On Cuban Homeopathy (Part I)

June 6, 2015 | Print Print |

Yasser Farres Delgado

HAVANA TIMES — A resolution recently passed by the Cuban Ministry of Health (MINSAP) establishing natural and traditional medicine as a new medical specialty that can comprehensively and holistically address health problems has given rise to a curious debate. Not only is this decision the result of almost two decades of experience in the implementation of different kinds of traditional therapies in Cuban medical centers, it is also in tune with the trans-disciplinary approach that has been gradually gaining ground in Western academia.

Although many are the practices that fall into the “natural” and “traditional” categories, homeopathy is probably the one that has been questioned the most by men and women of conventional science, whose mentality is still tied to the modern rational/reductionist logic that continues to prevail in Western medical sciences. These are the people who have put forward opinions of this sort: “The active principle of homeopathy is groundless,” “Homeopathy is a scam”, “Its effect is no better than a placebo,” among others.

Interestingly, and in contrast with those opinions, there are various universities in the world that recognize the validity of homeopathy. The University of Barcelona, for instance, offers a Homeopathic Medicine Master’s program. Additionally, scientific databases like Elsevier or Scopus, which are widely recognized by the international scientific community, have acknowledged the scientific worth of certain journals of homeopathic medicine. The American Journal of Homeopathy, for example, has remained between the first and second quartiles of the SCOPUS ranking for ten years, while Spain’s Revista Medica de Homeopatia (Journal of Homeopathic Medicine) and Italy’s Revue d’Homeopathie (Homeopathy Journal) have been also making progress.

To contribute to the debate about this new MINSAP resolution, I would like to put forth some ideas that seek to go beyond the narrowness of the arguments dealing with “laboratory tests” and “clinical trials”. My aim is to promote an ethical debate on the control of knowledge in Cuban sciences, a discussion that, judging for the lack of academic freedom –there is no freedom of thought, nor many other freedoms- doesn’t seem to have taken place.

I would like to begin with a reminder: that modern science (scientists) invested itself with the knowledge authority it enjoys today thanks to power relations that were consolidated during the Enlightenment. This has been explained by many authors, including Cuban Hiram Hernandez, whose article on the issue (2005) is not very well known. The abovementioned relations had their origin in the expansion of Catholicism, and the colonization of the world by the West (see Grosfoguel, 2013). Less has been written about these links, and it’s therefore more important to divulge them.

Science in general, and the medical sciences in particular, are inheritors of the Cartesian rational method, which would come to be imposed as the only reliable knowledge method. In his “Discourse on Method”, Descartes laid out the foundations that justify the authority of Western scientific knowledge (modern knowledge, that is) over any other kind of knowledge. What Decartes proposes, grosso modo, is that, in order to generate “real knowledge”, we must isolate ourselves from any previous knowledge (solipsism) and distrust all of our senses (dualism).

There are two important consequences to Descartes’ proposal: (1) it denies all the knowledge previously generated by all the cultures of the world in its entirety; and (2) he attributes himself the capacity to generate a knowledge that should be considered universal and, therefore, accepted by everyone. He thus sets the philosophical and scientific basis by virtue of which Western thought and Western science attribute themselves the capacity to generate the only possible true knowledge (see Grosfoguel, 2008).

What conditions converged for this global power relation in the field of knowledge (colonization of knowledge) to consolidate itself after Descartes? What conditions favored such an arrogant attitude? How could anyone deny the possibility of generating valid knowledge by other means, through a different approach, different from that of the “scientific method”?

To answer these questions, it is important to understand how all the other kinds of knowledge were silenced or eliminated, and that opposing opinions were not allowed. One must not lose sight of the great genocides/“epistemocides” of the 16th century: the ancestral knowledge European women had of nature (the properties of herbs, potions, etc.), acquired through their role as caregivers, was banned as “witchcraft” by the Catholic Church – and its bearers were burnt at the stake; the knowledge gathered by the Islamic culture was also destroyed by the Catholic Church (the libraries of the Caliphate of Cordoba were destroyed and the books burnt); thousands of codex and quipus were destroyed in the New World, and the indigenous cultures that created them were annihilated; and so on and so forth (see Grosfoguel, 2013).

