the first chapter of each monograph I've written has the same title: "what problem are you trying to solve.". Matt, have you an idea on how to start this? I have been trying to get simple definitions of the alt disciplines, many just stubs. I am fairly happy with integrative medicine, but if there's a better way, I won't lose sleep. If I lose weight, tell me more. :-)
Matt, do you want a copy of the PowerPoint original? Howard C. Berkowitz 02:45, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
Matt, have you an idea on how to start this? I have been trying to get simple definitions of the alt disciplines, many just stubs. I am fairly happy with integrative medicine, but if there's a better way, Well, I'm pretty sure that if we put you on the NCCAM board of directors, you could work this out fairly quickly. The problem is that the rational approach won't necessarily define the circular reality. I am convinced that governments have combined complementary and alternative approaches because they cannot be reasonably separated cleanly. We can define the terms as 'alternative' and 'complementary', but it is unlikely that we can place anything cleanly in a particular bracket. Then, I agree, we can relate the degree of alternative or complementary a practice can be in their own articles. Integrative is just the cutting edge description for those practises that consumer demand is causing conventional medicine to evaluate and incorporate into their paradigms.
Sure, send me the Powerpoint original and if something hits me that I can improve, I'll send it back.
D. Matt Innis 03:34, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
By the way, I still think these should be contained in one article Complementary and Alternative medicine and I actually look forward to linking to an article on the the early history of the philosophy of medicine because it is also the history of the philosophy of alternative medicine as well. D. Matt Innis 03:43, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

"Maybe a picture will help" -- help do or explain what? If you're trying to do or explain this for me, why are you? I don't know about this stuff. But I do doubt that this sort of diagram will help, because it does not (at least in any obvious way) organize the very specific items that need organization, viz., encyclopedia article topics. --Larry Sanger 03:51, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

I should note that I copied the material to the Healing Arts workgroup talk page, as Matt suggested.
I thought you were asking a question about alt medicine theory and where it belongs. It was my position from the very beginning that this article did not address any clear subject. If someone can tell me where alt medicine (theories) fits as a single article, show me.
Larry, with all due respect, I wouldn't dream of trying to establish an outline of philosophy and relationships among its various disciplines. When it comes to philosophy, or economics, or pop music, or quite a few other fields, to use your phrase, I don't know about this stuff. Perhaps it doesn't seem obvious because, indeed, it is not obvious. This was a quick sketch that I thought might support the lack of a coherent place for this article as described, but simply serve as a jumping off place for the people that do know about this stuff.
I assure you that every single block there maps directly either to an article or a section of an article, so I'm not sure of how it doesn't help. I think that is a matter to be discussed, but I suppose I can put the exact headings into the boxes.
Let us follow Matt's suggestion and have a discussion on the workgroup talk page and try to come up with a consensus for moving forward. Howard C. Berkowitz 04:16, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
Sounds good to me. "My work here is done"--on that point, at least... --Larry Sanger 04:19, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

Merging articles

Well, shall we merge this with Complementary and alternative medicine? I haven't seen any reasoning explaining why there is a separate page. If there has been some, could somebody please point me toward it? --Larry Sanger 21:52, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

