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Has complimentary medicine been scientifically proved? Or disproved?

You will find plenty of people who will take up one side or the other. But before we rush to join the battle, there is another question to ask: what do we mean when we speak of ‘proof or disproof? How does it actually work?

The power of the scientific method depends on objectivity. It operates like the process of a law court. The task of a court of law is to determine guilt or innocence. But even more important than this is to ensure that the process is a fair one.  The prime duty of the judge and the legal system is to uphold the law.

And so with science. The aim is to build up a structure of knowledge piece by piece, testing every place before putting it into place – and doing so objectively and unemotionally.

Science, like the law, is not about desiring outcomes, but about ensuring the absolute integrity of the process of reaching them.

At each stage of that process, part of the skill of the scientist is to devise an experimental test that is so well structured that everyone should be able to agree on the outcome.

Has that been done with complimentary medicine? Or are we still waiting for a systematic body of research to make the situation crystal-clear, beyond all reasonable doubt?

There are several reasons for thinking that we have still a long way to go before getting any clear conclusions.

One is a shortage of researchers willing to enter a field which can all too easily become a battleground. Some years ago the Medical Research Council made finding available for research into whether or not homoeopathy is effective – and found that nobody wanted to come forward to do it.

A second reason for thinking that the issue might not have been put beyond all reasonable doubt is the amount of unproven claims and unscientific statements that are coming from both sides.

Sometimes these require a little thought in order to realise where the weakness lies.

Take for example this statement by a leading academic opponent of homoeopathy:

“And were it possible for any treatment to work without any active ingredient, then we would have to tear up all our physics books and start again.”

You may feel you agree with this, or you may feel you disagree – or you may want to hear more before deciding one way or the other. And if you would like to have access to tea or coffee, together with excellent cakes and biscuits, to help you assess the various arguments, then you’re in the right frame of mind for Café Scientifique on Saturday morning.

The Café Scientifique format involves a 20-minute presentation, a break to refill the cups, and then an open discussion.

The venue for Saturday is Storehouse of Foulis, at Foulis Ferry, just off the A9 north of the Cromarty Causeway. There’s a map at

Venue: Storehouse of Foulis, Foulis Ferry

Date: Saturday 8 November at 10.30 am

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