I recently came across a Christian discussion over complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). For what it's worth, if anything, here are some of my thoughts:
- It seems to me lots of companies use various buzzwords to try to get people to buy their products without necessarily advocating an entire belief system behind these buzzwords. For them, it's not really about the worldview, but it's about making money. So they'll market it in whatever way will net them the most profit. In other words, even if it's true a CAM company markets their products with various buzzwords taken from Hinduism or Eastern medicine or wherever else, it doesn't necessarily mean the company itself is going to push Hinduism or Eastern religion or philosophy on people.
- Plus, doesn't this reflect the culture and society we live in rather than the company, per se? It seems they're just trying to make money using popular cultural buzzwords like "aura" and "karma" and so on to sell their stuff.
- But maybe I'm wrong. While I would think such a company would be happy to sell their products with or without various buzzwords, but maybe they really do want their sales people or those who partner to sell their products to also push their entire philosophy and practice. If so, then I'd steer clear.
- Of course, every company has a certain culture. For instance, I have a friend who works in the video game industry. And I've visited several different video game companies as well as huge events like E3 more than once. I'd agree with a lot of this Wiki article on video game culture, and I'm sure video game companies are saturated with a lot of this too.
Now, if a Christian works for a CAM company, how will the CAM company's culture affect them? That's a consideration.
- Some Christians seem almost superstitious in how much power they think CAMs have over us, weaving grand conspiracy theories about how the New Age or Eastern mysticism is entering the church through working for such companies.
(Interestingly, many of these Christians are also cessationists, and think modern miracle workers are nothing more than charlatans.)
But if they wish to warn Christians about buying or selling CAM products, or about working for a CAM company, wouldn't a more simple and direct reason be because it's unwise to partner with companies that are more like slick snake oil salesmen trying to make a quick buck? Why strain to make it all about the New Age, Eastern mysticism, and the like - these are so far from evident?
- CAMs are very diverse in their medical efficacy. Some are good, some are bad, some are neutral.
For others the jury's still out since the evidence is inconclusive.
There's also the placebo effect to take into consideration.
For example, homeopathic medicines (despite having "scientific" journals of homeopathy) are basically like 99 parts water to 1 part "medicine." These days, the dose of the "medicine" in the solution (assuming it would even be effective in the first place if given in an appropriate dose) is far too small to have an effect - beneficial or deleterious. So the joke with homeopathy is people are just drinking very expensive water. Perceived benefits are pretty much attrbuted to the placebo effect from what I understand.
- I think most physicians would advise against a particular CAM if it's bad. Or if it's in place of actual medicine. Like a lot of people who have cancer want to explore this or that CAM instead of getting chemotherapy or surgery or whatever (e.g. Steve Jobs).
- As a side note, lots of CAM people say Western doctors don't know anything about CAMs. Maybe that was true in the past. I don't know. But today many if not most physicians like oncologists are taught and educated about CAMs in order to be very familiar with them since so many patients ask about them.
- There are some people or companies that push CAMs like herbal medications or massages in the context of a bad religious system or strange worldview or something like that. I would avoid these. But it seems to me most are more than happy to take people's money without talking about their own beliefs or hooking people into some weird New Age cult!
- Perhaps a bigger problem is some CAMs are intertwined closely with certain philosophies or worldviews.
Take acupuncture. Traditionally, acupuncture involves the idea of qi, yin/yang, and the five elements.
Presumably this still exists in various parts of Asia and among certain acupuncturists in the US.
But that's not necessarily the case in some modern practices of acupuncture.
And it's possible to have acupuncture without buying into the underlying philosophy. Similarly it's possible to practice yoga stretches without buying into Hinduism or Buddhism.
Also, my impression is, although the evidence is debatable, and much of it attributable to the placebo effect, there does seem to be some slight scientific evidence for some acupuncture. I'd have to read up on this to be sure though.
I'm guessing doing nerve blocks to relieve pain (which doctors like anesthesiologists, critical care physicians, and emergency doctors can do) is similar to some parts of acupuncture.
- There are some doctors who are quite secular (e.g. Steven Novella). But does seeing a secular physician mean one is necessarily buying into secularism?