I'm sure that there's a lot reasoning back in Archive I, but I doubt if it's worth looking up unless you, as a Philosopher, have a couple of decades of spare time to devote to it.... Hayford Peirce 21:55, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
Let's think - complementary and alternative medicine cover two very different things - alternative medicine is exactly that - an alternative, different theoretical base, ultimately incompatible with conventional medicine. Acupuncture for example declares a theoretical basis that conventional medicine simply does not accept. Complementary medicine is different - it declares itself as an adjunct to conventional medicine and not necessarily incompatible, by addressing aspects of health that it feels are neglected - so relaxation therapies are complementary; in between there are some that are either complementary or alternative - chiropractic can be complementary as practised by one wing, focussing on correction of spinal problems, or alternative as practised by the other who believe at the extreme, that most disease is a dysfunction of the spine.
So CAM is defined by its relationship to conventional medicine, not by any theoretical base or unity of theories, or even by distinctive theories, so there isn't much to say in my view about theories in a main article on CAM. Nor is there much to say about theories of complementary medicine in general. So theories of alternative medicine? Maybe. I'm not convinced, I think it's probably better to talk about the theories underlying Alt Med in the respective articles - I dont see anything in common in the theories underlying acupuncture, homeopathy, naturopathy, herbology and chiropractic. But as far as merging with CAM - no that makes no sense to me; I dont think you'd gain anything - and that page would be the worse for this.Gareth Leng 22:15, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
Well, now I am confused. By your reasoning, Gareth, should there be a "CAM" article at all? The various complementary and alternative medicines have little in common apart from the fact that they are, in fact, either complementary or alternative (or both). If you exclude discussion of the theories behind the varieties of CAM on grounds that there is no unitary theory (I'm sure you're right, though Martin is probably right that there are some commonalities), then by parity of reasoning why should there be a single article about CAM at all? --Larry Sanger 22:35, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
I hope this can move to the Healing Arts workgroup. At the moment, Matt and I are email brainstorming.
No, I think there is a need for a CAM article. I agree that by and large, the theories belong either in discipline-specific articles, although they may point to some common principles. For example, the "energy medicine" disciplines in the NCCAM matrix all, to some extent, do have a common model of vitalism. The way the force/energy manifests, however, is completely different in acupuncture, reflexology, and therapeutic touch. Homeopathy also recognizes vitalism, but many other CAM disciplines do not.
Minimally, the reason for having the article is that it's significant for health policy and healthcare economics, ranging from some methods being potentially very cost-effective but perhaps in need of more trials before payors accept them. Now, understand that I know this to be true of a number of medical techniques as well, but there are things that have some reason to believe may work, perhaps as adjuncts, but may not have statistical evidence of efficacy, an understanding of the mechanism, or a clearinghouse for side effects and interactions. CAM is a holdall for things where we (health) need to have more information. That includes having places where traditional medicine can be understood by mainstream practitioners.
Now, I'm working on a phytotherapy article, which I took to my sandbox to avoid offering a battleground given the current tensions. Under normal circumstances, I'd be perfectly happy to have it in mainspace and get comments as I go. An orgnanization like NCCAM can have a database on herbal interactions. Howard C. Berkowitz 23:01, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
If you exclude discussion of the theories behind the varieties of CAM on grounds that there is no unitary theory (I'm sure you're right, though Martin is probably right that there are some commonalities), then by parity of reasoning why should there be a single article about CAM at all? (Larry to Gareth)
There are other people who think about the "unitary theory" or set of postulates that CAMs share. Take the interview of James Whorton, MD, professor at the University of Washington, for a PBS Frontline documentary:

… If you look at the various alternative systems you see each one has its own distinctive therapies and its own individual theories to rationalize the therapies; they're all quite different from one another, but at the level of philosophy, their medical worldview if you will, they're all the same. They share a common philosophy and it's the same philosophy they've had since their origins in the early 19th century. It emphasizes first of all,...

...and he goes on to describe several notions that Martin and I have been trying to cover.
See the transcript here:
--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 02:21, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

Whorton's assumptions

I'm afraid he's being selective in his discussions of CAM, focusing primarily on Western 19th century techniques, and also making an assumption that modern medicine is totally based on "allopathy", or the principles of opposites.

Traditional Chinese medicine deals with both energy fields in meridians, but also specifically including the concept of drugs as attackers. Hsu Ta-ch'un wrote, in the eighteenth century,

"Soldiers were introduced to eliminate violence, and, if there was no alternative, military operations must be started. Similarly, drugs were introduced to eliminate disease, and, if there is no other way, they must be employed. The principle is the same. is if one were confronted by a hostile country. One takes advantage of the unilaterally marked nature of herbs and trees to attack the unilaterally dominant depots and palaces...if one checks the [enemy] at multiple places, there will be no grief over loss of life or a destroyed body.[2]

This is a clear example of using opposites, in traditional Chinese medicine.

All conventional medicine is not based on opposites; many techniques support natural mechanisms. For example, atrial tachycardia of the heart is often treated with synchronized cardioversion: the heart rhythm is analyzed to determine where the proper heart impulse should occur, and, precisely timed, the proper beat is reinforced with an electric current, and normal rhythm recurs. In the case of ventricular fibrillation, the heart muscles are forced to discharge all at once, but the desirable outcome is that the heart again beats in synchrony with the signals generated by the sino-atrial node. Implanted demand pacemakers, like the one in my chest, only issue a signal to the heart when the expected signal from the heart is not generated.

