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1. Historys Battle between Science, Magic & Faith

From ancient Egypt to Rome to the modern United States, the history of medicine has been marked by a struggle between the natural and the supernatural. As the following sketch of key historical devel- opments7 suggests, the two forces of faith and medicine have never satisfactorily joined hands to promote a whole- person perspective on health and healing.

The Greek physician Galen of Pergamum rivals Hippocrates in contributions to the development of scientific medicine. He contributed much in the areas of infectious disease and pharmacology. He also propounded the theory that blood carried the pneuma, or life spirit. His writings transmitted Greek medical knowledge to the Western world through the Arabs.

Middle Ages (450-1300 AD)

The invasion of the Roman world by barbarian tribes stopped the scientific development of medi- cine. Folklore and magic, coupled with moral and intellectual decline, set healthcare back centuries.

Mesopotamia to Rome (to 450 AD)

Early health practitioners blamed demons for many maladies. Popular treatments included chants, dances, magic, and charmsor even worse for the patient, beatings, tortures, and starvings. However, notable success was obtained through the use of plant extracts, many of which continue to be used today.

Egyptian records indicate two main bodies of medi- cine: the magical/religious and the empirical/rational. Limited in their knowledge of anatomy, the Egyptians medicine was typically limited to common diseases of the eyes and skin and seldom encompassed surgical procedures. Other disorders got the magical/religious treatment.

The biblical commands of the Old Testament proved remarkable in their emphasis on preventive medicine, and Jewish practices stood in stark contrast to the prevailing practices of their neighbors. Many of these practices show a scientific basis not understood until thousands of years later.

Hindus in ancient India attained a high level of skill in surgery. Buddhists, however, prohibited the study of anatomy, and religious prohibitions in China against dissection retarded the development of knowledge in the areas of body structure and function. Muslim conquests reinforced restrictions against medical study, and the practice of medicine declined.

While early Greek medicine revolved around magic, by the sixth century BC, Greek medicine stressed observation and experience. The Hippocratic Collec- tion, attributed to Hippocrates of Kos and his followers, provided ethical standards that retain an influential, though declining, impact upon medicine today. In addition to his contribution to philosophy, Aristotle made significant contributions to medicine through dissections, and is regarded as the founder of com- parative anatomy.

Arabs, however, learned of Greek medicine from preserved Greek texts, which led to a scientific revival led by the Arabists. The Arabists instituted professional standards including examinations and licensing for physicians.

In Europe, the Church filled the void left by orga- nized medicine. Monas- tic infirmities and other charitable institutions ministered to patients inflicted with leprosy and other diseases. By the ninth century, Charlemagne re-intro- duced medicine into the curriculum of cathedral schools. However, at the same time, Church leaders like Bernard of Clairvaux forbade monks to study medicine and insisted on relying solely on prayer for healing.

By the thirteenth century, dissection was permitted and stricter public health measures were intro- duced. In 1348, Guy de Chauliac (c. 1300-68), the father of French surgery, first recognized the plague. The plague was widely viewed at the time as an agent of Gods judgment.

Renaissance and Enlightenment (1300-1800 AD)

During the Renaissance and the Enlightenment periods, the study of medicine and the scientific method were divorced from faith and religion. The impressive discoveries and theories of pioneers like Galileo, Newton, Descartes and others gave science new credibility. New philosophies and discoveries brought the Churchs power and authority under new scrutiny. Meanwhile, the entrenched Church took a dogmatic, authoritarian position that left little room for inquiryeven though faith and the Bible would have allowed it.


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