I know that Dr. Weil is relatively credible. I don't think that an article in this vein could have been published ten years ago -- at least not by a reasonably credible source.
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quote:Originally posted by Herblay: I know that Dr. Weil is relatively credible.
quote:The Natural Mind (1972) is mainly a criticism of American drug policy and an exposition of Weil's views on the interaction of psychedelic drugs with the mind. It also expounds his general philosophy of mind-body relations upon which much of his later writings on health and healing is based. The seventh chapter, entitled "A Trip to Stonesville," should be required reading for all who would understand the origins of Weil's belief in the healing power of the mind. It is a startling document -- a sharply drawn manifesto of New Age biology, a direct challenge to the scientific basis of conventional medicine, and a revealing window on Weil's style of thought. And, since a theory of mind-body relations is central to most current formulations of alternative medicine, this chapter must be considered one of the movement's most important philosophical statements. It merits a detailed examination.
According to Weil, many of his basic insights about the causes of disease and the nature of healing come from what he calls "stoned thinking," that is, thoughts experienced while under the influence of psychedelic agents or during other states of "altered consciousness" induced by trances, ritual magic, hypnosis, meditation, and the like. He cites some of the characteristics of "stoned thinking" that give it advantages over "straight" thinking; these include a greater reliance on "intuition" and an "acceptance of the ambivalent nature of things," by which he means a tolerance for "the coexistence of opposites that appear to be mutually antagonistic." In Weil's view, intellect, logic, and inductive reasoning from observed fact are the limited instruments of "straight" thinking, and should be subservient to guidance by the intuitive insights that are gained during states of altered consciousness and "stoned" thinking.
Weil tells us that "the history of science makes clear that the greatest advancements in man's understanding of the universe are made by intuitive leaps at the frontiers of knowledge, not by intellectual walks along well-traveled paths." He neglects to add, unfortunately, that to be successful these "intuitive leaps" had to explain all of the relevant observed facts. Intuition can be a valuable tool for interpreting the facts, and even for guessing what the facts will prove to be, but it cannot substitute for the facts. Yet Weil may not agree with this. He asserts that "there exists within us a source of direct information about reality that can teach us all we need to know." Does he mean that this inner "source" need not conform to observed facts? Apparently so, because chapter seven's main thrust is to assert the primacy of intuition over observation. In Weil's mind, intuition, no matter how bizarre and unsubstantiated, rules the day. But if intuition rules, how would we find the truth when one person's intuition conflicts with another's? Weil does not appear to consider that a problem, either. For, as "stoned thinking" reveals, there is not one truth, but many truths. Reality itself is basically "ambivalent."
Weil notes that the wisdom of "stoned thinking" is reflected in the teachings of Oriental philosophies and religions, which have always understood the essentially "ambivalent" nature of reality. He further contends that, with quantum theory, modern physicists have pursued this idea about the paradoxical ambivalence of reality into the subatomic world, "where they find that entities like electrons and photons can exist either as waves or particles, energy or matter." "Ordinary consciousness" cannot accept such riddles, he says, but modern physicists can, and so can those who learn "stoned thinking." In states of "altered consciousness" we wipe out contradictions and resolve perplexities such as the mind-body problem. We see that "mind and body are really the two expressions of the same phenomenon--just as waves and particles are two phases of expression of the entity called an electron." I will return to Weil's invocation of quantum physics in support of his arguments, because it reflects a basic misunderstanding that underlies much of the present revolt against science and science-based medicine.
There is more of this kind of thing in the remainder of his "Stonesville" chapter, much of which defies rational belief or is just plain wrong about the facts. Weil states, for example, that "stoned" thinking enables us to gain control of our autonomic, or involuntary, nervous system, and that the practical application of this thinking in the form of "autonomic feedback control" enables patients to control high blood pressure more effectively and safely than by the use of antihypertensive drugs. He claims that allopathic physicians "have no effective drug for high blood pressure." Now, even in 1972, when The Natural Mind was first published, this statement was dubious, to say the least; and it was certainly false in 1985 when the book was republished and supposedly updated. Weil tells us that patients can be taught to lower their blood pressure by a form of training called "feedback control." The fact is that "feedback control" (or "the relaxation response," as it is called by Dr. Herbert Benson, its chief advocate and another well-known guru of alternative medicine) produces at most only small and usually transient reductions in blood pressure. Feedback control has never been shown to be as effective in the long-term control of moderate to severe hypertension as any of a variety of pharmacological agents prescribed for this purpose. There are always risks of side effects with any active pharmaceutical, and antihypertensive agents are no exception. When properly used, however, they have proven beyond reasonable doubt to be a major advance in medical therapeutics. In fact, they are one big reason for the significant decline over the past three decades in the incidence of stroke, heart failure, and kidney failure, all of which can result from uncontrolled, severe hypertension. Weil would have been correct if he had simply observed that anti-hypertensive drugs are often used excessively, particularly when blood pressure is only mildly elevated. He would also have been correct had he suggested that a reduction in stress and a change in diet and lifestyle will often help in the management of such cases. But in The Natural Mind he suggests that self-treatment is the treatment of choice in many if not most cases. In his more recent books about self-healing approaches to health care, he is more prudent: he advises patients to check their own blood pressure and to seek guidance from an allopathic physician if simple remedies are not working. Unfortunately, the antiallopathic thrust in his teaching is more apt to be heeded than his cautions and his qualifications. Seriously hypertensive patients who delay seeking proper medical treatment may, as a result, suffer great harm. The neglect of available and often effective standard medical treatment for many kinds of illness would seem to be an inevitable consequence of the dogma promulgated in the seventh chapter of The Natural Mind.