Simplifying, active immunization teaches lymphocytes to recognize a pathogen and trigger natural immune response before the invaders can reproduce. In type I diabetes, synthetic human insulins, or molecular variants, replace the insulin that the destroyed islet cells of the pancreas no longer produce. Acid-base disturbances are treated by supporting the buffering systems of the body.

So, Whorton is picking selective examples to support his assertion that does apply to many, but not all, 19th century Western concepts. Traditional Chinese medicine both supports qi, but also recognizes invaders. Shamanic spitting healing rituals, in multiple cultures on multiple continents, are based on removing a harmful invader that the patient cannot expel on his own. Howard C. Berkowitz 03:02, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

General comments

I agree with most of what you say, and I enjoyed reading your text. There would be lots of things to say about and around it, but I'll first address the two points you make in the introduction.--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 05:06, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

focusing primarily on Western 19th century techniques

This point bothered me as well. But later on, he discusses the "hippocratic heresy". That's an interesting concept of his, but it can be extended to our dear Paracelsus, and several if not most vernacular traditions. IOW, different schools of thought want to step on the same giant's shoulders. This whole idea that the CAM movement originates in the XIXth century is misleading. Something appeared in the XIXth century. You say techniques. I'd add that there were codifications of older notions, and some discoveries (although "techniques" is more EBMally correct, since it doesn't assume efficacy or relevance until RCTs are payed for). The XIXth century promoted a new discourse, new methods of enquiry and of communication of ideas... but both CAM and conventional medicine reclaim their historical roots much earlier in time. To simplify my response: he draws a cut-off line, we may disagree with his choice. But he has a notable vision of CAM history: consider 1. that the PBS researchers chose him and 2. that he had, de facto, a major impact on how people think about CAM today. (pause. I invite you to insert your comments in my =====subsections===== or even create some more, to optimize collaboration) --Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 05:06, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

My own scope

I'm really not espeially interested in working on a historical analysis going back to Hippocrates and Paracelsus. If you want to do that, fine. I am willing to discuss current complementary and alternative techniques in and of themselves, but I am absolutely unwilling to play with a model that goes off into what Osler called the allopathy sect. If the discussion makes a comparison to medicine, if I'm going to be involved, the discussion will be about current thinking, or I just won't be involved. No, sorry, I by and large regard modern medicine as significantly starting well into the XXth century. Allopathy, in its classic meaning, is simply not the primary basis of current medicine. Allopathy is about symptom opposites, not correcting etiologies, which well may involve helping biological mechanisms get regulated again, or reprogramming them (e.g., changing pain triggers or exhausting neurotransmitter reserves), or supplementing natural mechanisms that have stopped working.

From my understanding of medical history, I find him a useless source. If that's the model to be used in this article, I'll go work on other articles, but reserve the right to come back if "alt med theories" turns into "let's attack modern medicine".

So, I suppose I'm asking for the axioms in this discusssion, so I can make an intelligent decision if it's something on which I want to spend time. If, for example, the discussion is to use the NCCAM definition of "whole" or "alternate" to imply systems that operate independently of conventional medicine, I'd like to know that. I make the CAM distinction for just that reason: complementary is collaborative with biomediine, alternative is not. Howard C. Berkowitz 05:27, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

Allopathy sect

Very honestly, I discover so many things when reading your responses, I hope we could make it to CZ proper. Osler said that? Context: you said "I am absolutely unwilling to play with a model that goes off into what Osler called the allopathy sect." as an ex-terminologist for the Canadian gov't, I ask you: could we create the allopathy article? Imagine if we could turn our discussions into encyclopedic articles. When we attack broad notions, things get very... complicated. But can't we agree on the basic terms? In this case, I assure you that allopathy will make a small, but enduring, consensus. We may attack/address other simple terms. With some discipline, we could create approvable articles for a number of Encyclopedic entries, such as this one. Agreed? --Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 06:16, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

