Originally Posted by superstella
That is what I meant by "science," and please correct me if the modern (allopathic) medical model is based on something else.
well, in my experience it's a great deal sloppier than that. that kind of testing works reasonably well in contexts like physics and chemistry (though even then it has some issues), but by the time you get even to molecular biology it starts to get difficult to control. if you make it as as far as medicine, the number of variables is just mind-blowing.
people still do large, prospective, long-term, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trials in an attempt to simulate duplication of environment in good scientific-method fashion -- but, ultimately, it's always a hack, and even then, the space of possible treatments that lend themselves to this kind of approach is pitifully small. barriers may include ethics, paucity of test subjects, unavailability of funding, potential for noncompliance, impossibility of placebo or blinding, and so on, that's just barely a beginning.
so, ultimately, a lot of medicine is just guesswork and "what works". someone does an experimental surgery; drugs tested on rats are tried out on humans; terminal patients try wild experimental treatments; marginal cases for whom nothing works try various things; doctors improvise; and at some point some of that becomes a "standard of care" and disseminated widely, and after that all the doctors do it. sometimes it's really good. sometimes it's ok. sometimes it's garbage. if it's a crock (like routine episiotomy), and you're lucky, someone will do some studies on it and "discover" that it's wrong.
there is something of a theoretical basis for modern western medicine: modern understanding of anatomy, physiology, and molecular biology (and the scientific machinery behind it, including scientific stufies). this leads to whole subsets of medicine like pharmacology (messing with the system chemically) and surgery (messing with the system physically). but even this -- and, indeed, the structure entire -- rests on a basis of "culture of modern western medicine". that culture is highly dependent on inertia from collective beliefs and practices (past and present), as well as other members of the medical community.
so when you talk about "western medicine", you're dealing with a cultural entity, as much as or more than anything else that characterizes it. i think it's really important to keep that in mind when discussing it, and to remember that it's not as heavily based in science as the culture of western medicine makes itself out to be. nor, by the way, ought it to be -- and, if nothing else, holistic practitioners tend at least to be more aware of this than your average md.