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  • Bleeding and Purging to Balance the Humors of the Economy

    Posted by Shannon Love on November 12th, 2010 (All posts by )

    Peter Suderman at Reason [h/t Instapundit] observes in his article on “Quantitative Easing” that:

    There’s a similar sentiment behind arguments for the Fed’s new policy, a simplified version of which goes something like this: Quantitative easing is probably a good idea. Why? Because we need to do something to increase economic activity. Fiscal stimulus is off the table for political reasons (at least). Inflation has been running a little low, which makes it an obvious policy lever. Expanding the monetary supply—and thus spurring on inflation— may not do much, but it’s what can be done. And that means that, well, quantitative easing is a good idea. QE2, motherfucker!

    The old saying, “when the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems look like nails,” doesn’t really give the entire picture. More comprehensively, we should say that when the only tool policy makers have is a hammer, they developed incredible baroque theories to rationalize why hammering is the solution to every problem.

    We have a rather compelling historical precedent for the incredible power of tool driven rationalizations.

    Up until the mid-1800s and the development of scientific medicine, medical theory in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic world centered on the Hippocratic/Galean theory of humors.

    In the humor theory of disease, the body was composed of four humors: blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm each linked to one of the four principle elements of earth, fire, air and water. For any particular person or circumstance, those humors had to be in specific balance and if not, disease resulted.

    In order to treat disease, the doctor had to balance the humors sometimes by adding humors with food or herbs but more often by removing the humor in overabundance. Treatment consisted largely of bleeding, purging (induced vomiting, induced diarrhea) and burning the skin (cupping). While some of the treatment might have done some good in some cases (bleeding helps gout, induced diarrhea could clear intestinal parasites), in the main modern scientific medicine has concluded the treatments not only worthless but actively dangerous. In the vast majority of cases, they made the patients worse.

    The treatments were so bad that most modern scholars of the history of medicine believe that those too poor to afford physicians received superior medical care in most cases. As one scholar put it, Tiny Tim would have been better off if Scrooge never had his change of heart and offered to pay for “the best physicians available.” Subjecting a real life Tiny Tim to the “best” treatments of the 1830s would have most likely significantly hastened his death.

    By contrast, traditional Chinese medicine relied on a different theory of balancing a large number Yin-Yang inspired pairs of complementary properties. Because Chinese medicine arose from a different theory of disease, they developed different treatments. Whereas traditional Western medicine relied on bleeding, induced vomiting, induced diarrhea and burning the skin, Chinese medicine relied on burning the skin, induced diarrhea, induced vomiting and bleeding.

    Yep, same damn thing with a little needle poking tossed in.

    So, why would two nearly entirely unconnected medical traditions, each using a different theory of disease, both arrive at roughly the same ineffective treatments?

    (It’s important here that the treatments were almost entirely ineffective. If the treatments were effective we could just say it was convergent trial and error empirical evolution, just like separate cultures independently develop technologies like bows and arrows.)

    We can best explain this convergence in treatments if we look at the tools that pre-scientific doctors had to use. Beyond a few primitive surgeries and some mildly effective herbal lore, they didn’t have much. Really, when it boiled down to it, bleeding, inducing vomiting, inducing diarrhea and poking, scraping or burning the skin were really the only reliable tools the doctors anywhere could use. They could always bleed someone or make them upchuck. When people begged the doctors to do something, anything, to relieve suffering the doctors in every tradition reached for the same set of tools they all had in common.

    In short, the theory did not dictate which tools they used, the available tools dictated the theory. Doctors looked at the tools they had available and then evolved a theory that justified the use of the tools.

    We do the same thing today in economics. The Keynesian idea of stimulus has no empirical basis, but the only active tool the government has in a time of economic downturn is its ability to borrow and spend. Surprise, surprise: during the Great Depression, governments fell all over themselves to embrace Keynes’s idea of borrowing and spending to “stimulate” the economy. They did so not because it was proven to work (then or since) but because it justified the one action that would make the government larger and more powerful and the political class larger and more powerful as well.

