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The Wonder Pill

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Frontiers Profile: Ted Kaptchuk 4 pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

What is the relationship between alternative medicine and modern medicine in the United States today?

Until 10, 15 years ago, there was a tug-of-war. That's a polite way of describing an all - out attempt at destroying each other. What's happened is a realignment or armistice. I think people of both camps have realized that it's not to the patients' benefit that the providers of the same patient are ignorant of one another and even doing counterproductive things. So the patients demanded the cease-fire.

How does ritual get translated into physiology?


People have always been mistrustful of their doctors because no one medicine satisfies all the complaints that people have. For a short period, people thought modern medicine was wonderful and invincible, because the penicillin, antibiotics, some surgeries and cortisone drugs that came out after World War II really were wonder drugs. But, by and large, medicine - any medicine - can't alleviate all human suffering. But there will always be doctors around. Occasionally, they'll be liked, and occasionally, people will mistrust them. That's part of the human condition.

Human beings are the only animals that take pills. Humans are the only beings that see the possibility of things being very different. That applies to medicine and healthcare.

The first doctors were religious figures. The secularization and rationalization of healing - the removal of altered states of consciousness as a central feature of healing - that's what shamans and witchcraft do- is parallel to the rationalization of human self-understanding. Hippocratic medicine exactly parallels the rise of Greek philosophy and Chinese medicine exactly parallels the rise of Chinese philosophy.

How do you think science gets covered in the press?

There is a way that science purports to be objective and independent of preconception. The press is always confused because the scientists have this myth. And in fact, scientists contradict each other all the time. I think the problem is not the press, but that science has given itself its own religiosity of being objective.

But there is a very big gray zone on the edge of science, and the public demands clear answers on important questions. In fact, studies sometimes only cloud the gray zone. And sometimes what science thinks is an absolute clear zone becomes cloudy with more experimentation.

There's an element of mythos in science, and the press and the public are colluding with scientists in order to promote their priestly function in the secular world.

I don't have any problem with that. I think people have the right to religion, but they should be more clear about the fact that there's a lot of subjectivity in science - from the questions asked, to the interpretations of results.

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4 pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |


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