I've provided sources for Osler's statement; create an article if you like. No, I'm not especially interested in creating an allopathy article. The term is obsolete, deprecated other than in a very specific historic context such as the one that Osler addressed, and I simply do not see this as important, compared to a wide range of other articles on which I could spend time.
Allopathy, as Osler said, was a medical sect around the turn of the 20th century. My interest, in complementary medicine, is its effective, real-world use in integrative medicine. I have no interest in refighting century-old disputes, as opposed to what is best current practice as demonstrated by actual integrative medicine groups in respected institutions. History does teach, but there are times when the lesson simply is not a high priority. One of my frustrations with CAM articles is how often current mainstream practice and concepts are often incorrectly described, perhaps because those describing them do not have direct knowledge of medical practice. I do not see philosophical arguments as a substitute. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:45, 3 January 2009


Just out of curiosity, I looked at what The Other Place has to say about Allopathy -- they have a *short* article with a *lot* of footnotes. It looks quite authoritative, and seems to me to be the sort of article CZ *might* have about a BACKWATER that long ago disappeared from mainstream consciousness. Here is the article in its entirety:
Allopathic medicine and allopathy (from Greek ἄλλος, állos, other, different + πάϑος, páthos, suffering) are terms coined by Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy. Originally intended as a characterization of standard medicine in the early 19th century, these terms were rejected by mainstream physicians and quickly acquired negative overtones. In the United States the term "allopathic" has been used in contexts not related to homeopathy,[1] but it has never been accepted by the medical establishment, and is not a label that such individuals apply to themselves.[2][3]
In the United States, allopathic medicine can sometimes refer to the medical training that leads to the degree Doctor of Medicine rather than the degree Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. See comparison of MD and DO in the United States.[4][5]
Generally, allopathic medicine refers to "the broad category of medical practice that is sometimes called Western medicine, biomedicine, scientific medicine, or modern medicine,"[6] with varying degrees of acceptance by medical professionals in different locales. See medicine. Hayford Peirce 18:04, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Good article. If we had a similar one, it could make similar redirects to our own articles, such as: homeopathy, alternative medicine, law of similars, Galen...
--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 20:14, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Again, to what point? In a section below, I ask that definitions of more fundamental terms be agreed-to, such as "alternative" medicine. That term is used differently in at least three places: this article, complementary and alternative medicine, and, more or less as an excluded term, in integrative medicine. "Allopathy" has an etymology about which Hahnemann was quite clear, and which Osler accepted and called a sect. It also has some use to distinguish between the older whole system of osteopathy and the mainstream medicine of that time. Unfortunately, the British osteopathy differs from the current North American usage of osteopathic medicine. A friend of mine, who is a DO and then double-boarded in family practice and emergency medicine, jokes that his undergraduate medical education was just the same as at a non-osteopathic school, "but they also gave us the good parts out of chiropractic."
If you want something that puts "law of similars" into a historic and general anthropologic context, I suggest the existing sympathetic magic. As soon as I find a misplaced book, I plan to do an article on shamanism and specific shamanic healing practices. Such practices, especially when traditional in a culture, may, indeed, use Sir James George Frazer's definitions of ritual magic, but I do not all suggest that mind-body therapies using such symbolism may not be effective equivalents to psychotherapy and psychosomatic medicine. While much of Freud's work is now considered an interesting but obsolete set of techniques, his use of symbolism in the interpretation of dreams is one more technique for an eclectic psychotherapist's toolbox. Art therapy and dream interpretation both can serve as means to begin therapy on traumas that are too terrifying for the patient to confront directly. Once there is some understanding of the trauma, then other, more curative techniques can come into play, such as cognitive-behavioral therapies.
There seems, in this discussion, an urge to explore the esoteric more or less because it is esoteric. Now, if one wants a complementary health method that, in its present form, can be quite controversial, why was there no article on nursing? Very active issues include the idea of independent nursing practice both in primary care delivery, but also in case management of chronic disease. There have been some very interesting trials, as well, in using well-trained pharmacists as such chronic case managers, as they are often the last health professional to see a patient before home treatment begins, and are in convenient locations for short followup consultations.
Some of these issues may be healing arts, some health sciences, and other things best discussed at the workgroup or joint workgroup level, rather than an article. There is an old medical school saying, "when you hear hoofbeats, the smart money bets on horses, not zebras." Unfortunately, CZ, perhaps due to that second letter, seems in search of zebras. For the record, there is a teaching tool from Johns Hopkins, called the zebra cards, which are diagnostic challenges. The author excluded neurology, as he, an internists, believe everything in neurology is a zebra (e.g., Kernig's and Brudzinski's signs). Howard C. Berkowitz 21:26, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
My fine S.F. internist, in reference to my poor wife, who *always* had something obscure wrong with her that couldn't be diagnosed, once said, "Most times when you hear hoofbeats, it's horses. But sometimes it's Zebras. And with Douchka, it's *always* zebras." RIP. In any case, since I *am* an inclusionist, I think that there could easily be a 2-paragraph article in CZ about Allopathy, just giving its historical place, and saying nothing more about it, just as we should have articles about Phrenology and Bertillon and such like. I certainly wouldn't use them as a hook just in order to have links to dozens of other articles, but they're certainly worthy of stand-alone articles. Hayford Peirce 21:51, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Inclusion is fine, but, to mix metaphors, let us not put the cart before the zebra. My concern was that the suggestion was made that allopathy might be an "index node" for linkages to all manner of TCAM, and that is not its current usage.
What, you may ask, is TCAM? Actually, I might have to disambiguate it since it is the abbreviation, in some World Health Organization documents, for "traditional, complementary and alternative medicine". The idea of differentiating traditional medicine, for which I'm creating an article, is actually showing up in several contexts; the U.K. Parliamentary committee on CAM found it was useful to separate certain CAM techniques into traditional and One reason to give special considerations to traditional techniques is that as we gain knowledge of pharmacogenetics, we may find that the traditional methods are most appropriate for the genetics of the indigenes of an area. For example, there are several genes that provide some protection against malaria, sometimes the most lethal Plasmodium falciparum type, but variously impose a cost of recessive coding for sickle cell anemia. Other protective genes also cause a deficiency of glucosephosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, which cause a range of food and drug reactions; eating fava beans can be fatal.
In other words, let's try to define the problem more generally, and, bluntly, in contexts more widely used than philosophical analysis. There is very substantial anthropological information on traditional medicine. Infectious disease epidemiologists have learned it can be very wise, not just courteous, to work in an integrative manner with traditional healers. The key clues to the etiology of the 1993 outbreak of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, in the southwestern U.S., came from the observations of Navajo healers and tribal experts in their natural environment. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:23, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Fer Pete's sake, Howard, read what I wrote! I said I favored a small, stand-alone article called Allopathy -- without a flippin' "index node"! That was someone else's suggestion not mine! I agree with you 100% -- there should NOT be an "index node" or whatever the suggestion was. It's like saying, let's write an article about DeSoto cars but WITHOUT turning it into an "index mode" for the history of Automobiles, Horseless carriages, Walter Chrysler, Detroit, or Internal combustion engine. Just an article about DeSotos, nothing more, nothing else. Same with Allopathy -- nothing more, nothing less. Hayford Peirce 22:36, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
In re Pete

