Friday, May 11, 2007
Doggerel #82: "Allopathy"
Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.
One of the favorite altie words out there is "allopathy," used, quite inaccurately, to describe modern (evidence-based) medicine. The term started with Samuel Hahnemann, founder of homeopathy, to describe the then-popular notion of humors which was in opposition to homeopathy. Allopathy has been long since debunked, but lost popularity faster than homeopathy. Allopathy's methods included things like bleeding to remove "excess" blood, forced vomiting, and some rather nasty drugs. Compared to the gentle inaction of homeopathy, it's easy to see why allopathy is more or less dead today.
Where the terminology comes in: Homeopathy (same + suffering) has the central tenet of "like cures like" whereas allopathy (opposite + suffering) did the opposite. Modern homeopaths try to attach the allopathic label to modern medicine, often trying to conjure up the nastiness of mainstream quackery of old and to exaggerate instances of malpractice and so forth.
Unfortunately for homeopaths, and other alties trying to take advantage of the label, it's not important: What matters is whether or not a treatment works, and quackery like theirs doesn't. If it did work, they'd be able to pass a double-blind clinical trial, and not have to cherry-pick uncontrolled testimonials. At that point, we'd know it's not quackery, and it'd inevitably find itself in mainstream medicine.