Monday, May 23, 2011

Popular Science on the Nonscientific Status of Vitalism - 1884-04

here, I go BACK into the 1800s and cite from an article in Popular Science Monthly regarding the nonscientific status of vitalism:

William G. Stevenson, M.D. writes in "Physiological Significance of Vital Force" (PSM 1884-04, pp. 760-773:

"modern science has so extended the horizon of our mental perspective, has achieved such brilliant triumphs in so many departments of thought, and, on the basis of verified fact, has erected such an imposing superstructure of useful knowledge in the domain of inorganic nature, that some, rejecting the vitalistic theories of the past, have accepted the belief that the deeper mysteries of vital phenomena will, in final analysis, be demonstrated to be but resultants of physical forces acting under complex conditions of organization [p.760...] to some, 'vitalism' yet maintains its position in the philosophic realm or organizations, and a 'vital force,' independent of and antagonistic to physical force, yet presides over the manifestations of organic bodies.  This, if true, necessitates 'two distinct sciences and two distinct orders of nature,' which, though related, are not reciprocal. This view is not in harmony with either chemical, physical, or biological science of the present day, and stands in direct contradiction to the accepted doctrine of the correlation and conservation of energy [...] matter, or material organization, is, therefore, so far as human knowledge goes, an absolute condition upon which all life-manifestations depend, and to assert, as do the 'vitalists,' that this vital energy -- an agency which cannot be verified, though dependent upon a material condition for a display of its actions -- is not related to it, but is independent of it and under distinct and antagonistic laws, is an assumption at variance with scientific truth and reason [p.765]."

Note: yes, this was written in 1884. The full version is available for free at books.google.com. Naturopathy, meanwhile, absurdly claims that vitalism survives scientific scrutiny NOW.  Notice that vitalism was science-ejected EVEN BEFORE the discovery of DNA.

I'll repeat what the author so eloquently states: vital energy is an assumption at variance with scientific truth and reason.  Yet, somehow naturopathy schools were started in the late 1900s [such as UB; and NUHS in 200x with the 's' standing for SCIENCES] and label such vitalism [and similar science-ejected kind] "science", and engaged in educational commerce based on such falsehoods.
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