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We now call these cold little crawlspaces ‘complementary therapies’

Alternative medicine has proved divisive for a profession which has built its success and reputation around science and technology.

The medical historian Professor Candid, who ‘works’ at the Department of All Things Old and Dusty says: “Our ancient ancestors thought that illness was caused by the Gods.

“They offered prayer and supplication, but there were a heck of a lot of Gods around and by about 500 BC they got bored of being pious and started to look inside the body for causes of disease.

“So along came the Four Humours, with their relentless appetite for bleedings, purgings and those oh-so-meaty enemas. They thought they’d cracked it and the status quo remained unquestioned because the church threatened to burn you at the stake if you thought otherwise. This went on for centuries, until some clever bloke came along and invented science.”

After a little sip of sherry, the professor continued: “The flaming torch of the enlightenment then swept away the whimsical shadows of the heroic past. But some dark pockets remained where the light never shone. We now call these cold little crawl spaces complimentary therapies.”

One CAM practitioner says: “Complementary therapies work because ill people will try anything to get better. I’ll readily admit that rubbing a mandrake root on your head doesn’t cure brain cancer, but some scientific authorities are arrogant enough to claim that homeopathy is 100% water when it’s quite clear to everyone involved that it’s at least 98% bullshit.”

He went on to say: “Scientists like to prove things with numbers and experiments whereas we like to base our opinions on gut instinct and garrulous anecdote. The two belief systems are simply incompatible and only overlap in the minds of the confused.”

It’s true that science may never give us a complete picture of the world and that sometimes it offers a blurred view of things rather than the clarity we all crave. But it’s a lot better than the alternative, which is a return to the past with all of its mistakes, murky carryings-on and its aimless, blindfolded bumblings in the dark.

Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen