Sunday 1 August 2010

Models of the body

Scientific method is based around the principles of modelling the world. If I have a theory or hypothesis about how something works, that hypothesis can be described as a "world model". How well the real world matches my model, dictates how valid/useful it is. Models can of course be made ever more sophisticated, to match the complexities of real life, and indeed the whole scientific endeavour is based upon improving the accuracy of these various interconnected models. The point I'm trying to make is that as scientists, we are used to the idea of abstracting the real world into a simplified model and thinking in those terms.

The theories of meridans, energy centres and elements in traditional chinese philosophy (around which the internal arts are based) is just such a model. It is a model of how the body works, of how nature works and is inter-connected. Western medicine also describes the body as a model. Blood vessels, nerves, muscles and organs are all components of this model along with explanations about how they are connected together.

What we have therefore are two different models of the world. Neither one is "correct", they are just different, and approach the body from different perspectives. Each of the two models has strengths and weaknesses and are in turn more appropriate to use in different contexts. Just as in physics light is modelled in two different ways, as a particle and as wave. It depends on the context as to which of these two models for light is more appropriate to use in your particular case. Both the models of light are valid and each brings a different perspective and greater understanding.

In a similar way the Eastern and Western models of the body bring greater understanding. If I break my arm, or otherwise have an accident, I would trust in the Western medicine model and its advanced surgical techniques and pharmaceuticals. However, if I'm interested in feeling less run-down or stressed, want to improve my general health, or otherwise seek to "balance my life", or live in harmony with my surroundings, then it is to the Eastern medicine model that I would trust.

From my perspective both medicine models complement each other to provide a duality of prevention and cure. It is illogical to dismiss one of them, as both provide explanations of specific aspects of the world, that are lacking in the other model and vice-versa. Both models are non-dominated solutions. The tricky bit of course is figuring out when and how it is most appropriate to use each model.

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