The Second Great Scientific Revolution:
From Inert to Vital Nature; From Death to Life
Revolutions generally, but cultural revolutions in particular, are not generally mass affairs. They are carried out by often less than 15-20% of a population, but this section of the population is internally motivated and guided by a unifying and compelling idea whose time has come. The established system is increasingly unable to paper over the cracks in the system and maintain the pretence that all is well. The Ptolemaic model of the universe, which was geocentric, prevailed for centuries, until the rising consciousness and knowledge presented so many anomalies that it became an ‘affront to reason’, and was replaced after two centuries of assiduous research by individual and independent minds, with the heliocentric Copernican model. What followed from this came to be known as the Scientific Revolution.
We are now at another critical juncture in history. The methodology or paradigm of that first Scientific Revolution that ushered in the modern era was accurate as far as it went, that is, in dealing with the macro world of inert nature. However, problems arose when scientists sought to use the methodology of the inertial sciences (physics, chemistry) to penetrate the even more mysterious and challenging world of vital nature, seeking answers to the enduring questions of health and illness.
This effort began in earnest the early 1700’s, but by the middle of that century the leading minds of European philosophy and science realized that a different approach was needed. This search for a new method for studying vital nature captured the tenor of the age, and gave birth to the Romantic movement. Art and science were compeers, not rivals in this great endeavour. Great artists of the time, such as Goethe and Coleridge were as much involved in science and connected to other scientists, as to other artists. This great cultural movement was Romantic because it sought to penetrate beyond the veil of outer appearances of a thing to its dynamic, inner essence, ‘romancing the stone’ as it were.
The Romantic movement at that time laid a solid foundation, involving a ‘declaration of independence’ of vital nature from the tyranny of inert nature, indeed elevating vital nature above inert nature, and making inert nature only a part of the living realm, rather than as a chance product and epi-phenomenon of dead matter as the those still stuck in the Ptolemaic world of material science would have it. The Romantic movement also established a ‘constitution’ in terms of a basic framework of understanding of vital activity in biological organisms and how to approach research.
However, this effort was, unfortunately, ahead of its time, early pioneering awaiting the various stages of settlement of the ‘Great Plains’. The details of the vital sciences needed to sustain the initial insights and ideas was still lacking. That is what has taken up most of the past 230 years.
In the interim, the materialist counter-revolution succeeded in imposing itself on medicine, giving us the rather simplistic presumption that illness is caused by a ‘germ’, ignoring the issue of pre-disposition and susceptibility (the internal and external environment and all the stress factors operating therein), giving rise to a great industry of manufactured poisons (pharmaceuticals, from the Greek word for poison; or drugs, in the sense of dulling the mind and body to pain).
When an offending ‘germ’ could not be found, the cause was deemed ‘unknown’, and the poisons applied to suppress any signs and symptoms. The general signs and symptoms were grouped together (the strange, rare, peculiar individual ones ignored) and given a name, usually from Greek or Latin, such as ‘arthritis’, from the Greek meaning ‘inflammation of the joints’, ushering them into specified conditions with pat labels. Not able to identify the cause or causes, the labelled condition became the target, with specific drugs prescribed for specific labels (a ‘pill for every ill’) on the basis of a drug’s efficacy in suppressing the symptoms. These days the labels are more prosaic (Latin and Greek no longer being taught much), such as ‘complex regional pain syndrome’ or CRPS, for pain that lingers after an injury, or ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’ (CFS), or ‘attention deficit disorder’ (ADD).
Later, an effort was made to link illness to genes, but this has mostly failed, with few conditions having a clear genetic cause. And finally, what could not be suppressed in some way through designer poisons was turned over to the surgeon. In all of this, the living organism is regarded as largely a passive recipient, and the natural healing power of the organism is simply assumed, taken for granted (as some sort of sub-rosa physician).
Despite the simplicity of the prevailing materialistic paradigm, which is what made it attractive to begin with, with its implied promise of conquest over illness and bringer of longevity, the decline of the few infectious diseases of the past (mostly due to improved living standards and public hygiene measures) and the rise of new ‘diseases of civilization’, the chronic health conditions affecting the heart, lungs and brain, as well as systemic conditions such as diabetes and cancer, could not be readily traced to a ‘germ’ or so easily suppressed by drugs, the result being rising iatrogenic illnesses and worsening health generally. Even the ‘war’ against infectious disease was showing ‘blow-back’ in the form of antibiotic resistant bacteria, and mutating viruses in the face of vaccination.
As a result, public and even professional interest re-awakened in ‘alternative’ and ‘natural’ health approaches in the 1970s and 1980s, and detailed research has since taken place by a new breed of pioneers to establish objective, rational methods and tests to address the new complex, chronic health issues from a different perspective, one that grounds the earlier Romantic endeavour in the complexity of organismic metabolism with a deep understanding and mapping of the ‘keys to the kingdom’, that is, the radical drivers for all metabolic operations.
This allows for an objective strategic approach to illness by addressing the fundamental causes - imbalances in the optimal working of these drivers. It moves the previous symptomological/suppressive approach to a causal/curative one.