    The Fed is now doing the same thing with inflation “Quantitative Easing”. There is no particular reason to believe that inflating the money supply will produce more real economic activity, indeed the history of the 20th century proves exactly the opposite. However, it is all the Fed can do right now so it is going to grab a convenient theory to justify inflating the currency.

    For centuries, doctors tortured and killed their patients because neither they nor their patients had the courage to simply admit that there was little good the doctors could do. They created elaborate and detailed theories to justify their counterproductive interventions. Worse, after a time, everyone, doctors, patients, philosophers, proto-scientists, etc. all came to regard the tool driven rationalizations as facts. Not until the discovery of the germ theory of disease, quantitative chemistry and a general science of diagnostics did the nonsense theory of humors fade away. The invention of new tools drove the development of new, scientific theories.

    We are doing the same damn thing with the current economic travails. Rather than admit there is little that the government can do to correct its colossal real-estate screwup, we get to witness the economic equivalent of bleeding and induced vomiting all based on a economic theories that have no other reason for existing that to justify the government bleeding and inducing vomiting in the economy.

    “… but it’s what can be done,” could well be one of the most dangerous phrases in the English language. In very many cases, not just economics, the best thing to do is nothing. For any particular bad circumstance, there are near infinite number of actions that can make the circumstance worse but only a very few that can make it better. Indeed, there is no natural law that says that every circumstance can be improved with the capabilities at hand. Sometimes a “can do spirit” backfires. Some circumstances are like earthquakes or tornadoes: you can’t stop them, you just have to ride them out.

    It’s not just that all problems cannot be solved by hammering, it is that some problems just can’t be solved. Sometimes you just have to set and wait. We are economically basically in the shoes of a pre-industrial peasants watching their child fighting off the plague. All those poor people could do was make the child comfortable and pray, but in hindsight the children of the poor were more likely to survive than the children of the rich who were tortured to death by the greatest medical minds of their day.

    “First, do no harm,” shouldn’t just be the oath of physicians, it should be the oath of economists and politicians as well.

    [Update: See also this related post “Quantitative Easing” Equals “$600 Billion Tax Increase]

     

    27 Responses to “Bleeding and Purging to Balance the Humors of the Economy”

    1. Michael Kennedy Says:

      A few quibbles from someone who has written a history of medicine.

      You are correct about physicians. If you read about the great Galen inspired medication called Theriac, you will see just how crazy these remedies were. However, surgery began with Hippocrates in the western world and he has a very good treatise on anal fistula, a fairly common and debilitating condition. His discussion of it includes a technique of curing it that is still used today. The use of a thread, now called a seton, passed through the fistula into the rectum and then pulled out and tied tightly. It will gradually cut through and that cures the fistula. Tracheotomy was described about 200 AD by Celsus. The ligature and the forceps to grasp a bleeding artery were used by Ambrose Pare in the mid 1500s. Jenner observed the effect of previous cowpox infection in farm workers who were immune to smallpox when it swept through the district. He published the results of his experiments in 1798, introducing vaccination. Withering, similarly, observed the effects of a brew made from the leaves of the foxglove plant and introduced digitalis in 1775. Most treatment was worse then the disease but not all.

      I realize that this was not your point and we are talking about the present day economy. My own impression is that economics is a bit like weather forecasting. The subject is simply too complex for predictions. The willingness of political figures to tinker with such a complex system when they are relying on crude tools like those of pre-enlightenment physicians does make the comparison apt.

    2. David Foster Says:

      In times of great stress, it seems to be almost instinctive for a person in authority to try to centralize more control in himself. However, this is often counterprhttps://chicagoboyz.net/archives/17369.html#more-17369oductive, in business and warfare as well as in government. **Reducing** control is scary but necessary, just as in aviation, when an airplane suffers an aerodynamic stall the pilot must force himself to override any instinct to pull back on the yoke and allow the nose to pitch down and the plane to lose a bit of altitude–that being the only way recovery can be achieved.

      Some interesting research on decision-making, including decisions about centralization & decentralization, from Prof Dietrich Doerner.

