//Homeopathy, Politics and Liberty II

Homeopathy, Politics and Liberty II

I have read the discussion in the Comments section of my last post and realised that in the realm of political philosophy there are two basic schools of thought on the issue of NHS Homeopathy:

The Libertarian Position

1.   Homeopathy should remain available on the NHS as long as there are NHS GPs who are willing to refer patients to other fully accountable, viagra medically qualified doctors specialising in homeopathy.

2.   GPs (and perhaps local health authorities) are in the best position to decide whether their patients get NHS homeopathy (and any other form of complementary medicine) however it works and however others may interpret the data from various meta-analyses.

3.   Evidence based Medicine is important, viagra buy but if it is to be used as a litmus test for inclusion of any intervention on the NHS, then a specific level of evidence must be set and applied across the board to all medical interventions seeking inclusion on the NHS.

4.   Science, no matter how logical, right, correct and rational it thinks it is, should never be allowed to trump the democratic process.

5.   There is much more at stake in this issue than homeopathy. Patient choice and doctor choice are vital to the preservation of a liberal democracy.

The Authoritarian Position

1.   Homeopathy should be centrally removed from the NHS. GPs who wish to refer patients for NHS homeopathy should be legally thwarted from doing so – for the good of their patients.

2.   Non-doctors, academics, physicists, biologists, journalists and bloggers are just as qualified as any GP to decide whether his/her patient should be referred for homeopathy. Homeopathy does not work so it’s clear to all laymen and journalists that GPs should not be allowed to refer patients for NHS homeopathy.

3.   We now live in an evidence based society. Homeopathy is both implausible and proven (by meta-analysis) not to be evidence-based. Thus it should not be available on the NHS. Other non-evidence based NHS approved interventions are more acceptable because at least they are not as ridiculously implausible as homeopathy.

4.   Medicine must be based on science and nothing else. The obviously deluded minority of patients and doctors who want homeopathy in spite of it being obviously non-scientific, must be prevented by central Government from getting it on the NHS.

5.   This is all about society ridding itself of deception, and non-scientific rubbish like homeopathy and nothing to do with liberty, democracy and patient choice.

My position is clear: I strongly favour the Libertarian Position on this issue.

So did Mike O’ Brien, Minister of Health of the last Labour Government.

So did Anne Milton, Minister of Health of the present Coalition Government.

As the Head of State is known to use homeopathy and retain a Royal homeopathic physician, it would be reasonable politely to assume that she also favours this position.

If I have not represented the Authoritarian Position clearly, I am happy to accept suggested edits from those supporting that particular political philosophical position in relation to this issue

By | 2011-10-09T18:42:27+01:00 October 9th, 2011|Homeopathy|22 Comments

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22 Comments

  1. Peter Kidson October 9, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    The basic purpose of the present NHS is to enable some people to plunder others in order to pay for their own health care. The basic liberal position is that such coercive institutions should not exist at all.

    Given that a coercive NHS does exist though, the next best option would be for NHS patients be able to decide for themselves which doctors and treatments to use, and for doctors to decide which treatments to offer. This would advance justice by serving to at least reduce the level of coercion.

    The best way to implement this would be for the government to issue Health Vouchers to all citizens, who then spend them on health schemes of their own choice. The doctors involved would then hand the vouchers in to the government, which would cash them using funds previously earmarked for direct payment to the NHS.

    This option would keep medicine state-funded, but at least not state-managed. By cutting out politics, it would become far more democratic, with people making their own decisions about their own lives, rather than having political decisions imposed on them.

    But given that even the above compromise position does not exist, we then unavoidably end up in endless wrangles about what the NHS will or will not do or treat – smoking related problems, fertility, homeopathy, etc. These issues are then decided politically – the totalitarian approach – since the NHS is politically funded. Which of of course makes a complete nonsense of the “Medicine must be based on science and nothing else” claim in the authoritarian argument above, since the scientists and doctors themselves are all politically funded.

    Which is precisely the mess, overbearing bureaucracy and injustice of the present totalitarian-welfare-state system we presently have. Would-be homeopathic patients are forced to fund an NHS that refuses to give them what they ask for.

    So perhaps they – like anyone else – should be offered an opt-out from this injustice – a tax cut for whatever percentage of the total taxes they pay that goes to fund the NHS.

