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Examining Holistic Medicine

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Examining Holistic Medicine

Examining Holistic Medicine

A wide variety of “alternative” medical treatments are currently offered and employed, all falling under the label “holistic.” What are “holistic” medicines, and do they offer a legitimate alternative to traditional medicine? Or are they instead just a misguided attempt to alleviate the suffering of individuals who are anxious for any sign of hope?


Title: Examining Holistic Medicine
Author: edited by Douglas Stalker and Clark Glymour
Publisher: Prometheus Books
ISBN: 0879755539

• Debunks common alternative treatments
• Provides historical background for current beliefs
• Attempts to deal with broad arguments heard for all types

• Disconcerting, if you use alternative medical treatments

• History and background of holistic practices
• Common arguments supporting alternative treatments examined
• Refutations of specific practices commonly used

Book Review

What are holistic therapies, anyway? They include treatments like acupuncture, threaputic touching, visualization therapies, Rolfing, reflexology, homeopathy, herbal medications, chiropractic treatments, aroma therapy, colonics, macrobiotic diets, iridology, and much more. They rarely have very much in common technically (although advocates rarely try to compete with each other), and they all claim to be alternatives to traditional scientific medicine.

What does it mean to be “holistic?” Practitioners of such treatments claim that they aim to treat the mind, body and soul of their patient. This is unsurprisingly appealling to most people, considering the fact that any treatment does better when the patient feels a personal connection with their physician and believes that someone actually cares about them.

Strangely enough, despite the label “holistic,” many of the treatments which are placed in that category rarely are holistic after all. Holism assumes a total unity of mind and body, whereas most alternative treatments are actually dualistic — they assume a division between the two, even though there is considerable interaction. True holism can only be found in philosophies like Christian Science: they maintain that the only thing which “really” exists is the mind, and so disease is simply just a state of mind.

Examining Holistic Medicine

Examining Holistic Medicine

Why has this book collected such a variety of articles from distinguished scholars and scientists about these treatments? The fact of the matter is, belief in these ideas has serious social ramifications. The most obvious of these involves the issue of public health — if the treatments don’t work, a serious strain is can be put on medical and insurance resources.

Another, less obvious, problem is the effects upon the respect for basic scientific principles and methodology. Holistic medicines never demonstrate their effectiveness scientifically, and indeed usually display great contempt for scientific studies which are designed to weed out the good from the bad treatments.

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