    3. Shannon Love Says:

      Michael Kennedy,

      Not all practices of pre-scientific medicine were useless or harmful. However, most people who got treated for most illnesses got useless or actively harmful treatment. I always found it interesting that most of the successful treatments, such as cataract surgery, were usually carried out by surgeons who even in the late 1800s were regarded as non-professional tradesmen. In many cases, the more “educated” the doctor, the more useless and dangerous they became because they based their treatments on lofty philosophical theories instead of lower class empiricism. Of course this all changed slowly over the 400 years between the Renaissance and the development of scientific medicine but the main idea remains.

      The important point here is that rather than say, “I don’t know” or “we can’t do anything,” doctors would attempt treatments based on the tools at hand and then create ex post facto theories to justify the use of those tools. Medicine is far from except from this rationalization its just the most dramatic example. Physics in the 1800s took the existence of aether as a given even though no evidence existed for it. Fortunately, they never tried to base life and death decisions on its existence.

      Medical science was stymied for centuries by a lack of tools they needed to really measure medical phenomena. Microscopes were nearly useless until the development of synthetic dies for stains in Germany in the late 1800s. Most bacteria can be seen only dimly without stains and they differently can’t be seen well enough to tell one strain from the other. Without that technological break though, germ theory could never get a purchase. How could you prove that specific organisms produced specific diseases if you couldn’t distinguish the organism.

      Economics is in the same bind. We can’t measure the economy in any useful or realtime fashion. All the metrics we bandy about are highly notional and their definitions constantly changing. Economics is trapped in the pre-scientific era and that is never going to change short term.

      Yet, just like physicians in the era of pre-scientific medicine, economist won’t say, “We don’t know.” They’d rather do something stupid and kill the patient than admit they don’t understand the economy in a useful fashion.

    4. Michael Kennedy Says:

      I agree almost completely with you.

      I guess another way to make my point is that surgeons worked from practical experience and not theory. They actually developed useful methods because the surgeon cannot escape the consequences and the results are obvious. The physician gave the useless medicines and blamed the disease if the patient didn’t get better. Effective medicines are very recent. Roosevelt died of hypertension because there was no effective treatment. Hydrochlorthiazide was discovered the year he died. Surgery became effective about a century before medicine as a field of therapy. A lot of that was because of the obvious outcome of the procedure. There was a clear difference between things that worked and those that didn’t. Military surgeons performed amputations on every open fracture because they knew, prior to Lister’s report in 1867, that open fractures always became infected and the patient died.

      Maybe we would be better off if economic policy was being set by people who were much more concerned with what had worked and what had not. We are drowning in theory right now with this administration.

    5. Claude Hopper Says:

      QE1 ended upside down n Hong Kong harbor. QE2 is likely headed to the same fate and us with it.

    6. David Foster Says:

      MK…”We are drowning in theory right now with this administration.”

      It’s not only with this administration, although they’ve taken it to new heights—we are drowing in overuse and misuse of theory *as a society*, and have been for some time now. See my posts the dictatorship of theory, management mentalities, and management education and the role of technique.

    7. Paul Says:

      To paraphrase Megan McCardle (cannot find quote), whatever is being done right before a recovery is sustained will get credit for healing the economy. Same way the old medical treatments gained credibility. Does not matter if you did it five other times and the patient died; you did not do enough/did too much, etc. Basic treatment still OK.

    8. WasteNot Says:

      It isn’t necessarily the tools – it’s the incentive arrangement. Take a company with a sales forecast and budget. The Company is trailing its sales forecast as it opens the fourth quarter. It can either stay with its existing planning and budget, or take action with an additional promotion with related advertising. Taking no action will not increase costs versus budget, whereas taking action will increase costs. What to do. If the Company’s management takes action and succeeds, then management justifies its decision by pointing to the outcome and takes credit for saving the year. If management takes action and falls below original forecast, it points to the shortfall and compares it to what would have happened without the effort (Company would not have met forecast and would have fallen even further below). If management decides to do nothing, it can make forecast (for which there is nothing about which to take credit), and if management does nothing and the Company fails to make forecast, then it is labeled a failure for having not addressed the poor performance. In such circumstances, management has only incentives to do something, even if it might make the Company fare more poorly economically. The reason management literally has to act is that management has its own incentives in mind, and not the Company’s.

