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"The problem is not that TCM is unscientific. The problem is that it is inappropriate to judge TCM using biomedical standards and methodologies." -- John Yang, Dr. TCM., M.D. (China)


When Will the Bias Toward TCM Be Ended?
by John Yang, Dr.TCM.,M.D. (China)


After almost three decades of struggling and processing, B.C. became the first jurisdiction in North America to officially regulate TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practice. Although the By-law is there, the recognition isn't. The reason is that TCM could not be explained from conventional medical and pharmaceutical viewpoints and approaches. Hence, TCM has been labeled as "nonscientific" medicine. This perception has generated much misunderstanding about TCM, and it has not only damaged the TCM profession but it has also harmed the interests of patients and the public.

Though conventional medicine considers TCM "nonscientific", it has not been able to ignore the fact that a large number of patients have been increasingly satisfied with the care provided by TCM practitioners. One must ask: are those patients stupid, or is the label for TCM biased?

As everyone understands, the science behind conventional medicine is predominated by Newtonian principles, which emphasize a mechanical universe made out of matter. In the early twentieth century, scientists recognized that there were indeed "invisible" factors affecting physical matter that were beyond the realms of physics and chemistry. Thus modern physics was born, and the laws of Quantum mechanics replaced the laws of Newtonian mechanics. Surprisingly, the notion of Qi/vital energy, one of TCM's core theories, is very close to the viewpoint of quantum theory. According to TCM, Qi is the basis of all phenomena and is the common denominator of all things in the universe. In the quantum universe, physicists and chemists have restructured their scientific awareness to accommodate an "energy/qi" based universe. In contrast, biomedical science still uses out-dated Newtonian mechanics to describe the "mechanisms" of life.

Using mechanical thinking, medical authorities evaluate and judge TCM using viewpoints and approaches from biomedical science. They assume that biomedical methods and standards such as the RCT and other pharmaceutical study methods can be applied to TCM. When TCM can't be explained by this approach, it is labeled as "unscientific". The consequence of being labeled as "unscientific" is huge. First of all, every year the Federal government grants many millions of dollars to medical research. None of this funding will go to the TCM community. The reason? TCM is unscientific. Secondly, the provincial government is willing to spend over 40% of tax dollars on health care, but it doesn't want to include TCM in the Medical Services Plan. The reason is the same: TCM is unscientific. Thirdly, most patients under the care of TCM practitioners are reluctant to report that fact to their GPs because of the worry of being discouraged from utilizing an "unscientific" practice.

From the above discussion, we can see that the problem is not that TCM is unscientific. The problem is that it is inappropriate to judge TCM using biomedical standards and methodologies. The TCM community should stand and say that there is a fundamental difference between TCM and biomedicine. Only through education will the bias towards TCM be ended.

(This is my personal opinion. If there is different view regarding this article, please email


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