by Les Saidel - June, 2014
The Internet is a truly remarkable thing. Over 700 years ago the first Guttenberg printing press revolutionized global communication and education. The next major breakthrough since then has been the emergence of the Internet. The "world wide web" provides an immediate, on-line treasury of information of almost unlimited scope, for anyone on the planet to access at any time. It is like the world's largest library.
Ironically, despite this technological breakthrough, we find ourselves today in a very similar situation to that which people found themselves 700 years ago. Over 700 years ago the problem was the lack of readily accessible information. Today the problem is the glut of information - there is so much information, we do not really know how to sift out what is relevant (or reliable) and what isn't.
Anyone using the Internet as their source of information on health and nutrition will inevitably encounter this problem.
After a short time, two major streams of thought will become apparent in this regard.
The first stream is conventional medicine - the establishment, i.e governmental, pharmaceutical and medical who publish, via numerous recognized official publications, the findings of scientific research and its applications. This first stream includes institutions such as the FDA, the medical apparatus - universities, medical organizations and the pharmaceutical industry.
The second stream is alternative medicine that includes practitioners of treatments such as homeopathy, acupuncture, naturopathy, the vitamin supplement industry, organically grown food producers and others.
These two streams and approaches have been at odds with each other for over a century, perhaps longer.
The establishment stream strives to regulate, to eliminate "quackery" and unsubstantiated or unscientific claims. Their target inevitably is the alternative stream who frequently, in some cases justifiably and in some cases not, fall victim to prohibitive legislation and persecution.
The alternative protagonists claim that their methods of treatment have been proven over centuries of practical application and accuse the establishment of monopolization, of vested and conflicting interests and in the extreme case of conspiring for world domination.
The basic gist of the conspiracy theory goes as follows.
At around the turn of the 20th century there were two accepted methods of practice of medicine, the establishment medical practitioners and the alternative practitioners. John D. Rockefeller, a multi-millionaire who made his fortune from the oil industry, was also a Nazi supporter and had ties with official organizations in the Nazi apparatus, such as IG Farben. These tycoons conspired to create an industry bent on world domination, the pharmaceutical industry. Rockefeller, who was also accused of monopolization, spent many of his millions establishing a fund to bankroll the US medical establishment, providing the funding for many of the medical educational institutions in the USA, medical schools, post graduate research centers etc.
Proponents of the conspiracy theory submit that Rockefeller and IG Farben leaders, who unhesitatingly supported unethical medical experimentation in Nazi Germany using concentration camp inmates as human guinea pigs, established the medical institutions on the premise that medicine would be pharmaceutical based, i.e that medical practitioners would treat patients using patented drugs created by the pharmaceutical industry only. While acknowledging the importance of nutrition in health, doctors would treat ailments only with pharmaceutical drugs and were prohibited from engaging in any "alternative" methods, or even suggesting that things such as nutrition could cure illness. The emphasis on nutrition was severely downplayed in medical training with a purpose - that being to make the medical establishment reliant on the pharmaceutical industry.
Furthermore, the conspiracy theorists state that in Europe, the FDA equivalent regulatory body the Codex Alimentarius, was originally established by (amongst others) convicted Nazi war criminals, such as Fritz Ter Meer, who was instrumental in establishing the Auschwitz concentration camp and later went on to become a director in the Bayer chemicals and pharmaceutical company.
The conspiracy theory is based on a simple "logical" premise - healthy people do not generate revenue for the establishment, the practitioners or the pharmaceutical industry. Sick people do and the pharmaceutical industry makes its money by increasing its customer base - the more sick people, the more money. Any attempt to encourage and foster health is economically counterproductive for the "pharma" industry.
Conspiracy theorists claim that the food and pharmaceutical industry has enormous financial resources and political clout, with highly active lobbies in government and have infiltrated even robust regulatory agencies such as the FDA, who they claim have employed as their key directors over the years, many people who previously had worked for the "pharma" and chemical industry, such as Monsanto.
The conspiracy theorists claim that government, influenced by "big bucks" from the food and pharma industries, is creating legislation to hide the truth from the public, such as in the case of genetically engineered foods. That the pharma industry dominates policy of the medical establishment, dictating curriculum in universities, which research to fund that best serves their interests and waging smear campaigns against any independent researchers who conflict with them. Conspiracy theorists claim that most doctors, while being wonderful, giving people, mostly concerned only with their patients' welfare, have received a limited and "one-track" education and training that downplays or even eliminates aspects of alternative treatment so as to perpetuate the pharmaceutical industry greed.