As an afterthought, I realized that I have a very specific concern about the use of the term "allopathy". It is one thing if it is being used as a synonym for "mainstream" or "conventional" medicine, for which we really don't have a satisfactory distinguishing adjective. My concern is when Hahnemann's original etymology, which was correct for a particular usage of his time, continues the quite incorrect assumption that the "mainstream" is based on suppression of symptoms or even antagonists to etiologic agents. I used the term "antagonist" deliberately, since it is common pharmacologic terminology to speak of antagonists (i.e., down-regulators) and agonists (i.e., up-regulators) of specific ligand-receptor, excretion pathways, or other precisely identified aspects of molecular physiology: how the natural body actually works. Agonist vs. antagonist (to say nothing of modulators) are not good or bad; adrenergic beta-antagonist‎s are beneficial for a number of cardiovascular diseases, while adrenergic beta-agonists are the mainstay of reversing airway constriction in asthma.

I confess to a certain patellar reflex (i.e., knee-jerk) when I hear someone take a term, perhaps coined in opposition to medicine of a certain time, and then use it as a generic condemnation of "scientific" medicine and praise of "alternative" medicine. This article, although it has improved, started out, in my opinion, as more of an attack on the philosophical basis of contemporary medicine than it did about theories of alternative medicine. Vitalism, for example, is very definitely a theory of alternatives; indeed, Paracelsus' theory of signatures is clearly evident in several forms of traditional phytotherapy, as well as new techniques such as Bach flower therapy.

