View Full Version : Longing for a past that never existed

02-23-2010, 01:34 AM
Published by Amy Tuteur, MD under Science and Medicine
Comments: 441

There once was a time when all food was organic and no pesticides were used. Health problems were treated with folk wisdom and natural remedies. There was no obesity, and people got lots of exercise. And in that time gone by, the average life expectancy was … 35!

That’s right. For most of human existence, according to fossil and anthropological data, the average human life expectancy was 35 years. As recently as 1900, American average life expectancy was only 48. Today, advocates of alternative health bemoan the current state of American health, the increasing numbers of obese people, the lack of exercise, the use of medications, the medicalization of childbirth. Yet life expectancy has never been longer, currently 77.7 years in the US.

Advocates of alternative health have a romanticized and completely unrealistic notion of purported benefits of a “natural” lifestyle. Far from being a paradise, it was hell. The difference between an average lifespan of 48 and one of 77.7 can be accounted for by modern medicine and increased agricultural production brought about by industrial farming methods (including pesticides). Nothing fundamental has changed about human beings. They are still prey to the same illnesses and accidents, but now they can be effectively treated. Indeed, some diseases can be completely prevented by vaccination.

So why are advocates of alternative health complaining? They are complaining because they long for an imagined past that literally never existed. In that sense, alternative health represents a form of fundamentalism. Obviously, fundamentalism is about religion and the analogy can only go so far, but there are several important characteristics of religious fundamentalism that are shared by alternative health advocacy. These include:

* The desire to return to a “better” lifestyle of the past.
* The longing for a mythical past that never actual existed.
* An opposition to modernism (in daily life and in medicine).
* And the belief that anything produced by evolution (or God, if you prefer) is surely going to be good.

Advocates of alternative health bemoan the incidence of diseases like cancer and heart disease without considering that they are primarily diseases of old age. That both cancer and heart disease are among the primary causes of death today represents a victory, not a defeat. Diseases of old age can become primary causes of death only when diseases of infancy and childhood are vanquished, and that is precisely what has happened.

Alternative health as a form of fundamentalism also makes sense in that it has an almost religious fervor. It is not about scientific evidence. Indeed, it usually ignores scientific evidence entirely. All the existing scientific evidence shows that all of the myriad claims of alternative health are flat out false. None of it works, absolutely none of it. That’s not surprising when you consider that it never worked in times past; advocates of alternative health merely pretend that it did, without any regard for historical reality.

Alternative health is a belief system, a form of fundamentalism, and like most fundamentalisms, it longs for a past never existed. It is not science; it has nothing to do with science; and it merely reflects wishful thinking about the past while ignoring reality.

FROM - http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=3904

02-23-2010, 02:15 AM
Nostalgia's not what it used to be.

02-23-2010, 10:00 AM
Nostalgia's not what it used to be.

02-23-2010, 12:25 PM
This is fascinating to me. I'm squarely in the Crunchy Conservative camp: I grow organic veggies, I cook from scratch, I avoid processed food, I deliberately make time to slow down, pray, and admire creation. I've been known to use a few (organic, cruelty-free) supplements and personal care products. I wear Birkies in the summer and I belong to a grass-fed, organic dairying operation. My street cred as "alternative" is pretty good.

But this article is completely correct. Cancer and cardiovascular disease is typically a function of an aging immune system and an aging metabolic system. Nobody dies of old age. You can maybe delay the onset for a while but that's it for most people.

Organic produce doesn't have the man-made chemical load of conventional produce but it sure does have a boatload of entirely natural compounds that are known to cause cancer or damage the liver or kidneys in excess.

Bio-identical hormones and phytoestrogens (thanks, Oprah) really do work because the body reacts to them just as it does to estrogen - a potent cancer-fueling hormone once fertility is over.

There is no such thing as "detoxing" your body unless you are given intravenous chelation therapy for heavy metals. Probiotics are simply an expensive name for lactobacillus which you can get for free. Acupuncture works but it doesn't work better than simply randomly inserting needles in your skin. The list goes on.

The problem is that this thinking is infecting mainstream life. It's one thing to prefer these ideas as an individual, it's another to have authority structures force you to believe them.

02-23-2010, 12:40 PM
I didn't know you lived in Boulder, Ginger.

02-23-2010, 12:50 PM
I didn't know you lived in Boulder, Ginger.

LOL! I can't live in Boulder. I own too many guns and bibles. :D