  2. Dr. Kaplan October 9, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Peter,
    Your opening statement shows you to be of the ‘radical libertarian’ school of thought in which I cannot acquiesce with regard to the NHS.

    Although in political philosophy, I consider myself libertarian, there are some things that I feel that ‘The State’ (even if such a thing is hard to put one’s finger on) does well to provide and I include some law and order, defence and healthcare.

    A case for me supporting universal healthcare can be made by comparing healthcare in the USA and in the UK. The New England Journal of Medicine of Jan 2010 ranks the various healthcare provided by various countries in the world. The UK ranks high in the top 10 and the USA although spending nearly 75% more on healthcare than the rest ranks – wait for it – 37th in the world.

    Anyway can we please take the NHS as a ‘given’ in this particular discussion about political philosophy?

  3. Peter Kidson October 9, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Brian,
    By miscategorising a liberal like me as a radical libertarian, you thereby categorize yourself as a radical totalitarian – which explains your support for a totalitarian institution such as the NHS.

    (The state, btw, is not difficult to put ones’s finger on – it’s the body with the monopoly of legal violence in a geographical area; it operates entirely through proactive violence or the threat thereof, not unlike criminal gangs).

    You say a case can be made for a coercive NHS, based on costs and performance. But if this was true, why can it only function by using force (the state) to make people pay for it? Surely if it was so good, people would sign up voluntarily?

    Anyway, I have already suggested above some ways of treating the NHS as a a given, but making it less totalitarian and unjust, and in the process more amenable to homeopathy. You just need to give up some of your support for radical state control over people’s lives.

  4. Bill LaChenal October 10, 2011 at 5:52 am

    @Peter Kidson
    Thoughtful, but I can’t agree with most of that.

    Your description of a mob attempting to plunder thriftier, harder workers applies more to the Welfare State in general (as currently constituted), than to the NHS in particular; your position more Laisser-Faire than strictly liberal, or libertarian. Such attitudes led to disaster during the European potato famine, an experiment we should not be repeating.

    I would say, with just a touch of cynicism, that the basic purpose of today’s NHS is ttwofold:
    one, to provide an efficient sales organisation for the Pharmaceutical industry;
    two, to centralise control of medical care, as an expression of government power (and supposed benevolence).

    That is not, of course, as things should be!

    Peter – you have settled on a single “best alternative”. I cannot agree again; what you suggest is unworkable.
    If redistributing vouchers, why not let us all just control our own vouchers (money), rather than pay for an added layer of bureaucracy? The answer must be that there is just a chance that one might need hugely expensive treatment, which one’s tokens would not cover.

    Any attempt at a voucher system would lead inexorably to a black market, forgery, piracy (I might want to spend my voucher on Armagnac..)
    So, what one might do is to insist that everyone has their own medical insurance, handing credits to the poorest, and picking up the few that fall through the net. But insurance companies are institutions sadly not to be trusted; they have commercial interests, and a history of not wanting to keep their side of a bargain when it comes to chronic conditions (yes, it’s all in the fine print, Sir). And the competence of government to run such a real-world scheme is severely in doubt.

    I think we are stuck with trying to improve the NHS.

    You talk of people making decisions about their own lives. I have to say that medical decision-making is so complex that even professionals have a tough time with it; to set most sick people adrift in that sea would be unkind indeed.
    I imagine that what the majority of people want is for an honest, competent healer to take decisions for them, not to have to grapple with things they do not understand, and certainly not to have to trust mere time-limited followers of protocols. Rich people can afford that, of course. The rest of us may have to hope that medical education is more than convention & prejudice.

    I am highly sympathetic with the view that the State should limit its scope to defence of the realm, the facilitation of a consensual system of law which protects the freedom of people to go about their lives unmolested, and little else except the cultural education of the young, & the health of its citizens (something that goes far deeper than medical science).
    What we have instead is a self-perpetuating bloat, making demands unseen since the time of King John, and very much in favour with the barons…
    We seem to have given up the fight, though, reduced to juvenile self-interested rioting, when the true banner of protest has been taken up by those occupying Wall St.