If "allopathy" is used in a collaborative manner, and it is always clear if it is being used in a historic or contemporary meaning, I am not bothered by it. I am, however, bothered when terms and generalizations are used as a staggering drunk uses a lamppost: for support, rather than illumination. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:45, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

OK, we are on the same wavelength. But because I *do* have an occasional tendency towards intellectual arrogance, I *will* write a short, one-paragraph article called Allopathy, purely about its historic meaning. If anyone else wants to futz it up with stuff that drives you bananas, I will leave you to deal with them in your usual effective way. Hayford Peirce 22:56, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
You will be pleased to learn that my 22-vol., 1940 EB, which has a reputation for pretty good scholarship, I would say, not only does not have an article about Allopathy, it is not even *mentioned* in its stand-alone, 958-page Index. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair! Hayford Peirce 23:13, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Usual. Hmmm. "Round up the usual suspects" is classic, although I know some medieval re-enactors, with Viking personae, who have a lecture for the dimmer warriors: "Rape, pillage, loot, burn. Order is important. Loot comes before burn." They then break into berserker Peter Paul & Mary, "Where have all the Vikings gone?" Howard C. Berkowitz 23:12, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Apologies and clarification

First, let me say I was unduly harsh on some of the 19th century argument, which had gone on for months in homeopathy. In all fairness, Hahnemann made certain criticisms of contemporaries that properly could be called allopaths. Somewhere, I have a treasured book, which I hope isn't in storage, printed in 1934. It's entitled Modern Office and General Practice, and was meant for primary physicians. I read it sometime in the sixties, and I marveled how, even then, every single treatment in the book was either ineffective or actively dangerous.

I have started some placeholders for terms in contention at Alternative medicine (theories)/Related Articles. At this point, I do not agree with the dictionary definition of "alternative medicine" used in the lede; it is not the one used by U.K. or U.S. health authorities. Complementary and alternative medicine can go together to some extent, but there are distinct differences in the way they are practiced. In like manner, integrative medicine is a method of collaborative practice of medicine and complementary medicine, but not alternative medicine,

My problem is that certain alt med groups (who might really be complementary or CAM, not purely alternative) developed their models in response to real problems in the 19th century, although even in that century, people like Snow and Ehrlich and Koch were beginning to form rational approaches. See Flexner Report, and the quote of Osler on page 162:

A new school of practitioners has arisen which cares nothing for homeopathy and still less for so-called allopathy. It seeks to study, rationally and scientifically, the action of drugs, old and new."(Flexner report, page 162)

In Osler's view of the time, an allopath was one extreme position that used large doses of poorly understood, often toxic, drugs to suppress symptoms, and often have no effect on the disease process. There were indeed remnants of humoral theories in some allopathic treatments. Osler believed, as some more extensive biographies will show, that the homeopaths were not doing harm, but were not necessarily healing. In the late 19th and early 20th century, there were just starting to be rational treatments, primitive today, but theoretically sound, such as passive immunization with antitoxins for the few relevant diseases.

You might find it amusing, but there are some very narrowly defined mainstream medical situations in which in makes sound theoretical sense to bleed a patient (possibly retransfusing the blood later), or even to use leeches. I don't think 19th or earlier physicians used these methods appropriately unless it was pure luck.

I have been having some private discussion with a practitioner of one alt med discipline, and was greatly assured by knowing he had been trained in recognizing potentially fatal events where fast modern intervention could be lifesaving. In many chronic conditions with no clear treatment, I believe in the integrative medicine approach; I believe there are a number of areas where some "alt" techniques certainly are worth a try, in parallel with at least medical monitoring. This assume competent medical physicians; there are plenty of fools with MDs.

