Science and faith part 2 kiwiconnexion practical theology
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David B: Well, David we’re going to look at
the SciMed Network commission and it’s looked at France, Germany and Britain, and about
1000 scientists have responded from each of those countries to this question of how their
science interfaces with faith, spirituality and religion. I wonder if you could please
– here we are with the first page of your executive summary of the report; health approaches
in these different countries. This is fascinating. What’s the main finding for you, off this
particular data? David L: I think if you look at the – before
we just do that, let me just give you a little bit of background on the survey, which may
be of interest to people; the idea was initiated by Rupert Sheldrake. Rupert had the feeling,
and was approached by the SALVIA Foundation for some ideas. He had the feeling that quite
a lot of scientists might have had interesting experiences or be practicing or be open to
religion and spirituality, but wouldn’t really admit to their colleagues. So, the question
was; if we did a survey on an anonymous basis, would this show that larger numbers of people
were interested in these areas, than might be apparent in the public, because the press
is predominantly what we might call humanistic or enlightenment rationalists. The press is
more inclined towards I think atheism and agnosticism, so they tend to exaggerate I
think the extent to which science is associated with atheism and agnosticism. So that’s a
bit of background. Now, we asked quite a number of different
questions as you’ll see from the survey. If you look at this particular page, the striking
thing is the difference in the different countries of the use of complementary medicine. We asked
if people had used any of these approaches personally in the last five years. So, you’ll
see that France is 40 per cent – this is homeopathy. Germany; 32 per cent. UK; five per cent. There’s
a higher figure in Germany, as you can see for herbal medicine and naturopathy. The naturopathy
is striking in Germany with only eight per cent, and two per cent in the UK and France.
Then French seemed to be much higher on chiropractic, which is interesting.
So, my take-away message here is the culture of the country has a great influence on the
usage of different health modalities. So, in France for instance, you have homeopathic
pharmacies, and you can get homeopathy in mainstream pharmacies. Whereas, in the UK
– and this is a big factor that none of the above figure where the UK says 58 per cent
– there is a very active Quackbusters movement headed by Simon Singh. He’s aiming to illuminate
funding for complementary medicine, and close down as many complementary medical departments
in universities as he can. He’s of the view that there is no reliable evidence for any
of these approaches, which is in fact wrong, but the sceptical movement applied to complimentary
medicine is very strong, as it also is in relation to parapsychology.
David B: Culturally, we’ve got an absolutely fascinating result here because France, which
we considered to be historically the most secular of countries, and likewise to some
extent Germany with its history, have very clear empathy for alternative medical practices.
I don’t even like to use the word alternative medical practices, but there’s an empathy
for that, that we would not expect within that secular society. British…
David L: It’s mainly homeopathy in France, as you can see, because if you look at the
other figures – naturopathy and herbal medicine – they’re much lower – [12:15] homeopathy
and chiropractic as well. David B: Yeah. A group of us went through
the survey and we were really interested in these regional variations, but in the New
Zealand context I would hazard a guess that we would mirror almost exactly the British
simply because of the colonial movement. There’s a fascinating part of New Zealand history
from about 1900 through to post-World War I, when there was an act of parliament that
specifically excluded what were called Tohunga practices.
These were the medical practices of the indigenous Maori people, and the Suppression of the Tohunga
Act was considered to be a kind of a breakthrough thing in terms of improving Maori health.
I would be unsurprised if there weren’t similar kinds of exclusionary things going on in different
ways in UK, France and Germany, but some things have made it through, as it were. When you
said about Simon Singh – very famous in terms of writing books about mathematics and code-breaking
et cetera, but very interesting news to hear that he is spare-heading that sort of rationalist
attack – maybe not unexpected… David L: Yes, exactly. It’s a very old debate,
but it goes on in the areas of complementary medicine and parapsychology, in particular.
David B: Exactly, which is part of your area of brilliant expertise. Religious affiliation,
David; like to guide us through that?