      The same is not true with respect to most crises, because so many are characterized by known outcomes – plumber to repair leaking line, roofer to repair hole in roof, carpenter to replace windows with better insulated ones, treating strep throat, firefighters putting out a fire, a doctor prescribing beta blockers for a person suffering hypertension, etc. Where these perverse incentives do apply is in a chaotic environment where cause and effect remain unknown, such as markets (try investing to experience the feeling), the economy generally, climate, subsidies for housing, subsidies for student loans, Too Big To Fail, etc.). The inability to actually predict outcomes is what creates the disparate incentives and renders the person making the decision able to claim credit where circumstances turn for the better and immune from criticism through the argument that things clearly would have been worse. Any decision maker in such circumstances needs merely claim a counterfactual, such as 3 million jobs created or saved.

    9. Rob Steele Says:

      Just wait till they discover trepanning.

    10. steveaz Says:

      There is a lot of voodoo involved with healing, too, Shannon.

      The placebo effect combines with local tribal patronage, (ie. the doctor and patient’s relative status’ in the community) and with the patient’s hypochondriac yen for grooming attentions, and with animist notions of spirit and belonging to a larger community, to confound the science of healing. Esteem and Magic may be as important to healing as hygienc and diet.

      In both the West and China, whatever method of healing patients sought, it would need to reward the right existing priesthoods and patronages, and appear to reinforce existing archaic orders. And, since the human substrates in China and the West are largely identical, I’m not surprised the two would manifest their “healing” practices in the same dramatic way.

    11. ThomasD Says:

      Rather than admit there is little that the government can do to correct its colossal real-estate screwup, we get to witness the economic equivalent of bleeding and induced vomiting all based on a economic theories that have no other reason for existing that to justify the government bleeding and inducing vomiting in the economy.

      It is worse than that, we are going to be witness to the spectacle of Congress conniving to fix the MERS mess by obivating the rule of law. Thereby demonstrating just how far from a Republic of virtue we have fallen.

    12. Scott Eudaley Says:

      Michael Kennedy is exactly right in equating macroeconomic forecasting (and the resulting policy prescriptions) with weather forecasting. We know that the weather can not be predicting with any accuracy beyond about 7 – 10 days, due to the inherently chaotic nature of the atmosphere. No matter how much data is collected, no matter how many CPU cycles are expended modeling the weather, no matter how many different models are aggregated, the chaotic nature of weather systems prevents any accuracy beyond a certain, highly limited, point.

      An economy is such a chaotic system. In such systems, long-range forecasts with any accuracy are inherently impossible. It is not a matter of not collecting enough data, or inaccurate models. It is mathematically impossible to model chaotic systems except over the shortest timescales. Needless to say, any policy prescriptions based on such models are likely to be woefully wrong most of the time.

      As has been recognized for a long time, the knowledge problem is the fundamental weakness in any centrally planned economy. But the knowledge problem is inherent to any macroeconomic model. Every day, every human being makes literally thousands of “economic” decisions. For example, this morning (a Saturday), I slept in an extra 30 minutes. Not an “economic” decision you say? Wrong. Sleeping in 30 minutes meant my coffee-maker, which starts on a timer, ran for an extra 30 minutes, using a few cents of additional power. Now multiply that by the trillions or quadrillions of decisions made by the hundreds of millions (billions?) of people who affect our economy. How do you model that? At the macro level, an economy is a chaotic system and simply cannot be modeled in any meaningful way.

      Whenever I see an economist making a specific economic prediction months or years ahead, I discount it immediately. No economist, no matter how erudite, can do that. In fact, any economist who makes such a prediction without a dissertation-length list of caveats, “but”s and “on the other hand”s, is either being fundamentally dishonest or simply does not understand the limits to his/her own knowledge.

      Weather forecasters, when discussing long-range forecasts, limit themselves to broad ranges such as “above normal”, “about normal” or “below normal” based on statistical analysis. Anyone promulgating precise long-range forecasts is treated as a charlatan. Economists would be wise to adopt such system.

    13. David Foster Says:

      Economic forecasting is even more difficult that weather forecasting: the weather, as far as we know, does not consciously try to outsmart the models. Many economic players do.