Modern scientists were also in the sights of the Catholic Church, or rather, of the patriarchal hierarchy that took over Catholicism. In fact, Descartes was forced to explain in writing that his ideas did not contradict the existence of God, and that God was the ultimate source of knowledge. The same happened to Newton and many others well into the 19th century, when the Catholic Church started to decline.

How is this connected to homeopathy and the dilemmas of Cuban science? I’m running out of space, and, therefore, I will continue to explain my ideas at another time. All I’m going to say for now is that what I’m putting forth is not taught in the courses Cuban scientists pursue for their training.
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References

  • Dussel, Enrique (2008). Meditaciones anti-cartesianas: sobre el origen del anti-discurso filosófico de la Modernidad, Tabula Rasa, 9, 153-197. Bogotá – Colombia ISSN: 0120-4807
  • Grosfoguel, Ramón (2008). Hacia un pluri-versalismo transmoderno decolonial. Tabula Rasa, 9: 199-215. Bogotá – Colombia, ISSN: 1794-2489.
  • Grosfoguel, Ramón. (2013). Racismo/sexismo epistémico, universidades occidentalizadas y los cuatro genocidios/epistemicidios del largo siglo XVI.Tabula Rasa, (19), 31-58. 
  • Hernández Castro, Hiram (2005). Poder-saber: una ciencia política de la liberación.La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales.

What's your opinion?

  • AB

    Homeopathy is not “traditional” or pre-enlightenment or “non-western”. It was invented at the end of the eighteenth century by a German doctor who was perfectly familiar with the modern scientific method. He published his ideas in medical journals and believed that homeopathy was a sound, theoretically and empirically justified medical approach. Now we know that he was wrong. Continuing to practise an approach that has been proved useless under the cover of “tradition” is just dishonest.

    But if the cuban health service is too broke to prescribe real medicine, I guess sugar pills won’t do much harm.

    • jamespannozzi

      As the article suggests, a blind adherence to traditional scientific epistemology may, in fact, be a dead end in the attempt to understand the continued success and power of Homeopathy, a powerful curative system far above mere placebo.

      This revolution is happening, now, at every level of medicine.

      In cancer research, two new drugs have emerged and caused excitement for their ability to diminish or eliminate serious melanoma tumors. The drugs work, as a pair, in a profound immunostimulant manner contrary to the traditional cancer treatment paradigm of chemotherapy.

      Other scientists who have written articles in this area include Dr. Lionel Milgrom PhD chemist and homeopath whose article “Beware Scientism’s Onward March” is easily found in google.

      The attempt to block homeopathy use on alleged “scientific” grounds will fail for one essential and indisputable reason. It works.

      • Acleron

        Science doesn’t prove anything! Goes the irrationalist’s cry. Laughably, they try to justify that idiocy by quoting science.

        Oh, and the ex chemist Milgrom who can’t even be relied on to interpret a UV spectrogram these days.

        • jamespannozzi

          Note the distortion of the pseudo-skeptic, cowering behind the skirt of mother “science” in claiming opponents are “anti-science”.

          Anyone who dares question the flawed double blinded placebo controlled randomized testing dear to the hearts of the Scientism enthusiasts suddenly becomes an “enemy” of ALL science.

          This is how much that they have invested in a statistical technique that doesn’t work very well even for the pharmaceutical drugs for which they are used.

          Does no good. Pharmaceutical drugs are routinely withdrawn, even after all the science and human trials are passed and the drug is released to the public …where the real “testing” occurs.

          • Acleron

            What you are desperate to avoid is that you and all the other quacks use the results of science when you mistakenly think it supports your scam.

