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.