BY Nick Jankel

Author, Leadership Futurist, Philosopher, Transformation Catalyst

I feel compelled to share some insights and experiences on the culture war between science and alternative therapies and healing as the battles will likely effect us all at some point throughout our lives.

As a Cambridge-educated medic who became a historian and philosopher of medicine and science and then a transformational healer / coach, i must say that most ‘substantiated’ and ‘evidence-based’ treatments promoted by the ‘scientific’ pharma industry, NICE and the BMA are anything but bona fide ‘facts’. Ironically I sit writing this in Basel where I am working with the Novartis innovation teams on ethical leadership. Many drugs can seriously damage our health (see Guardian article), as can having ‘proven’ surgery when it is not critical. One of my best friends, a mother of two, died at 34 from just such a recommendation by a range of doctors that we often like to think know facts (as opposed to just opinions). As someone who has cut people open and now work to hold them together, it is worth us all remembering that interventions using drugs or scalpels can cause as much damage as they intend to heal. We are only just beginning to understand how this balance plays out in real lives.

Very personally, after 20 years of the best doctors in the land ‘treating’ me for a serious condition, it was only after working with cranial osteopaths, my wife (a cranio-sacral therapist) and above all my own deep and continuous exploration of the connections between my thoughts, emotional patterns, childhood experiences and the state of my heath that I have had almost total relief from the crushing pain (and other symptoms) that the Dean of UCL Medical School told me that I would have for life when I was diagnosed as a student there.

The mechanistic medical paradigm of the last 300 years has been brilliantly effective in many areas. It saves my father’s life everyday when he injects insulin yet it has failed in many others. I suggest that it is down to us all to welcome and be curious about all ways of healing (including those that have stood the test of time for 30,000 years not just 300) if we are to engage effectively with the diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression and other ‘post-industrial’ diseases that are literally throttling our lives, societies and economies. These major health issues are likely to only get worse over our lifetimes unless we get wise to ways of knowing the world including but moving beyond dualistic science (which the discoveries of Einstein and Bohr et al have shown to have major physical, let alone physiological, limitations). as thomas kuhn and others have shown us, science, especially medical science, is as much led by profits and prejudice as it is the dispassionate search for some kind of ‘objective’ truth about how to heal people.

Although it is seductive and comforting to think that ‘hard’ science can ‘prove’ that a few wonder drugs or gene therapies can cure our diseases, humans are embedded and embodied in wildly different contexts. Each of our pains and problems are wonderfully, beautifully and inextricably woven into a fabric consisting of factors – historical, cultural, biographical, genetic, epigenetic – that makes healing, whether by Guy’s (& St.Thomas’) or Guru at least as much art as it is science.

From tribal shamens to Galen to now I think it always has been that way – and always will be.