      Nonetheless, businesses and governments must make decisions based on views of the future. In business, it is generally better to focus on improving flexibility and rapid response capability than to invest overmuch effort in precise forecasting. For example, if you are a manufacturer and you make your products in China, you may well have to make assumptions about demand 2 months in the future. If you manufacture the products in the US or Mexico, the forecasting window may shrink to 2 weeks. It appears that numerous companies, when making offshoring decisions, did not give adequate weight to this reality.

    14. Kevin R.C. O'Brien Says:

      People seem to think highly of Michael Kennedy’s history of medicine. The 2004 hardcover seems to have held its value well, on Amazon. Since the author is here, is the HC better illustrated than the paperback, or has the paperback (2009) got any worthwhile updates? For now, the paperback is in my shopping cart (I’m moving house and won’t pull the trigger on book buys for a week or two).

      Shannon was quite insightful, I think, to compare today’s economics to pre-Enlightenment medicine. There are a number of other fields today where the theoretical academic and the practical hand-on person’s approach may diverge. Michael cited weather forecasting, and of course that goes double for long-term climate science. There’s a lot of adjusting the data to fit the theory going on,out there, on all sides of controversial issues. Not the science that I learned.

      Thing is, whether or not we know what effect something has on these complex, dynamic systems, the systems will still have their effects on us. That makes trying to control them almost irresistible for human beings, and therefore for human institutions operated by us human beings, too.

      There’s also a bit of a dark-side effect: as we learn more, we revise and regenerate theories, to integrate the new learning. And then we stand pat on our new, improved theory, convinced we’ve got it right this time… until a new revelation throws us briefly into despair that the theory was any good at all, and then when we recover from the despair drives us to a new round of rationalizations and theory integration.

      This is not to say theory is bad. We have to have some way of containing complex processes in human understanding. But many people, especially those who work with theory a lot, lose sight of the fact that a theory is a model, and a model is a simplification of the subject being modeled. A good model (or lucky modeler) simplifies by leaving out the unnecessary, but only testing the model tells you whether you’re a good (or lucky) modeler.

    15. veryretired Says:

      A very nicely done article, and some very good comments. Another example of why this site is on my daily list.

      I believe the key line from Shannon’s essay was the insight that the default position for statists is always a policy that enhances the power of the state and its cadres.

      This marvelously direct observation of how the politico’s mind works is confirmed over and over again in our history, as well as the history of other cultures.

      What’s the preferred course of action? Why, surprise, surprise, whatever enhances and enlarges state power, and elevates its cadres into even stronger positions of control.

    16. Alan S. Blue Says:

      I wouldn’t mind the spending binge quite so much if there was any semblance of sanity on defining “infrastructure.” If there’s no strong expectation of a sizable rate of return, you’ve just gutted the entire argument for ‘multiplier effects.’ Printing money just to set fire to it isn’t even Keynesian.

    17. Mel Says:

      But there is a solution. Cutting spending, slashing departments, removing czars and devolving decisions to the states.
      Like washing your hands in hot soapy water and lancing a festering boil, it would be very satisfying.

    18. Geoff Says:

      This article helps explain the current resurgence of the Austrian school. Their central insight is that you can’t central plan due to lack of knowledge. That would apply to the Fed as well as Congress, the White House, etc.

    19. Robert Says:

      Government’s only tool is a gun and they must, in every occasion, attempt to rationalize why their gun is the solution. And when they can’t fix problem X by shooting it, they rationlize that problem X was shot the wrong way with the wrong caliber.

      When your only tool is a gun, everything looks like a target.

    20. sol vason Says:

      Antibiotics have been found in Egyptian mummies. This way explain why Egyptian doctors were famous. Tetracycline (last rediscovered in 1948) has been found in Nubian burial sites from 350-550 AD. The Nubian tetracycline was created as a byproduct of beer-making. Drink beer, stay healthy.

      Assassins got that name because many arabs felt Hashish helped hitmen focus on their next hit. Opium is a splendid cure for diarrhea that has been used thru the ages. Also it comforts the wounded and provides inspirational pipe dreams.

      All the plants that are used to make pharmaceuticals are the result of careful breeding over the last 10,000 years, mostly by cavemen and people who ran around naked in the jungle.