Thus goes the conspiracy theory.
The establishment on the other hand counters that their approach is based in scientific research and method and that most or many of the alternative approaches have yet to be proven scientifically.
So what is the truth?
Certain facts in the conspiracy theory (and they are undisputed facts) stand out as worrying, such as involvement of questionable people - or people with questionable ethics - in the founding of the modern medical establishment and pharmaceutical industry, the documented involvement of employees from the chemical and pharma industries in key positions in regulatory bodies such as the FDA.
These are indeed worrying facts and raise many questions, such as - is science the be-all-and-end-all, or does it need to be combined with ethics in order to be regarded as acceptable. For example is medical experimentation on concentration camp inmates or animals acceptable to further the purposes of science? It may be completely scientific and the scientific method may be undisputed, but is it ethical to accept and apply findings based on such research or research conducted or funded by such people?
Is the FDA the protective body standing between the public and chaos or is it the cat guarding the cream?
Each person will formulate their own conclusions regarding these issues according to their own beliefs.
What I believe should decide this "dispute" is not the history, the alleged corruption, the alleged monopolistic, world domination theories. What should decide the issue is simply this - Does it work for you or not? At what cost?
I firmly believe that the first recourse for anyone suffering an ailment should be the conventional medical establishment. Regardless of whether you consider their training adequate or one-tracked, these people have at their disposal the accumulation of centuries of medical knowledge and experience. They have received this training in a scientific framework and are probably the best equipped to deal with the problem.
They do not however have a monopoly on knowledge and as any medical professional will tell you, there is much that we do not yet know. We have come a long way in our research but much of the secret of what makes us tick is still unknown and has yet to be discovered. Medical science does not yet have the answers to all our questions.
There are often instances therefore where medical science fails to provide the answers or is unsuccessful in treating the problem.
The claim by the medical establishment that "if we cannot help you, nobody can" I think is presumptuous and even slightly arrogant.
I therefore also believe that someone who has exhausted the limits of medical science should be free to explore alternative methods. Perhaps they may have no scientific basis, but the placebo effect cannot be ignored. We have yet to fully understand the symbiosis of the mind and body and the effect of someone believing in something, even though that thing may have no scientific basis, aiding in their recovery.
Remember though that established medical practice has its basis in scientific research. Many alternative practices are not similarly endowed. By agreeing to an alternative treatment there is therefore some element of risk involved. This may not be relevant for a terminal cancer patient who has been given a death sentence by the doctors and has nothing to lose. However for the rest of us, before embarking on such a treatment you should seriously weigh the possible risks and thoroughly explore both what the alternative practitioner claims and what the establishment thinks about such treatment and its possible dangers.
I believe that conventional medicine and the pharmaceutical industry in particular should invest more resources on pursuing science for science's sake (not for only increasing wealth) and for exploring cures even if they do not entail a source of revenue for the industry and may in fact stem from a natural, unpatentable source. The alternative protagonists on the other hand should devote less time to harping on conspiracy theories and deriding the establishment and instead devote more time to recruiting funds to fund independent scientific research into the efficacy of their treatments that will be scientifically undisputable.
Louis Pasteur was regarded in his day as a "quack" by the medical establishment and even as a murderer (after a man who read one of Pasteur's pamphlets killed a doctor who attended his pregnant wife with non-sterile equipment and caused her death). Pasteur however was a chemist and relentlessly pursued his theories using scientific methods until the establishment had no choice but to accept them.
This then should be the guiding principle.
Those who support and practice alternative treatments are often good people with values. So they already have the ethical side of the coin. What they are lacking is often the scientific side and they should concentrate on completing that.
When faced with indisputable scientific evidence, not even the most powerful, conspiring, evil minded monopolist, bent on world domination, can prevent such evidence from being exposed to the public and being adopted as acceptable practice.
In summary, do not be gullible! Do not accept the word of anyone as infallible, not the medical establishment and not the alternative practitioners. Have due diligence and research fully before leaping into something, fully understand the risks and chances of success before embarking on any treatment and keep an open mind.
Stay alert and stay healthy.
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