    What should really be stopped is the use of these huge institutions of the NHS and University schools to funnel our money into huge cartels, cartels which are often supported additionally by charitable donation, but which never return benefit in kind. Crooks.
    What should be stopped is incompetent buying policies, and obscene, unjustifiable tax breaks.
    What should be stopped is the promotion of bad health, the promotion of sequel drug regimes, and the removal of alternatives, the more to trap us all into a particular model of commercial profit.

    Where I think the three of us (Dr. Kaplan, Peter Kidson, & I) may be in agreement, is that there is a constituency of taxpaying patients (and their doctors) who would rather use unusual modalities – unusual, inexpensive modalities which work for them, often when conventional treatment is non-existent or a failure, modalities which do not impose undesirable effects – and that these patients deserve to be properly catered for, in the best tradition of British democracy.

    We, too, pay our taxes due. We know our minds when we see people get better, not worse, for these treatments.

    In a society where the majority of health care is in the hands of the NHS, we deserve continued access to the homeopathic hospitals, founded on charitable donations, which were absorbed into the NHS at its inception, and which have a long history of satisfied, thankful, cured patients. (Offensive though that evidence may be to skeptics who would rather deny reality.)

    We do not deserve to be dismissed – often in the rudest terms – by scientarian bigots, whose limited version of the Science god has FAILED to find reason in the much-recorded phenomenon of those working cures.

  5. Andrew Sikorski October 11, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Apparently CAM use in US Hospitals has increased 3-fold.

    • Dr. Kaplan October 11, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      Interesting. Love to see a source for that if you have it.

  6. Guy Chapman October 11, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    The idea that democracy should trump science in the provision of what is, notionally at least, a scientifically based field, is completely bonkers.

    Homeopathy is implausible, inconsistent with everything we’ve found out about the nature of matter in the 200 years since Hahnemann invented it, and is based on a generalisation from a single data point. Every observation supportive of homeopathy is equally consistent with the null hypothesis of placebo and observer bias

    There’s no reason to think it should work, no credible mechanism by which it can work, and no solid evidence that it does work.

    Homeopathy is an alternative to medicine in the same way that flying carpets are an alternative to the motor car. The car may have its flaws, but that does not mean we can get away with a ridiculous delusion in its place.

    • Dr. Kaplan October 11, 2011 at 7:02 pm

      Dear Guy,
      Yes. I do believe democracy should indeed trump science or anything else for that matter. Although as WC put it ‘the best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter’, it’s the best we have got.
      You are entitled to your views. You are entitled to try to convince GPs of your views. What you are not entitled to do is THWART the wishes of accountable NHS GPs or try to sabotage the democratic process. In Hahnemann’s time atomic theory was beginning and ‘the Enlightenment’ had already begun. The critics of homeopathy then were saying much the same as the critics of today. The difference is not in the content of the criticism but that the voice of the critics’ has become louder, more aggressive and more supportive of authoritarian politics.

  7. Guy Chapman October 11, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    To be clear, by the way: people are free to buy magic sugar pills if they like, but they should not be provided or funded in any way by the public purse. That’s not authoritarianism it’s pragmatism. Public money is subject to many competing calls: education, social welfare, defence, health. Airy-fairy middle-class delusions are so far down the priority list that it is impossible to foresee a day when there will be so much money in the tax pot that it can be spent on such frivolous nonsense.

    • Dr. Kaplan October 11, 2011 at 7:05 pm

      Dear Guy,
      The answer to this point is simple.
      Please state clearly the level of evidence for any intervention to be funded by the NHS. That would still be authoritarian medicine but at least treating all interventions on a level playing field.
      Don’t you see how authoritarian your comment is: ‘people are free to buy’, ‘they should not’. Who should decide these things? You or the democratic process? You are still singling homeopathy out for special criticism because to you it is ‘implausible’.
      What’s your view on GPs being ‘allowed’ to prescribe SSRI anti-depressants for mild and moderate depression when a major meta-analysis shows they are no better than placebo for these conditions (Kirsch et al) Probably you are okay with that because SSRIs don’t have homeopathy’s ‘implausibility factor’.
      And btw, in relation to evidence, medicine and the public money you refer to:
      Budget for NHS homeopathic medicines: £10m
      Budget for NHS SSRI prescriptions: £232m

      The answer I get to this is that GPs ‘have been advised’ of that meta-analysis. So by all means ‘advise’ GPs of your views on NHS homeopathy, but to THWART them from prescribing them or referring patients for homeopathy, is indeed ‘illiberal’ (Mike O’Brien ex Labour health minister) and profoundly anti-democratic.

