What is science?
The potentization problem 
an introduction

During the last 20-25 years, a conflict has been taking place at different levels and in different forms between a more natural-scientific and a more spiritual-scientific tradition in medicine.
        Around 1980 two works dealing with the conflict were published in connection with the founding of the first anthroposophical university in Witten-Annen in Germany. 
        The first was Grundlagen einer essentialen Wissenschaftstheorie by Helmuth Kiene (Urachhaus 1980). In the book the author argued against the fruitfulness of contemporary theory of science as a help in understanding the conflict. He meant that it was possible and necessary to develop a paradigmfree theory of science based on conceptual realism and tried to show how this could be done on the basis of the work of Rudolf Steiner. 
        The second book was Der Wirksamkeitsnachweis für Arzneimittel. Analyze einer Illusion by Gerhard Kienle, Rainer Burckhardt et al (Urachhaus 1983) and dealt with methodological problems in clinical medical research from an anthroposophical point of view. 

During the same years I wrote two articles on related themes in the then newly founded Nordisk tidskrift för antroposofisk medicin (Nordic Journal for Anthroposophical medicine). 
        The first article; What is science? was a small academic paper on some aspects of the roots of the conflict between the two traditions in medicine. 
        The second article; The potentizing problem, was the result of one year of work doing civil (military) service in the form of a project on anthroposophical medicine together with a friend, who is now an anthroposophical doctor. 
        As I have not seen some of the points of view put forth in the articles elsewhere, neither then, nor later, I have translated and edited the them slightly to make them available to a somewhat greater audience. 

The first article tries to show that you don't have to discard of the paradigm concept, but how it is also possible to use the concept, as it was developed by Kuhn and has later been developed further by Törnebohm at the University of Gothenberg, as a startingpoint for an understanding of some of the roots of the conflict. It also draws heavily on the thoughts of Dieter Lauenstein in his Die vier Denkmodelle des Abendlandes (Urachhaus 1976), for which I am very grateful. 
        The main point of the article is that it shows how you can understand the "spiritual scientific" and the "natural scientific" traditions and the relation between them as a reflection of the structure of the sense-organisation (5 ones) of the human being. As a consequense of this it leads to the question how a science, striving to based on man in his totality in the form of an "anthroposophy", can be developed without doing justice, not only to the "aristotelian" and "platonic" views of "the spiritual scientific tradition", but also to the understanding and perspectives developed by the "atomists" and "pythagoreans-mathematicians" of "the natural scientific tradition". 

The second article tries to sketch and outline some of the basic problems facing you, when you try to understand the process of potentization, from the double perspective developed in the first article.
        No great development has taken place in the research field on homeopathy, as far as I know, since the article was written. There has been some uproar that soon faded away in New Scientist in 1987-8 around the work of Benveniste, Davenas and others in Paris and other places. A Documentation Project on Research in Homeopathy and The Berlin Journal on Research in Homeopathy was initiated by prof Joachim Hornung of the Free University in Berlin in 1991 but was closed down some years later because of shortage of funding. 
        Marco Righetti in Switzerland has however done a very good job collecting, going through, summarizing, evaluating and making an overview of the whole research field (Forschung in der Homöopathie, Göttingen: Burgdorf 1988). 
        But the research still mainly seems to stand on square one, greatly as a result of the problem to understand the potentizing process theoretically and the basic problem of the unpredictable reproducibility of the researchresults in experimental environments. 
        The necessity to develop research in the field further, partly following the demands of the developing jurisdiction within EU in the field of "alternative medicine", has also prompted a cooperation between different anthroposophical medical and scientific institutions to find at least the best reproduced experimental system, that could serve as a model for further research. 
        The result of the project was presented last year to the working group, and pointed to the use of mustard seeds in an experimental system, as the one with the best documented reproducible results.
        Another research group, more rooted in the homeopathic tradition, is trying to develop an understanding of the potentizing problem based on an understanding of man as an electromagnetic being, and organizes regular small informal conferences. 
        The work draws important inspiration from the work of among other Gerhard Resch (Dr) and Viktor Gutmann (Prof of chemistry at the Technical University of Vienna), who in 1987 published an english translation of their book Scientific Foundations of Homeopathy (Barthel and Barthel Publishing in Germany). 
        Otherwise great inspiration still seems to be sadly lacking for the research in the field. 
        Maybe the articles will at least contribute to some new thoughts on the problem. 

        Stockholm in Februari 1994 
        Sune Nordwall 

This page was last modified on May 31, 1998 

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