Sunday, December 06, 2015

Hate, Holism and Science

By Cliff

People have created an unnecessary and altogether arbitrary and illogical separation between 'natural' and 'holistic' on the one hand, and 'scientific' on the other.
This separation is completely fictional. 
Science is "the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment."
And so science is not opposed to nature, nor to the ideal of 'holism', but is simply the attempt to understand the world around us (nature) through the study of it. 

Holism and holistic are great examples of almost universally misused words. People view 'holistic' and 'alternative' as somewhat synonymous, when in reality holism must by definition include both alternative and orthodox. 

Why is this important anyway?

Battle lines have been drawn between (some) orthodox scientists and practitioners and those that are deemed (or deem themselves) 'alternative' or 'complementary'. 
The blatant rejection of anything that falls under the scope of alternative therapies by those in the mainstream is a symptom of a confirmation bias and is only valid if that therapy has no evidence to support its use. Natural therapies (such as evidence-based herbal medicine and nutrition therapy) where well justified by scientific exploration should provide part of the compendium of interventions that are available for use in treatment. 

Likewise the wanton rejection of medical drugs and surgeries by those in the area of CAM is equally ridiculous. To reject out-of-hand thousands of years of progress in the realm of medical sciences is cavalier in the extreme, and I would suggest dangerous. 

It saddens me that when I write a research reviews (with as little bias as possible) for Holistic Performance Nutrition I inevitably receive messages such as "I can't believe you DARE to call yourself a naturopath" or even more ridiculously to suggest that my research is somehow funded by 'BIG' something (Big-Pharma, Big-Food and other bogey-men). 

For a group that claims to be open, holistic and progressive, many alternative and complementary practitioners are anti-holistic because they will not even entertain the notion that surgeries, pharmaceuticals, vaccines and other interventions offered by the mainstream medicos could offer benefit. Even when the evidence suggests that certain alternative methods (such as Hair Testing) lack any credible evidence, they continue to defend them. When notions such as the MMR-Vaccine-Autism link has been thoroughly discredited, they continue to defend it...and if you suggest anything that is outside some fabricated idea of a naturalistic utopia you are no longer welcome to be part of the club. On the other hand medical professionals who begin to reject mainstream medical interventions in favour of alternative ones are lauded as 'enlightened'. 

There need not be one way or the other. 

Science is not opposed to nature. Science explains nature!

Holism is not alternative--holism is the totality of all parts, and holistic healthcare is the use of ANY means that will effectively improve quality and quantity of life with the minimum risk, and sometimes that means drugs, surgeries and vaccinations. 

I have done my naturopathic training. I have studied holistic nutrition, Reiki, Psych-K and other alternative modalities AND I am a scientist. I research metabolic adaptation to diet and review the literature around all manner of health and nutrition related topics. With many of the things I research I don't actually know what I'll find, and so I can honestly say I don't have a confirmation bias! I look at the evidence and base my conclusions on that. 

I've stated previously that as natural therapists we need to do a better job, and analyse the evidence more effectively. If the conclusions of that lead us to have to give up some of our sacred cows then so be it. We are here to help people be well after all, not cling to outdated dogma because of some immature idea of natural or holistic