  8. Bill LaChenal October 13, 2011 at 4:51 am

    Ah, the skeptic’s whine has arrived. Hallo, Guy.
    (I hope you don’t mind me intervening, Dr.K.)

    Well, Guy, last I looked, the NHS was an institutional wing of a ~democratic~ government, democratically funded.
    Just when did it suddenly become a ~scientific~, scientifically-owned institution?
    Is it owned & paid for by ‘scientists’?
    I thought ‘we’, the daft electorate, owned it & pay for it.

    Certainly, as I’ve written above, ‘scientific’ pharmaceutical companies would very much like a monopoly of public health. They treat the NHS as a sales force, and are very keep to ‘debunk’ anything that might affect their profit share. (Did I say “share”? I don’t believe they really thinking of sharing, if they can possibly avoid it.) To this end they half-educate a small army of pseudo-skeptics – most of whom I wouldn’t regard as true scientists at all – who are trained-up not to be at all so keen on ‘de-bunking’ all the bad pharma medicine out there.

    I’m sure that with only cursory effort, ‘skeptics’ could find the figures for medical failures, for ConMed undesired effects, for highly profitable ‘sequel’ medication, for dishonest use of use of highly potent (toxic) medication as placebo (homeopathy would not only be less far expensive, but also effective), for outright fraud in presentation of trials, in selling toxic meds, even in selling meds lacking the essential advertised ingredient.

    None of which is the argument to prove that homeopathy works; I’m only pointing out the focus of pseudo-skeptics is more than a little skewed.

    Guy says – on behalf of the pseudo-skeptic trained cut-and-paste monkeys – that homeopathy is implausible, etc., etc., etc.
    Just a tiny bit of research on any skeptic’s part would turn up loads of evidence, but of course to any paid-up bigoted authoritarian pseudo-scientist, none of that real-world evidence would ever be ‘acceptable’.
    Apparently, if it were, the whole of ‘science’ would collapse (along with pharmaceutical profit margins?).
    Now, THAT’s implausible.

    To return to finance: the entire NHS budget for homeopathic medicine (be it £10m, or less than £4m nationwide, depending on your source), would be of vanishing insignificance if applied to ConMed (as would, say, ridding hospitals of chaplains). More to the point, there are an extraordinary number of reports of homeopathy curing where ConMed has already failed, the net result being a huge reduction in the NHS prescription bill for those cases. (Is it this which Pharma leaders really fear?)

    You know, a proper scientist looks at anomalies (like hundreds of thousands of case-reports at odds with the current major profit-producer), and sincerely wants to investigate and resolve, rather than dismiss. And continues to investigate until old preconceptions are demolished. Many a sceptical MD has actually looked into the field intending to prove it useless, have found it not so easy to dismiss, and have ultimately become practising converts.

    A very able man said “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts”. It’s very sad to me that RF was turned against homeopathy – probably by someone who has made a continuing career out of misdirecting people – doubly sad that he died earlier than he should from (conventionally-treated) cancer. That’s a man who wouldn’t have wrecked a scientific trial just to get his own way.

    Might I just paraphrase Guy’s last post:

    “the People should free to buy homeopathic pills if they like, when they feel that they experience benefit from them. We should be free from airy-fairy middle class authoritarian notions that the current (incomplete and biased) notion of Science must dictate public policy.”

  9. Peter Kidson October 13, 2011 at 8:40 am

    @Bill LaChenal

    * Yes, organised plunder is a description of socialism / the_welfare_state *in general*.
    But the NHS is major plank in that.

    * Where on earth do you get he idea that liberalism lead to the potato famine???

    * Heath vouchers “unworkable” because one might need hugely expensive treatment ?
    No, you’d use vouchers to buy cover, medical insurance. Not individual treatments, eg having a gallstone removed.
    Cash would be fine too, but the state wants to force people to use it for cover, which they might not do if given cash intead of health vouchers. You’re singing to the choir on that one.

