If you have explored, or even just been painfully aware of, the philosophical differences between natural healthcare and the more materialistic, evidence-focused (i.e history-oriented) kind of healthcare that dominates health budgets, the kind that is most people’s go-to for dealing with anything ‘serious’, take comfort.
Natural healthcare has many schools, many apparently distinct beliefs, many techniques, rituals and languages, but they are all underpinned by a spiritual view of life. We know because we see evidence of it without looking far. The proponents of hugely different techniques tend to appreciate the possibility that each other’s methods can work. Mind, body, relationships, environment, and ‘connection’ are all considered as interchangeably contributing to the same pie that is somehow baked in order to become healthy. A sense of joy and vitality is ultimately considered as the measure of health regardless of the picture the physical body presents, or indeed whether the body persists.
In contrast, the other school of thought that often terms itself as ‘scientific medicine’, says that only statistically verified processes based on measuring a symptom or group of symptoms across a number of people, and finding for a procedure or molecule that is associated with relief of those symptoms in an acceptable proportion of that group, is the only justifiable kind of healthcare, It seems entirely rational and practical. Mostly, the people who adhere to that belief have the strong assumption that only the mechanisms detectable by the five senses can have any relevance or impact on health, and that by looking at ever more microscopic levels of function, gathering ever more data, and making more targeted interventions, the challenges of getting people healthy will be conquered.
Of course, people make use of both approaches daily, without needing to examine the difference of beliefs, and probably no-one takes an absolute position at either end. Where it becomes crucial though, is at the many intersections between doing healthcare and making policy to run a world: education choices; prioritising spending on health, social care and other public investment; legislating about what is allowed in helping sick people: who can do what and claim what. How decisions are taken in relation to the beliefs about health have a huge impact on how our societies run.
This can become very personal when you wish your own or a loved-one’s healthcare to be directed in a certain way and may find that your most fundamental positions on what life is and is for, are not allowed for in the prevailing setup.
So, this difference, fundamentally, can be seen as one between a religious (though entirely unrelated to any particular branch of faith) perspective, where there is a non-visible creative force that determines or mediates in some way the path of material development, and a perspective that is mainly definable by rejecting the existence of such a force. The rejection is most often expressed towards the paraphernalia and language of religions (God, spirit) and the various dogmas and divisions that are observed. That said, in order to support the position that only evidence-based approaches are valid in healthcare, it also needs to be a rejection of the idea that life-processes are governed by a non-manipulable force. Most logical rationalists would not flee from that statement.
So given that block seems so impenetrable, is it possible that a simple recognition is available that shows that the two groups actually believe in the same thing, if they choose to ask themselves the question?
Yes, in so far as the matters relevant to healthcare are concerned, there is.
All materialist science acknowledges the concept of entropy: put simply, the tendency of any thermodynamic system (which includes human bodies, as well as planets) to become more disordered, by random atomic movements, over time. Living systems such as human beings, and the civilisation of mankind on the planet, are, unarguably examples of negative entropy in operation, for a period of time. While alive, an organism exerts an organisational force that resists the tendency towards greater entropy – i.e., decay. The same is true we can see when groups, human-organisations and societies co-operate to build lasting structures.
In quietly acknowledging negative entropy as a characteristic of life, without knowing or asking about its cause, materialists have granted the existence of a phenomenon that is for practical purposes the same as God / spirit – a force whose origin cannot be known, whose duration and behaviours are not predictable, except that a sense of order can be discerned in the outcomes observed.
In living systems and societies, intriguingly, negative entropy operates at a sophisticated level, where ‘creative destruction’ occurs. Whether it be the immune system engulfing a cell in phagocytosis, a family renewing itself by breakup and having more offspring, an industry bringing forth new ways of allocating scarce resources, or a society moving through a violent political transition to establish a more harmonious period, we see order being created by a process that initially looks disordered.
Negative entropy then, is wherein materialists ultimately believe in the existence of the same ‘vital force’ that they often dismiss when spoken of in the language of natural healthcare, where it is more explicitly inspired by a spiritual/ religious view of life.
If we now return to the troubling idea of limiting healthcare to evidence-based interventions on isolated mechanisms within the broader picture of a person’s life, we see that it is not logically consistent even for materialists. We know already that nature produces intermediate outcomes that look ‘bad’ but turn out to be creating higher levels of order that are not yet visible, and have no way of knowing if it is even appropriate to intervene. From the perspective of negative entropy, all physical interventions could be destroying of higher levels of order. How would we ever know?
The point here is not to reverse the situation and seek to disallow medicine that makes our bodies more comfortable, but to recognise that evidence-based medicine is a pragmatic approach based on a flawed philosophy. It cannot be defended by any principle. All measures of health are ultimately subjective, and the experience of natural health practitioners (including those of the most dubious-looking rituals and methods), may or may not be more supportive of facilitating the process towards higher levels of order than any other.
The God of negative entropy frees us up from the false dogma that increasingly guides what is ‘allowed’ in healthcare. We all know there is a need to refine and build best-practice, which is what the ‘Western’ mind excels at. The challenge is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Every time a practice finds its way into orthodox healthcare as its mechanisms have become seemingly ‘understood’ it has usually been in use by one group of ‘quacks’ or other for some generations.
The ‘quack’ of course might be there to obscure truth to support his ego or bank balance, but just as likely he is simply suspending the need to make (inevitably and eternally) uninformed judgements about how life processes might or might not work, and being guided by the same intuition that we use daily in the course of a million decisions. You won’t really know unless you experiment, and that is what hundreds of millions of people will continue to do.
Where we can go from this recognition is a much broader question. By seeing it though, we can at least get to the end of the beginning, and sidestep the destructive antipathy around what healthcare is allowed to include.