      In the past when the economy went sour (both in Europe and the Middle East) the kings/emperors/sultans/caliphs would round up the Jews, take their money, cancel debts owed to them, and kill them. Today we have decided Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, etc (no WASP names) are to blame. The Democrat acts are very old school.

    21. Mlyster Says:

      Returning to the essential thread of the conversation (QE2 and Federal ‘tinkering’): It’s been pointed out somewhere above that we’re drowning in theories. Precisely: because many if not most of the Administration decisionmakers are theorists who’ve never been in the trenches of running a business. Anyone, anyone who so much as ran a restaurant or a nuts ‘n bolts production entity with overseas suppliers and/or clients would see the holes in this tomfoolery: but no, we have a gaggle of professors up there.

      Reminds me of a comment from a friend many years ago, who had climbed the ladder at an electronics firm through sheer work. He became a VP of Something-Or-Another, responsible for hiring and firing new sales managers, account execs, and so forth.
      His insight?
      “I interview these MBAs from Northwestern, Wharton and wherever, that think they know the latest and greatest theories about business growth, and they have their computer models and read the Harvard Business Review: but have they ever made a sales call? Ever sold anything at all, cold? Have they ever had to run a restaurant, and figure out what sells and what doesn’t, and why it changes between Friday nights and Tuesdays? No, And that’s why I look at these geniuses like they’re bugs. Because I learned more about running a business and making sales from waiting tables and selling computer equipment on cold calls than they ever will from any Harvard professor.” Or, something pretty close to that.
      Theories are like military strategies: they fly apart after the first bullet flies. The general that knows how to change his strategy on the fly more effectively, wins. These Administration geniuses, however insist that the plan MUST work, because it’s based on a really interesting paper they published, with some truly elegant structural algorithms back when they were teaching at Princeton blah, blah, blah….
      I’d sooner have a couple of production managers from a tool and die firm and a decent CFO from a midsized company that worked his way through college running the Fed than Bernanke, Geithner and their ilk.

    22. David Foster Says:

      Mlyster…when people spend too much time getting theory-based formal education and not enough time getting actual experience, the model often becomes more real to them than what they see in front of them. C S Lewis, describing the sociologist protagonist of his novel That Hideous Strength, described this phenomenon very well:

      “..his education had had the curious effect of making things that he read and wrote more real to him than the things he saw. Statistics about agricultural laboureres were the substance: any real ditcher, ploughman, or farmer’s boy, was the shadow…he had a great reluctance, in his work, to ever use such words as “man” or “woman.” He preferred to write about “vocational groups,” “elements,” “classes,” and “populations”: for, in his own way, he believed as firmly as any mystic in the superior reality of the things that are not seen.”

    23. GettingReal Says:

      No, no bad mouthing Judeo-Christians for promoting bloodletting won’t fly. God told his people long before the bloodletting began that the life of the flesh was in the blood. This little bit of scientific foolishness can be laid directly at the feet of the scientists who observed God’s creation and made false assumptions about what was going on and then made false assumptions about how to solve the problem.

      Scientists have a tendency to forget that they are supposed to making observations of the physical world God has created and trying to figure out what they can learn from the systems and designs he has put into operation. God also told them the hairs of our head were numbered. Scientists discovered his numbering system and call it DNA. DNA is the way God transfers genetic information from one cell/human/creature to replicate itself in another cell/human/creature. Imagine that. The hairs of our head are all numbered and scientists are just being to figure out the very basics of the numbering system — and they want to take the credit for its existence.

    24. Shannon Love Says:

      GettingReal,

      No, no bad mouthing Judeo-Christians for promoting bloodletting won’t fly

      I wasn’t. If you read the parent carefully you will see that one of my key points was that the same basic medical practices show up wholly unrelated Asian cultures as well. Indeed, my entire point was that the tools drove the theory in different cultures.

      The Judeo-Christian-Islamic cultures are all centered on the crossroads of the Mediterranean and share a common and mutually cross-fertilizing technical, scientific and philosophical culture. As such, they shared the same basic pre-scientific model of human disease. Religion had very little to do with it. Proximity and trade where the major factors.