            Lol, you’ve even used it in your post. Your moans about drugs being withdrawn are based on science, that’s why they are withdrawn. Not because some navel gazing idiot who can barely think considers they should be withdrawn but because scientists have sufficient evidence to withdraw them. That statistical technique that you hate so much shows why a drug should be withdrawn. It also shows that your bogus treatments don’t work.

            Don’t worry Jimmy, you ain’t special, all the other quacks have exactly the same muddled thinking as yourself.

    • Acleron

      Homeopathy will do harm.

      For example, Cuba developed an effective vaccine against Leptospirosis, a dangerous disease. Homeopaths have been trying to replace it with ineffective sugar pills for several years

      • dann

        You are right, Acleron. Cuba should stick with the vax-SPIRAL vaccine developed in Cuba: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15193180
        Trying to replace it with homeopathic quackery will harm the Cubans as well as the Cuban economy.

  • jamespannozzi

    Cubans, well done !!

    Perhaps, now that relations are finally being normalized with the great country of Cuba, we can learn a thing or two from medical institutions which have not been corrupted, distorted or suppressed by commercial and profiteering interests and which have placed the interests of the people first.

    • Sandra Courtney

      I agree with you James. I see the potential for great advances in collaborative studies with the United States integrative medicine research groups now that relations with Cuba are being normalized.

      • Laurie J. Willberg

        Thoroughly agree with James and Sandra!

  • Acleron

    Oh dear, rewriting history, ignoring data and reverting to the mystical nonsense of ancient times. Poor Cuba.

    So science is some sort of Western plot and irrational thinking must take precedence but what does the author try to validate their hypothesis with? Yup, science.

    • jamespannozzi

      Oh dear, a country which did not allow the corruption of pharmaceutical corporatism to invest every nook and cranny and regulatory body of their medical infrastructure. How will the skeptics deal with this ? By claiming that the such an approach is un$cientifc or “mystical”.

      Cuba has done just fine in bypassing the Scientism that has infested, and and weakened the medical infrastructure of major countries.

      By retaining an open mind and willingness to do real research instead of playing mathematical games with “studies”, the Cubans have protected and maintained their own research integrity, something many other countries are unable to do now.

  • Laurie J. Willberg

    Very insightful historical perspective, one that is shared by Dr. Harris Coulter in his “Divided Legacy” series on the history of medicine. Fortunately Cuba’s medical system was NOT corrupted by corporate pharmaceutical interests and Scientism.

  • jalan

    Interesting presentation — I suggest the authors read Vermont Folk Medicine by Dr. D.C. Jarvis — written in the mid-50’s. Very applicable to today and homeopathic medicine and advice.

  • George

    Placebos work. This is an undisputed scientific fact. The hegemonic scientific discipline freely admits that it does not know why. Furthermore, some placebos work better than others. Again, the hegemonic scientific discipline has identified this as an area that needs to be researched. Outside of the hegemony there are many long standing theories as to how placebos work, some of which may need to be revisited. However one thing is certain, and I said it at the begin, placebos work. Further if you can cure someone with a placebo then you have provided the best cure possible. The problems begin when one starts denying people cures as the blockade and U.S. style capitalism is doing.

  • bjmack

    Several years ago, in the USA, the FDA tried to ban Melatonin, one of the best natural sleep aids in the Vitamin shoppes. Well an uproar prevented this and I for one, who takes it every night, is a miracle.
    No hangover and no addiction. Now, there’s a message going around that the FDA would like to regulate Homeopathic uses and I’m the number protestor in the USA! I’m glad Cuba is going out of its way to forward this usage and best to all who continue to benefit from it!

  • Griffin

    Homeopathy is quackery. There is no scientific evidence that homeopathic remedies work.

    • jamespannozzi

      Except when they do, and then the first assumption becomes invalidated.

    • Maple Canner

      Are you kidding me. Look at the research and stats in Cuba.