Medical Validity in Eastern and Western Traditions

When comparing biomedical treatments and traditional treatments from China and India, validity is established by a randomized placebo-controlled trial (RPCT). While the advantages of RPCT are uncontestable, its requirements handicap validation of treatments from Eastern traditions, which are integrated within a worldview that encompasses natural philosophy, theology, empirically based clinical experience, and spiritual and moral tenets. RPCT evolved during a time when comparatively little was known about Eastern medical traditions; about the effects of emotional, cognitive, and cultural factors on healing; or about the evolutionary biology and psychology of innate mind/body mechanisms, such as those producing placebo responses, which may constitute evolved adaptations naturally selected during human evolution. A fair way of both securing the advantages provided by RPCT and balancing them with a methodology that ensures safe and efficacious treatments from other traditions can be facilitated by examining medical validity in light of generalizations from evolutionary psychology and the cultural study of medicine.