    25. Mlyster Says:

      GettingReal:
      Yes. Precisely.
      Reminds me of acquaintances who, when confronted with a social situation or news event, respond with “That reminds me of an episode from the Brady Bunch, when Mrs. Brady…..” Really? Your world of relevant analogs is based upon 1970’s sitcoms? Get out much?
      And so it is with our Federal Overlords.
      I believe it was Buckley who made the ‘first 100 names in the NYC phonebook’ comment about governance. I’d modify his statement: preferably the first 535 names in the Dallas or Phoenix phonebook, or at least anywhere that isn’t NYC or Connecticut would make a better Congress than we’ve had for most of the past 100 years.

    26. GettingReal Says:

      Shannon,
      “The Judeo-Christian-Islamic cultures are all centered on the crossroads of the Mediterranean and share a common and mutually cross-fertilizing technical, scientific and philosophical culture. As such, they shared the same basic pre-scientific model of human disease. Religion had very little to do with it. Proximity and trade where the major factor”

      Shannon, there is no similarity between Islamic religion and Judeo-Christian religion. Every doctrine, every tenant is diametrically opposed to each other. Allah is a god that venerates lying as a virtue. The Holy Spirit that comes from God the Father of all creation is the Spirit of Truth, identifies Satan as the Father of All Lies that comes but to steal, to kill and to destroy, and the bible further says that no man comes unto God the Father but by way of grace and truth. No, we do not share a common and mutally cross-fertilized technical, scientific and philosophical anything with Islam.

      In answer to your question “So, why would two nearly entirely unconnected medical traditions, each using a different theory of disease, both arrive at roughly the same ineffective treatments?”:

      My theory is that they identified the fact that sickness and disease was being carried throughout the body by the blood. They failed to adequately realize that the blood also carried the life of the flesh. When the life of the blood is sick, the life of the body follows. When the life of the blood is healthy, the life of the body follows. God’s solution was to give his people laws of hygiene, laws of obedience to his laws so they need not fear, and laws of sacrifice so they knew ultimately healing belongs to God. Today, scientists know that hygiene is the first offense against sickness and disease. The second is to remain calm and stress free (ie. God repeatedly told his people “fear not, I will be with thee”). The third is to believe that God is and that He is good and wants his people to be in health.

      On the economic side of the argument, the problem is the same. Any economic theory recognizes the health of the economy depends upon the flow of the economic resources. When a government rejects God as the supreme power over all of his creation, that government must establish itself as the supreme power because in the heart of every human being is the knowledge that a supreme power must exist. If you reject the true and living God as the supreme power, you must invent powers of your own. Hence, government control of economic resources which to those who do not recognize God as the supreme power economic resources become the supreme power (in their mind) until God moves to demonstrate who the supreme power really is.

    27. Shannon Love Says:

      GettingReal,

      Shannon, there is no similarity between Islamic religion and Judeo-Christian religion.

      I won’t argue theology with you but from secular history that is not true. Islam began as a heavily Christian influenced branch of Judaism. In fact, Mohammed originally sought to join up with Judaism but was rejected by the Jewish community. Originally, Mohammed preyed facing Jerusalem. A major turning point in the story of the Koran was the day when Mohammed turned from preying towards Jerusalem and instead preyed facing Mecca indicating his break from traditional Judaism. Muslims consider both the Old and New Testament sacred text and they view Jews and Christians as imperfect Muslims. Hence, their term “People of the Book” to describe Jews, Christians and Muslims.

      More to my point, in terms of non-religous information, there quite definitely was intense cross-fertilization. Algebra is an Arabic phrase al-Je-bre meaning “of restoration” or “of Damascus”. Chemistry comes from Alchemy which is from the arabic “Al-Klyem” meaning “of the Klyem” which was an old name for Cairo.

      Jews, Christians and Muslim all shared the same basic cosmology, the same philosophical idea and the same pre-scientific natural philosophy. As such, they form a distinct cultural group relative to the rest of the world. From that secular point of view, theological differences between are largely irrelevant. After all, despite their religious differences, they all used gunpowder when it showed up. The same occured with medical technology and the theories used to justify the use of those technologies.