    * You think insurance companies can’t be trusted, so feel we are stuck trying to improve the NHS. But offer no suggestion at all how a state-enforced monopoly can ever be made to be accountable to the public rather than itself or the state. With insurance companies, there is the competitive process, with state-monopoly there is no process at all – we get what they decide to give us and that’s that. The NHS is thus an incurable disease.

    * “You talk of people making decisions about their own lives. I have to say that medical decision-making is so complex that even professionals have a tough time with it;”

    Yes of course. The main decision people make in this regard – or should be allosd to make – is which professional to choose.

    * “I am highly sympathetic with the view that the State should limit its scope to defence of the realm, the facilitation of a consensual system of law which protects the freedom of people to go about their lives unmolested and little else … ”

    A fellow-liberal, so far …

    “… except the cultural education of the young”

    As we see now, state control of education of the young is largely an abuse designed to inculcate political correctnessa and state-worship, and eradicate thinking.
    So state schooling should be completely abolished. Again, the compromise solution is a similar education-voucher system.

    “… , & the health of its citizens ”
    A euphemism for the organised plunder of some by others.

    But anyway, as you say we are in agreement in principle at least that those who fund the NHS – the taxpayers – should be allowed to say how they want their allocation spent. Even if that includes what the medical elite regards as nonsense.

  10. Peter Kidson October 13, 2011 at 8:48 am

    @Guy Chapman

    “…people are free to buy magic sugar pills if they like, but they should not be provided or funded in any way by the public purse. That’s not authoritarianism it’s pragmatism.”

    No, seizing money from taxpayers and not letting them decide how it’s spent on them is authoritarianism.
    It may be pragmatic for those managing the system, but the upside-down idea that citizens are there for the benefit of those governing them, is itself an aspect of authoritarianism.

    There is no “pubic purse” – there are only private purses that the state plunders. If the state is unwilling to spend the money the way a taxpayer wants, it has no right to take it from him.

  11. Steve Scrutton October 13, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Thanks for this appraisal, and sad to see the nonsense being talked about by the Homeopathy Denialists. What you have done is to raise the issue of medical treatment and personal liberty, that is, the right of everyone to be able to choose what we want to do when we become sick (or to keep us well).

    I have just one question for the denialists. Do they support the right of people who want homeopathy, because they believe it is safer and more effective, to have homeopathic treatment?

    If not we know about their libertarian credentials!

    If so, just shut up, go away, or tell us why we should entertain the idea of taking Big Pharma drugs and vaccines, and risk their disease-inducing-effects (DIEs).

  12. Michael Schewitz October 13, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Brian

    Taking as a given that the NHS exists in its current form (i.e. free at the point of use, central allocation, no vouchers as Peter Kidson suggests etc) then clearly its medical decisions need to be based on Science and, more distrubingly, what central authorities deem to be health need and cost.

    Taking the NHS as given we also need to assume that it has finite resources. Forget Homeopathy – which is unclear scientifically – lets take something that is very clear scientifically, namely IVF. There is no doubt IVF works and that its outcomes are becoming better and better each year. However, IVF is deemed a lifestyle or quasi lifestyle decision by the NHS and so there few resources there for this. Most IVF in the UK is private (which is why the UK is good at it).

    People can debate whether this is right or fair, but the fact is that when you have a central resource like the NHS, these kinds of decisions needs to be taken. And they cannot be taken by users (patients) because as it is free, demand will outstrip budget (supply) in a heartbeat. This, incidentally, is why around the world, state provided health is bankrupting the economies that provide it. People expect health care not to be rationed (they pay their taxes etc) and agitate accordingly.

    BTW the New England Journal does done US healthcare presumably because they want to see state run care in the US. What criteria do they use to measure good? In studies (cited by the BBC no less) the US has the best outcomes in a whole range of diseases from cancer to heart disease. Britain often has appalling outcomes.

    • Dr. Kaplan October 13, 2011 at 7:51 pm

      Hi Michael,
      Regarding the NEJM article ranking the USA 37th in the world in healthcare, here is a reference to that article. The USA definitely has the best medicine money can buy – but if you don’t have the money, it’s better to be in 36 other countries. They also spend MUCH more per capita on medicine there, but this money goes to all the middle men between patient and doctor: insurance man, lawyer man, pharmaceutical man etc. Although I consider myself libertarian I do recognise that society needs to provide certain things universally. Examples of these imo are defence, law and order, roads and healthcare.

