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Monday, March 16, 2009

Quick ... what does THIS remind you of?

According to Ron Baker's review on AccountingWeb, in Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm Since Hippocrates, University of York prof David Wootten recounts,
The history of medicine begins with Hippocrates in the fifth century BC. Yet until the invention of antibiotics in the 1940s doctors, in general, did their patients more harm than good.

In other words, for 2400 years patients believed doctors were doing good; for 2300 years they were wrong.
That fact is, of course well known, but here is the interesting part:
We all assume that good ideas and theories will drive out bad ones, but that is not necessarily true, especially in medicine. Historically, bad medicine drove out good medicine.

As Wootton explains:

We know how to write histories of discovery and progress, but not how to write histories of stasis, of delay, of digression. We know how to write about the delight of discovery, but not about attachment to the old and resistance to the new.

[ ... ]

The discovery of the circulation of the blood (1628), of oxygen (1775), of the role of haemoglobin (1862) made no difference; the discoveries were adapted to the therapy [bloodletting] rather than vice versa.

...if you look at therapy, not theory, then ancient medicine survive more or less intact into the middle of the nineteenth century and beyond.

Strangely, traditional medical practices — bloodletting, purging, inducing vomiting — had continued even while people's understanding of how the body worked underwent radical alteration. The new theories were set to work to justify old practices.
The resemblance of this to much current evolution theory is uncanny. New discoveries are adapted to old claims; the claims are not reevaluated.

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose.

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