Here are other examples of Weil's casual dismissal of common sense and medical fact in this chapter, and of his penchant for sweeping generalizations that cannot stand analysis. "My intuitions about disease are: first, that its physical manifestations are mostly caused by nonmaterial factors, in particular by unnatural restraints placed on the unconscious mind; and second, that the limits to what human consciousness can cause in the physical body are far beyond where most of us imagine them." Or, again: "Since leaving the world of allopathic practice, I have witnessed a number of impressive nonallopathic cures of ... dramatic illnesses, including cancer and life-threatening infections." And later: "To the straight mind nonallopathic healing sounds very mystical. Faith healing is held in contempt by most rational people, despite the abundant evidence of cures." (The italics are mine.)
Weil's later books make many claims for such "cures," as we shall see, but despite his reference to "abundant evidence," he almost never gives us anything more than the claim itself -- unsupported by objective and documented observations. To Weil, subjective belief, if persuasive enough to the patient, should be adequate to support the claim of reality. And by "reality" he does not refer simply to the patient's state of mind, but to the physical dimensions of the disease itself. The allegedly miraculous "cures" are not simply dramatic improvements in symptoms, but the disappearance of all physical evidence of disease. And why shouldn't this be reasonable if one believes, like Weil, that consciousness is the primary reality and that the physical aspects of disease, indeed the entire material world itself, are simply another aspect of mind?
The extent to which Weil reveres consciousness regardless of its thought content is revealed in the final sections of his "Stonesville" chapter. Here he favors us with his views on psychosis, on the Jungian theory of shared universal consciousness, and on the reality of mental telepathy, extrasensory perception, and hallucinatory experiences. On psychosis: "Psychotics are persons whose nonordinary experience is exceptionally strong ... every psychotic is a potential sage or healer." With regard to the National Institute of Mental Health's research efforts to find the physical basis of psychosis: "If it sticks to its present course, NIMH will be the last institution in America to recognize the positive potential of psychosis -- a potential so overwhelming that I am almost tempted to call psychotics the evolutionary vanguard of our species. They possess the secret of changing reality by changing the mind; if they can learn to use that talent for positive ends, there are no limits to what they can accomplish." With respect to C.G. Jung's ideas, Weil says: "It appears that at some level of the unconscious we pass beyond personal awareness into a universal awareness unlimited by time and space. Most of us may think we never experience such a thing, but it may be that we simply never pay attention to it. I am convinced it happens." He then cites examples of such experiences caused by the ingestion of hallucinogenic herbs in Indian sacramental rituals. About shared consciousness and mental telepathy, he has this to say: "Not only do I think each of us can share consciousness, I think all of us are already doing it all the time.... Extrasensory perceptions are not unusual talents possessed by specially gifted individuals. They are normal unconscious events, and scientists who attempt to document them by laboratory experiments will never get to experience them directly."
quote:To the best of my knowledge, Weil himself has published nothing in the peer-reviewed medical literature to document objectively his personal experiences with allegedly cured patients or to verify his claims for the effectiveness of any of the unorthodox remedies he uses.
Hmm. That's about 10 pages of fairly strong critique from a single MD that seems to have a beef with the guy. I'll have to admit that I didn't know much about him to start with. Conversely, from Wikipedia:
- Forbes on-line magazine wrote: "Dr. Weil, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, is one of the most widely known and respected alternative medicine gurus. For five years, he has offered straightforward tips and advice on achieving wellness through natural means and educating the public on alternative therapies" and listed his web site in their Best of the Web Directory in the "Alternative Medicine" category, listing it as one of the three "Best of the Web" picks in that category.
- Weil appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 1997 and 2005. Time Magazine also named him one of the 25 most influential Americans in 1997 and one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2005.
- He received the John P. McGovern Award in Behavioral Sciences from Smithsonian Associates in 2005.
- Weil was honored by the Institute for Health and Healing in San Francisco as their 2006 Pioneer in Integrative Medicine.
- He was inducted into the Academy of Achievement in 1998.
- Dr. Weil was honored by the New York Open Center in 2004 as having made "extraordinary contributions to public awareness of integrative and complementary medicine."
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I don't know how the research has turned out but I know of at least 2 respectable labs that worked withe Weil on investigating his research. One was a plant lab that looked at how much variation there was in plants for different vitamins and other compounds. This would be useful for comparing dosages in the whole natural foods. Another research project that Weil was working with did other research on diseases with nutritional deficiencies. So, while Weil wasn't doing that research, he was working with people who had the knowledge to do good research. I don't know if he would be listed on those publications and I don't know what that research ended up showing (these were labs I worked at like a decade ago). However, I was impressed that he was trying to do good research in a field that is notorious for crap.
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All drugs are in some sense poisons; we take them because they kill tissue (here including bacteria) we don't want faster than they kill tissue we do want. That's the basis of chemotherapy. Of course it's perfectly possible that some strains of the cannabis plant may contain a poison useful for chemotherapy, ie one that kills some kind tumorous cells faster than healthy cells. It may even be that the active ingredient, ie whichever chemical it is that you smoke the stuff to get, is that poison. But whether these studies demonstrate that such is the case, well, there's another question entirely.
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Weil is still a quack even if he is a well published quack who gets accolades for granting 'inroads' to real medicine. He still spends the majority of his energy perpetuating nonsense ideas.
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