Like many small children, I fell under the spell of Tutankamen, Mummies and Egyptian Hieroglypics. In those days, the Pharoahs High Priests, embodied medical, ritual and sarcophagean technology and used their ritual knowledge to run the country. They were the politicians, doyens of big business and civil service. And their most important task was to sell the prospect of immortal life and crossing the River Styx to the Pharoah. Medicine, like all priesthoods, is the most conservative of occupations. Nothing changes because change means power shifting and no one gives up power voluntary.
Eventually the myth of the Egyptian after-life was dispelled, Moses led his people out of Egypt and the mad race towards modern civilisation began.
This can be summed up by Arthur C Clarke’s 3rd Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Or, alternatively, any technology, no matter how primitive, is magic to those who don’t understand it
These days, very few people can follow medical science. Forty years ago, although not simple it was for the most part coherent. This is no longer the case. Treatment is no longer rational, practices in one part of the discipline are the antithesis of others. Paramedical, alernative and complimentary medicine, along with Chinese and Aruveydic medicine are at odds with Good Medical Practicce. It is as though any pretence at a unifying grand narrative of medical science has been abandoned. Foucault to all intents and purpose has won. Every narrative from every corner of the kingdom of medicine is given equal precedence, providing it is part of the ‘Body of Medical Opinion’. Step outside that boundary and you enter the world of medical heresy, where the penalty is to be burnt at the stake and be defrocked.
Yet the point of science is that it does provide a systematic coherent narrative. If something is true in one corner of the universe, it must be true in all parts of the universe or else we have not understood the problem and our explanation is incorrect.
What is the answer to the competing narratives of medicine?