Friday, 16 August 96 Washington, DC
1. BOOK REVIEW: "MANIFESTO FOR A NEW MEDICINE" BY JAMES GORDON.
The first thing you learn about the "new medicine" is that it's the old medicine.
Really old. "It draws on the perspectives and practices of the world's great
healing traditions, including Chinese medicine and Indian Ayurveda, Native American
and African healing," according to Gordon, who is Director of the Center for
Mind-Body Medicine at Georgetown University. Throw in just about anything else that
hasn't been scientifically validated, from Rolfing to homeopathy, and you have
Gordon's "new medicine." The common ingredient is belief. In the 18th Century, a
French royal commission debunked Franz Mesmer's "magnetic healing" in which
patients were immersed in vats of iron filings. Gordon applauds the commission,
which included Benjamin Franklin and Antoine Lavoisier, not for exposing a
charlatan, but for pointing out the importance of "expectation and suggestion." In
Gordon's mind, Mesmer "mobilized the patients' belief," altering the physical
processes that made them ill. Indeed, Gordon believes hypnosis can improve immune
response, heal burns, cure warts and increase breast size! James Gordon, by the
way, also chairs the Advisory Council of the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine, the
office responsible for evaluating the "new medicine." Is there a mind-body
connection? Of course! I read Gordon's book and got sick.
2. ALTERNATIVE LEGISLATION: "ACCESS TO MEDICAL TREATMENT ACT."
Gordon testified on behalf of S.1035 at a Sena
te hearing just before the August break, while waving his book above his head. Wayne
Jonas, head of the Office of Alternative Medicine (WN 2 Aug 96), also testified,
along with a former congressman who claims he was cured of Lyme disease by eating
whey. The bill guarantees the right to treatment by the witch doctor of your choice
(no license required) and shifts the burden to the government to prove that a
treatment is unsafe; efficacy didn't even come up. The good news is that S.1035 has
no chance of passage this year, and several of its Senate champions, Pell,
Kassebaum, Hatfield and Simon, are retiring -- one, Bob Dole, has retired already
3. EUROPA: SEARCH FOR LIFE EXPANDS TO INCLUDE A MOON OF JUPITER.
Just a week after the Mars hea
dlines, new images from Galileo add to evidence that Europa is covered by a frozen
ocean and suggest there may be liquid water at some depth, warmed by Jovian tides.
Many evolutionary biologists believe that given these conditions, the development of
life is inevitable. The search is generating renewed enthusiasm for space, but many
politicians do not seem to appreciate the importance of avoiding contamination.
Even Dan Goldin, who had stressed robotic exploration (WN 9 Aug 96), now feels
obliged to reassure astronauts: "After we have exhausted our ability to use robots,"
he said, "we will require people." For what? What's needed now is a call from
scientists for a moratorium on human space travel beyond the orbit of the moon.