So, if we can agree on some terms, it might be useful. "Alternate", "Complementary", and "Allopath" are some of the particularly difficult ones, because they are often used here in different ways. If we can reduce the ambiguity of the terminology, some of the discussion may work much better. Howard C. Berkowitz 13:20, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

Somewhere in the history

I think all of this has a place in the history of healthcare. The challenge is to make sure we are clear about what 'age' we are talking about. The healthcare environment now is totally different than it was just ten years ago. It is appropriate to talk about allopaths, but it is not synonymous with 'conventional' medicine of today and can't be used interchangeably. However, if we were writing about the late 19th century, we would be remiss if we didn't mention allopath's. Like I was saying before, the history is important in understanding where we are right now, so we do have to write about it. It's probably just a matter of using the right title and arranging things so that the 'era' that we are talking about is self-evident. Any extrapolation into the current healthcare scene might well be getting into moving targets and original research that we have to be careful to explain and source very well. D. Matt Innis 13:52, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

This is part of what confuses me. The article is not titled History of Medicine or History of Alternative Medicine. It is titled Allternative medicine (theories). If it doesn't deal with current theories of alt med, what is its role?
Yes, we have to explain and source current work. We'd have to do that for conventional medicine. You steered me to some first-rate articles in chiropractic research. One can look at trials funded by NCCAM that have finished and are reporting.
While I haven't specifically searched the literature, the use of electrical stimulation of acupuncture needles seems to be fairly standard practice with the acupuncture physicians I know. From memory and trying to picture the right book on my shelf, there's some cooperative work finding both similarities and differences of neurotransmitter effects of different electrical waveforms both attached to acupuncture needles and using TENS or high-power electostim.
I don't think there would be any problems in finding publications in a number of mind-body areas such as visualization and relaxation. In the recent past, I've seen some trials that suggest that while sniffing aromatherapy oils may be pleasant, it doesn't seem to have much effect &mdash but massage with essential oils has statistical signficance.
Let me put it this way, Matt: every time I see the 19th century allopathy issues come up, the discussion seems to get stuck there, and a lot of people get angry with one another. Perhaps it would be better to try a different approach. Howard C. Berkowitz 15:18, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
I'm not married to any particular title. Actually, I tend to just start writing and as it builds, I move information into articles with titles that describe what I've moved. I suppose it works differently for you because you seem to work from an outline type thinking where you have to know what your writing about first. I envy that ability to stay so organized, but I bet it drives you crazy when people stray from that. Do I drive you crazy :-) D. Matt Innis 18:49, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
I vary, although I do tend to have some structure in my head. While Larry doesn't like outlines in articles, I often do that, and, if I can't fill it in quickly, move it to a sandbox. Some subtopics, especially when the material is heavily sourced, start suggesting themselves as articles, so I tend to make a point of giving them headings, internally wikilinking to them, which makes it easier to put them into a separate article.
I do, however, tend to have some starting assumptions and put them out first, as with integrative medicine. The idea of waiting to see where an article goes is a little strange to me. Now, if you take the phytomedicine that I moved to the sandbox, that is going to flex, because as I go through sources, I may see some opportunities to synthesize common principles, or opportunities to compare and contrast. Just in the example here, I had to do some hunting, but I was fairly sure that at some point, I saw Chinese medicine working on modes besides balancing qi, but rather an "active defense".
What does bother me is when I see things that tend to be guarantees of arguments. It truly irritates me that in a few definitions, MeSH uses allopathy as a synonym for conventional medicine, which is just plain wrong. Apropos of that, I just came back from the library (everything is shutting down) with a book I wanted specifically for this, The Youngest Science. It seems like few people realize how recent many of the principles of contemporary medicine actually are. Had my mother's breast cancer occurred even six months later, the treatnent would have been much different, with low-dose CMF adjuvant chemotherapy rather than the less effective, more toxic Cooper 5-drug. By today's standards, CMF is primitive.
So, when I start reading about 19th century medicine, I tend to wince, because by and large, it's a totally different approach. In this article, there seemed to be an assumption that all medicine denies assisting or balancing body systems, and that is just wrong. It's as wrong as phrases like "strengthening the immune system", when there are whole classes of diseases due to hyperactive immunity. The initial impression I had of this article is that it was looking for a fight.People are mentioning "debate". I simply do not see emcyclopedias as places where debate of contoversies belong. There are better venues, but I am fairly strongly opposed to CZ taking on controversies not likely to be solved, because the resultant spats take away time where we could be working on a critical mass of core articles, with expert checking, that make us a real alternative to the Other Place. Integrative medicine is specifically about finding peaceful coexistence. Alt med is frequently a challenge. Howard C. Berkowitz 19:30, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
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