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Shadow MedicineThe Placebo in Conventional and Alternative Therapies$
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John Haller

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231169042

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231169042.001.0001

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Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s Challenge

Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s Challenge

A Case Study

(p.121) 5 Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s Challenge
Shadow Medicine

John S. Haller

Columbia University Press

This chapter identifies the differences that separate homeopathy from biomedicine. The tension between homeopathy and conventional medicine is essentially that of two epistemologically different systems; one whose view of disease causation begins at the metaphysical level, and the other whose view begins at the cellular level. Conventional medicine believes that the causation of disease begins at the cellular level, and follows a complex course whose outcomes must be carefully analyzed to separate out bias and chance. In contrast, homeopathy views disease causation as highly individualized, meaning different things in different settings. In many ways, homeopathy is the poster child of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in that it faces the dilemma of justifying itself as a faith-based system, a form of psychotherapy or chaplaincy, a paranormal system that will eventually be explained to the satisfaction of reductionist science, or simply the equivalent of the placebo effect.

Keywords:   homeopathy, biomedicine, disease causation, metaphysical level, cellular level, complementary and alternative medicine, psychotherapy, reductionist science, placebo effect

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