  13. Bill LaChenal October 14, 2011 at 4:58 am

    @Peter Kidson

    Thanks.

    Hooray! We are in agreement that those who fund the NHS – we the taxpayers – should be allowed to say that we want our allocation spent on what we know makes us better, even if others find that illogical & unprofitable.

    Perhaps the bigger problem is, who should be able to decide how it shouldn’t be spent? I certainly don’t want pseudo-skeptics in charge of MY health.

    Your other points:

    * Sometimes it’s just a different set of people doing the plundering.
    Politically, the welfare state is (at best) big government imposing a moral position on the populace, thus removing the individual’s right to exercise personal virtue. That central moral contradiction dooms it to failure, unless it re-invents itself.
    I’m with the /occupywallst.org on that.

    It remains that the NHS is a political entity, not a “Scientific” one.

    The NHS is probably preferable to having the poor dying on the streets, bleeding into gutters & polluting the air. As happens in other countries.

    * So you meant to say “health ~insurance~ vouchers”?
    I don’t really buy your ‘voucher’ ideas. Promissory notes, that kind of thing? I call those banknotes. Government imposing virtue again, with a few extra layers of profit-taking for the favoured friends? No thanks.
    We might as well have education & an NHS without middlemen.
    But a well-focused NHS, not a sales force.
    And, alongside private education, free education can be a wonderful liberating influence, a mentor & a guide, rather than a rigid code from which one may not depart.
    I favour liberating influences.

    * I offered no specific suggestion as to how to tackle ongoing improvement of institutions, it didn’t seem called-for in this context. (I reckon I could do better than whoever has been guiding the process in recent decades, but so could every tenth person on the high street. Reforming a monolith like NHS is always going to be difficult, though.)

    *Sure, there is competition amongst insurance companies, competition to make the best profit for directors & shareholders.

    Actually, there is a process of review for state provision, but it isn’t very clever.
    And yes, stuck with the NHS as least-worst; rather like Life, better than the alternative.
    And people make such daft choices, including about who they trust & vote for. Life again.

    * “The State should limit its scope to defence of the realm, the facilitation of a consensual system of law which protects the freedom of people to go about their lives unmolested and little else … ”

    I’m glad we agree. Good. (I so detest the meaningless “freedom under the law” expression.)

    I’d hope to convince you that state provision of education can be a well-formed Public Good (and better than having an even more ignorant populace).
    I’d hope to convince you that a healthy citizenry is preferable to a sickened one.
    And I’d hope to convince you that vouchers are not an answer – although the “poll-tax” community charge just might have worked very well if there had been a concession to the poor. (Was it sabotaged?)

  14. Bill LaChenal October 14, 2011 at 5:59 am

    @ Peter Kidson

    “* Where on earth do you get the idea that liberalism lead to the potato famine???”

    Not quite, but I did:
    ” your position more Laisser-Faire than strictly liberal, or libertarian. Such attitudes led to disaster during the European potato famine”

    ..and that, from the study of the history, rather than from the extensive mythology.

    Rather lazily, I can point you at:
    //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Potato_Failure
    //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_liberalism (>Overview >)
    //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laissez-faire (>Europe)

    (I had quite a lot of stuff on this, stored in a former email account in my name.
    At some point, years back, I emailed awell-known American activist in NY, regarding moves towards flouridation of water supplies in the UK. Whole other topic. The next thing I knew my email account – & a lot of research notes – had been ‘lifted’ & landed in California. The provider wouldn’t give it back to me, either.)

    I think I’m right in recalling that Palmerston was able to say that no Irishman died of starvation during his tenure, and that despite a (then) huge sum of money being donated by the Queen personally & from the English middle classes as charitable donations, it was the policy of free-trade laissez-faire of the incoming government that really exacerbated matters.
    //www.famouspeople.co.uk/q/queenvictoria.html

    I’m sure there are elements that will find this contentious; I just advise them to do their own proper research, or just carry on enjoying their songs. I’m not going to answer further questions on this.

