Scientific medicine

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The terms scientific medicine, allopathic medicine, biomedicine, conventional medicine, orthodox medicine, and Western medicine all refer to what in English is usually simply called medicine[1] (which is discussed in the article on medicine).

This article discusses the use of these terms to differentiate this kind of medicine from its earlier stages or from alternative medicine and other approaches towards the treatment of sickness, disease, and other physical and mental ailments. These terms can be used in a positive or neutral way to differentiate scientific medicine from these other approaches, but they are often used in a pejorative manner by advocates of different kinds of alternative medicine.

Instead of or in addition to similar terms, many other languages use a translation of the German expression "Schulmedizin" ("school medicine"), which was coined by advocates of homeopathy and is usually used pejoratively.

The term scientific medicine is almost exclusively used in a positive sense. Scientific medicine can be defined as the modern form of medicine stemming from the synthesis of the Flexnerian medical education reforms of the early 1900s and the Germ theory of disease.[2]

Nevertheless, this term was also coined to make a statement. Romano discusses the rise of the importance of science in medicine in the late 19th century, observing that "the previous generation had also considered its own medicine scientific [...] In many ways the term scientific medicine was a successful attempt to garner allies; no one championed unscientific medicine. The meanings of scientific medicine changed over time [...] [I]t was in various disputes that the ambiguity and broadness of the term scientific medicine became most evident."[3]

Some contemporary usage contrasts "scientific medicine" (in the sense of mainstream conventional medicine) with "alternative medicine".[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Jonas, Wayne B. (2005). Mosby's dictionary of complementary and alternative medicine. Mosby. p. 519. ISBN 978-0-323-02516-4. Retrieved 2010-04-25.  quoted at: "scientific medicine". The Free Dictionary. Retrieved 2010-04-25. "scientific medicine, a term used to describe the form of medicine derived from the Flexnerian reformation of medical education and the germ theory in the early 1900s. Jonas: Mosby's Dictionary of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (c) 2005, Elsevier." 
  3. ^ Title Making medicine scientific: John Burdon Sanderson and the culture of Victorian science Making Medicine Scientific Author Terrie M. Romano Edition illustrated Publisher JHU Press, 2002 ISBN 0-8018-6897-1, ISBN 978-0-8018-6897-9 Length 225 pages p 7 Romano, Terrie M. (2001). Making medicine scientific: John Burdon Sanderson and the culture of Victorian science. Baltimore: JHU Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-8018-6897-9. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  4. ^ For example: Coulter, Ian D.; Evan M Willis (2004). "The rise and rise of complementary and alternative medicine: a sociological perspective" (PDF). In Lewith, G. T. Medical Journal of Australia 180 (7): 588. Retrieved 2010-04-25. "[...] [I]n the paradigm that we now call conventional scientific medicine, dilution of a therapeutic substance weakens its potency. However, in the homoeopathic paradigm, dilution - even multiple times so that few molecules of the original substance remain - actually increases its potency. Presumably dilution can't do both. The paradigms are incommensurable, and so the possibilities for combining treatments based on the two paradigms must be limited."