When medicine reaches perfection—have we achieved that elusive goal yet?

We’ve made so much progress in science and medicine, but has it been perfected yet? Will it ever be perfected?

We all admire and respect heroic doctors in their white coats: intelligent, hard-working, with the power to make life and death decisions.

All my life I only considered the western/modern medicine model as the “true” medicine—anything else I considered as questionable.

Wayne Dyer says: “The highest form of ignorance is to dismiss something you don’t know anything about.”

Well, that was me. I didn’t know much about western/modern medicine, but many of my relatives were medical doctors or married one. I ended up marrying a physician myself. I also didn’t know much about any other forms of treating disease, such as holistic/naturopathic medicine, which was well accepted in Germany where I grew up. I only accepted the academic, western medicine mode of treating illness, mainly because I thought of it as “science.” To make matters worse, I looked upon alternative/holistic doctors a bit with disapproval and prejudice.

But God has mysterious ways of teaching us lessons… ten years later I have become a doctor in natural medicine myself and write this article, knowing I might face the same prejudice I had towards holistic doctors before.

To make a long story short, due to circumstances I started realizing that for many conditions, especially chronic conditions, our current medical system offers little more than a band aid, and only suppresses symptoms via drugs, without addressing the actual causes and cures of disease.

As I learned more and experienced more, I became less impressed with modern medicine, and I stopped trusting blindly and following “doctors’ orders.” Instead, I started educating myself about health, diseases and their cures. I started reading the Baha’i writings about medicine, health and healing and I slowly realized that a new kind of medicine is emerging:

It is, therefore, evident that it is possible to cure by foods, aliments and fruits; but as today the science of medicine is imperfect, this fact is not yet fully grasped. When the science of medicine reaches perfection, treatment will be given by foods, aliments, fragrant fruits and vegetables.. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, p. 297.

Reading this for the first time quite amazed and puzzled me. In the era of vaccines, antibiotics, statins and blood pressure medications, Abdu’l-Baha says when medicine reaches perfection treatment will be given by foods? At first that sounded more backwards than forwards to me.

But I soon realized and understood that we are indeed going backwards—back to nature—to perfect medicine.

At one point in the development of modern medicine, for example, antibiotics were the most groundbreaking discovery. But through over-prescription of antibiotics we have created superbugs that are now antibiotic resistant.

antibiotics

However, we now have started to develop sufficient scientific knowledge to begin understanding the effects of nutrition. Since drug companies can’t patent nature, it is more challenging to get funding for scientific studies on the salubrious effects of fruits and herbs. Eventually, however, we will study which foods cure which conditions, and we’ll start to understand how much of a certain food, in synergy with what other foods do, treats disease and produces health.

This trend is already emerging under the terms functional, natural or integrative medicine. Traditional Western medicine has even begun to recognize the positive effects such practices can have, and a slow, gradual merger of the two approaches is now occurring.

As I studied these trends and began to understand them, I truly started to appreciate the meaning of the Baha’i principle of the harmony of science and religion.

In the past, I always thought that religion hindered the progress of science. It never occurred to me that the science we apply at this point is based on a reductionistic, materialistic method that does not go beyond what our senses can perceive and therefore does not take into account the powers of the spirit and mind. This is why science can’t explain spontaneous healing or the well-studied placebo effect. With the discovery of quantum physics we are now able to get closer to a scientific explanation of those phenomena.

Of course there will always be charlatans that will try to sell snake oil and miracle cures, and there are many highly-trained, licensed physicians that advise unnecessary surgeries or drug regimens. In the end, finding a competent physician comes down to excellence plus integrity, humility and compassion by the medical practitioner.

When an acute disease or emergent condition confronts you, the Baha’i teachings advise you to consult a competent physician trained with our current modern, technically-advanced medicine. But when it comes to preventing disease, healing chronic illness and addressing conditions that require a spiritual approach, you may want to consult a holistic/naturopathic doctor that considers the body, mind and soul together.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