    “…an experiment we should not be repeating”
    Politics aside, what made the European potato famine so devastating was the adoption (encouragement) of the potato – all over Europe – as a staple crop, which then exposed a vulnerability to a single attacking organism.
    Wheat, rice, barley were not affected by phytophthora i., but the price of these alternatives from India & elsewhere rose something like six-fold.

    We should not be repeating this experiment by encouraging (GM) near-monocultures in our staple crops (however profitable for some); inevitably dear old Nature will produce a wonderfully effective predatory crop- ‘disease’ to exploit some niche in the worldwide staple single variety, which will then be in a position to revenge on the human race, in true Malthusian fashion.

    Perhaps some Shamanistic seer in America deliberately chose to give Sir Walter a potato (alongside two other crops that habitually cultivated humans as slaves), with some malicious foresight.

    It was years later that Chinchona bark was found to be of use against malaria, and led to experiments by one Dr. Hahnemann into hormensis & beyond.

    The medicine man might hypothetically have given Sir Walter an avocado instead. Who knows how that might have worked out, what effects it might have had on the minds of men? Perhaps experts would be saying that once we have the measure of the guacomole, avocados are the only vegetable of worth.
    😉

    • Dr. Kaplan October 14, 2011 at 12:00 pm

      Good to see a discussion about the politics of NHS, Government, choice etc. The scientismists try to make the whole discussion about molecules – even when I’ve put ‘politics’ in the title of the post!

  15. Bill LaChenal October 14, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    @ Dr. K

    Yes, it’s pleasant.
    They’re not here, are they? Out of their depth, maybe. Their idea of politics seems to have been packing committees and subverting the democratic process.
    One fears for their conception of the scientific method.

    I wonder if Sagan(?), and acolytes, chose the word “scientism”
    deliberately to muddy the waters; surely an adherent of “scientism” ought to be a “scientist”?
    But true “scientists” are honest souls wishing to avoid delusion, unlike the partisan axe-grinders who clearly do not have the angels by their side.

    Personally, I tend to think of “scientarians” attempting to impose “scientarianism”: it draws attention to the sinister and doctrinaire cultish beliefs they hold.

  16. Sastry.M October 27, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Science is the result human intellectual organization based on Nescience of ‘mind’ which is a sense of inadequacy of knowledge. This statement presupposes a store of some knowledge, but with a ‘sense’ of incompleteness.Thus, there exists a discrepancy between what is known and what is yet to be known, personally by each individual. This ‘discrepancy’ is sought to be minimized by every thoughtful human being, in various pursuits of acquiring knowledge one feels inadequate about…. Ad Infinitum.
    We all live in a world of definitions, based both on conceptual theories and practical proving.But the ‘definitions’ themselves are subject to theoretical rationality and logical reasoning and the evidence of practical proving restricted to instrumental accuracies,both subjective human and supportive scientific.A simple observation shows that all definitions lie ‘within’ the faculty of human mind and yet the human mind itself is ‘free’ to transcend them.
    For example consider the theory of Limits as a basis for Infinitesimal Calculus. Assigning infinite values to a functional argument X such that the discrepancy between an ‘acquired’ value of a function by substitution in X and a defined limit can be made as ‘infinitesimally’ small as possible and yet without actually coinciding with it.This reasoning shows that ‘mind’ by its own subtlest gleaning is capable of comprehending 1)largest assignable values,2)infinitesimal differences and 3)setting up definitive limits.It means that mind can transcend all functionally related equations and yet obliged to comply with the irrevocable ‘truth’ corresponding to all laws of natural creation and hence by the scientific basis of revelations.
    Now if we assume that the subtle mind is coupled to the gross physical body with a ‘man-machine interface of ‘psyche’, we can define the basic concern of medicine common to all schools to human applications.
    Just as the largest comprehensible magnitudes of the gross can me inverted into the smallest conceivable (infinitesimal)differences mind can detect through psyche, Homeopathic Philosophy and therapeutics have been intuitively devised and developed as an alternate system of medicine as a gift of God to heal all psycho-somatic disorders of suffering by hard pressed modern humanity.

    • Dr. Kaplan October 27, 2011 at 3:58 pm

      Fabulous to have our resident philosopher post a comment!

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