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Chapter 8 Page 2
The Conventional Medical Paradigm
Since classical times, at least since the time of Aristotle in the 4th Century B.C., man has applied a somewhat formal reasoning to vexing problems of science, including those of disease. Increasingly, in the post-Newtonian world, spiritual methods of healing have been discounted or abandoned. Instead, modern medicine has associated itself with what is referred to as science based medicine, where legitimate treatment is distinguished from illegitimate based on scientific proof of its efficacy. This secularization of medicine constitutes a bias that pervades medical education, albeit most medical practice still depends on guesswork of one kind or another.
Science based medicine proceeds in accordance with the scientific method, which became a mainstay of scientific inquiry at least as early as the Renaissance and has consistently gained in popularity ever since. Under the scientific method, problems are analyzed through observation to form hypotheses which are educated guesses about the relationships between two or more things. Hypotheses are then tested to determine if they are accurate descriptions of a cause and effect relationship.
It is from applying the scientific method that great scientists in modern medical history have either purposefully or, quite often, accidentally discovered agents that are effective treatments. Reliable repetition of experiments leads to what is called scientific proof. Scientific proof is confirmation of a hypothesis and reveals a probability that following the methods studied will more often than not lead to the results found.
Early in the nineteenth century, specific substances, like mercury, ether, chloroform, morphine, opium, quinine sulfate, and alcohol became staples in the treatment armamentarium of physicians. Since the 17th century, publications have categorized as medicines substances derived from nature, mainly based on the experiential effects understood to come from use of them. In 1821 the first pharmacy school appeared in the United States, the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. The school taught chemistry to a limited extent and primarily botany, focusing on plant based derivatives that were believed to have healing properties.