You can’t detect it, but you know it’s there

As you may have seen in News the other day, David Colquhoun provides excerpts from ‘a lengthy set of notes for a first year course on “The Holistic Model of Healthcare”…from the 2005 course at Thames Valley University’ (along with a link to the whole thing). It’s fascinating stuff – and it raises a familiar question.

[T]he subject of Wholistic Nutrition transcends the area of human understanding for which science, alone, is appropriate. The reason is that it is ‘vitalistic’. It recognises the presence in all life forms including the human body, of subtle (or ‘etheric’) energy forces not easily measurable by the physicist’s equipment. It shares that position with the ‘energy medicine’ disciplines such as homoeopathy, traditional acupuncture and spiritual healing. It follows an approach to those subtle energies that is embodied in the discipline and philosophy of naturopathy. Vitalism is the notion that life in living organisms is sustained by a vital principle that cannot be explained in terms of physics and chemistry. This vital principle, often called “the life force”, is something quite distinct from the physical body and is responsible for much that happens in health and disease.

The question is familiar (around here) because I keep asking it. If there are subtle energy forces not easily measurable by the physicist’s (or anyone else’s) equipment, then how do Wholistic Nutritionists or Vitalists or anyone else know they are there or anything about them? It’s just like the god question. We’re always hearing that god transcends science and is completely different and can’t be measured by our mere scientific equipment. Okay, but then what equipment can it be measured by? Nobody ever says. In the god case some people do say it can’t be measured by any equipment, but then they still don’t say how they know it’s there. They pretend they say (it’s ‘experience’; one just knows; it’s an interaction), but they don’t.

But so then how do the Vitalists know any of the things they claim to know and pronounce on with such confidence? What is the source of all the palaver in the Thames Valley University course notes? There’s a grotesque disconnect between the frank declaration of Zero Knowledge at the outset and the abundant unbashful proliferation of truth claims in the rest of the document.

There is a kind of admission of the problem:

At the root of most hoIistic therapies lies the belief that all life is animated by a subtle force. We call this the Life Force. You either believe it or you do not. It cannot exactly be proved at the moment and the belief is not in accord with the yardsticks that we call ’scientific’, The belief is a little akin to the belief in God or in spirits or ghosts, and yet at the same time it is not, because the Life Force is by no means so remote from us.

You either believe it or you do not, but we will go right ahead and give medical advice as if we had something more than ‘belief’ backing up our whacked ideas.

As mentioned above, toxic foci (deposits) in the body show up in the iris of the eye. The iris is arranged so as to encompass a complete ‘map’ of the body. with all the organs and systems laid out upon it. Hence the location of a toxic deposit in the iris shows the iridologist its position within the body. The toxins may appear as colours, spots. blobs and smears in particular places in the iris, or as darkened areas.

Uh…right. Bye now.

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