8 Comments

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  • jamshid rowshan
    Sep 26, 2017
    AbdulBaha said in 1904-1906, medicine is imperfect (nonsence)
    You repeat in 2016
    Anti science in XX and XXI century.
  • Taralina Gae'e-Atefi
    Nov 08, 2016
    Yes I agree, Thank you Mark....Antibiotics are absolutely amongst the greatest evidence of progress of modern medicine.....Without antibiotics we would still be victims to the most notorious epidemics in human history - Cholera, the Bubonic plague etc.
    But antibiotics are not used continuously except for infections like TB (6 - 9 months) and some conditions where patients are eg - immunocompromised....thus, it goes well in hand with the INSTRUCTIONS given in the Tablet of Medicine revealed by Baha'u'llah to "Leave off medicines when the health is good" :)
  • May 02, 2016
    Your example of antibiotics as a failure of modern medicine is a poor one. For anyone that was treated with antibiotics, to which nothing else would have saved them from injury and death from an infection, the discovery and use of antibiotics is an example of science being applied to healthcare. Also, antibiotics are best understood in the light of evolutionary biology. Anyone studying evolution would understand that selection pressures exist and that antibiotics have a certain shelf-life, if you will. The red-queen hypothesis applies, as all things evolve. Medicine is whatever works to treat ...the issue at hand based on sound science, everything else simply doesn\'t work as well and shouldn\'t be called medicine. The terms western, holistic, natural, conventional are a waste. As so-called natural treatments and foods are tested to see what is best, then a better understanding and treatment set will result. At this time, we have too many people trying treatments that have little foundation in science just because it is touted as natural. For the most part, these treatments will cause no harm because either the illness is not too harmful itself or the treatment has no action. However, in the cases where a treatment which has not been tested by objective, scientific means delays the patient from attending to something with a treatment that has been shown to work, that delay may cause harm itself. So, as we practice to use two wings, we should use science to balance faith and attend a wise physician who has the evidence to back up the claims of which treatment is best. Remember as well from Abdu\'l-Baha, "The virtues of humanity are many but science is the most noble of them all. The distinction which man enjoys above and beyond the station of the animal is due to this paramount virtue. It is a bestowal of God; it is not material, it is divine. Science is an effulgence of the Sun of Reality, the power of investigating and discovering the verities of the universe, the means by which man finds a pathway to God. All the powers and attributes of man are human and hereditary in origin, outcomes of nature’s processes, except the intellect, which is supernatural. Through intellectual and intelligent inquiry science is the discoverer of all things. It unites present and past, reveals the history of bygone nations and events, and confers upon man today the essence of all human knowledge and attainment throughout the ages. By intellectual processes and logical deductions of reason, this super-power in man can penetrate the mysteries of the future and anticipate its happenings."
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    • John McLaughlin
      Apr 05, 2017
      Well said Mark! Our life-spans are too short for many of us to remember what life was like without antibiotics. I used to be puzzled, reading novels or biographies set in the 19th or early 20th century, where people would spend long months or years in sanatoriums recovering from illness, in the days before antibiotics. For too many today, their opinions regarding antibiotics are shaped by the current misuse of these products. Obviously, the science of medicine still has a long, long way to go, but we should beware that we do not align ourselves with those who, seeing ...medicine's failures, take an anti-science stance and promote superstition.
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  • Clyde Rogers
    Mar 04, 2016
    Finding a "Competent" physician can be very difficult. A license to practice medicine in the United States assures a level of technical competence of the highest order without due consideration for "healing". And healing is accomplished by establishing the "balance" as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá always teaches.
    I had two cataracts replaced and I can't think of a more mechanical service for a doctor to provide and I was anxious to the max but as the surgeon (in whom I had developed confidence) said as he personally wheeled me into surgery "I promise to do my best but it's really God ...who does the healing". Great bedside manner.
    My second medical experience included a four day stay at a top cardiac wing in an East coast hospital where I had several procedures and innumerable tests and left unhealed with drugs and a promise that they would conquer this ailment. In the mean time before any real harm was done, I found that as long as I do not eat apples or any of apples cousins, I do not have the problem I was treated for. Who knows if I will ever know why because no one is looking for that answer.
    One of the best comments I've come across about the subject is:
    "In the end, finding a competent physician comes down to excellence plus integrity, humility and compassion by the medical practitioner."
    Oh wait, I read it here. Good job.
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  • Mia
    Mar 01, 2016
    Thank you for reminding us of the guidance in the writings. Our dependence on pharmaceutical science concerns me, as it tends to veer away from natural and holistic treatment and cures. I greatly appreciate your perspective, thank you for sharing your journey.
  • Feb 28, 2016
    Thank you for this wonderful article Rebecca. I am seeing an excellent Naturopath who has helped me very much where western medicine failed. Wishing you much success in your practice.
  • Alexander Zoltai
    Feb 28, 2016
    I'm not sure this statement of yours is strictly true (but there is the disclaimer under the article :-)
    "When an acute disease or emergent condition confronts you, the Baha’i teachings advise you to consult a competent physician trained with our current modern, technically-advanced medicine."