No such thing as ‘Allopathy’

Over at FreethoughtBlogs, an uncharacteristic petit faux pas in the prolifically excellent ‘A Million Gods‘ motivates me into publicly scratching an irritation.

The first time I think I heard/read the term ‘allopathy’ was in the context of something discussing homeopathy. And it seemed quite reasonable to me at the time: homeopathy = ‘like cures like’; ‘allopathy’ = err, something other cures it; or it cures something other. Until I got wise on who coined this term, and why? One Samuel Hahnemann, the founding father of homeopathy, and who still commands guru-like reverence among the cult he pioneered.

In Hahnemann’s day, when the world knew little of what actually caused disease, and physicians still laboured under the humoural system, it would, one imagines, have readily appealed to be offered a gentle alternative to some drastic remedy aimed at relieving the symptom, such as bleeding to cool you when struck down with a fever. Prognosis would likely be no worse; in fact, it may even have been better, in that you were not going to be bled to death. That Hahnemann was looking for a better, gentler way is to his credit; he was of his time, and to look to an alternative vis vitalis philosophy was certainly no more batty than what was convention. It is understandable why it caught on. Then. But today, when modern science has brought us knowledge of the real causes of disease – and the means to treat them – to stick to such an unscientific philosophical approach to medicine is foolishly irresponsible. But many do. And derogatorily spray the label ‘allopath’/’allopathy’ at their medical ‘counterparts’: practitioners of evidence-based medicine.

In its insinuation that (to qualify with more unnecessary adjectives) ‘orthodox’, ‘mainstream’, ‘conventional’ medical philistines doctors merely attack symptoms and not causes, ‘allopath’/’allopathy’ is actually an insult. Or it used to be perceived so by them. But somehow, homeopathic propaganda has persisted and expanded its use to the extent that it is now unthinkingly accepted terminology, with doctors often taking it for granted that it describes what they are and what they do. And allowing it to permeate the scientific medical literature to distinguish medicine from homeopathy.

But there is no need to make such distinction: medicine is medicine; homeopathy isn’t. Doctors/physicians are not allopaths/allopathists. The term ‘allopathy’ is nonsense and ought to be rejected.

2 responses to “No such thing as ‘Allopathy’

  1. I have never found a reason to think that homeopathy was anything more than “bunk”. Allopathy however describes the practice of medicine that is usually cocksure it is right, the medical god complex.

  2. To Price

    Your understanding of “allopathy” is unique to yourself, and these connotations are unique to your use of the world. Unfortunately, it sounds like you have had negative experiences with Doctors and scientific medicine. Yes, there are doctors who are cocksure and have a god complex, but then again, their are homeopaths that are cocksure, and have a god complex, but it is more understandable why they would want to assume the powers of a god, as they have nothing to offer but miracles.

    These attitudes of over-confidence, excessive self assuredness, and blindness to ones own shortcomings are by no means restricted to medical professionals, however. In any field where a high degree of skill and knowledge is required (and even in other, less demanding positions), you will find people who, after having had repeated success (whether because they are competent, lucky, or just avoid difficult cases), you will find people who believe that they are “masters” of their profession and who believe that everything they thick they know is the absolute truth. When these people are placed in positions in which they are giving excessive amounts of respect, or when they just assume that they are respected, people can become overconfident, cocky, arrogant, they stop looking for second opinions, believe that they know more than others, and start taking risks based on their self assumed perfection.

    This is by no means a medicine thing. This is not a science thing, this is not even and education or training thing. There are just people who are like this, even if all they are doing is collecting tin cans in a dumpster.

    If homeopaths were held to the standard of proof that science demands, I think we would have a lot of homeopathic tin can collectors.


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