1913 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)  
The existence in the community of various schools and sects, flourishing and popular, each claiming to present a complete system of medical practice, is a vexatious condition constantly confronting the medical profession. The regular profession feels that scientific medicine, being grounded on rational and comprehensive principles, while far from perfect, possesses an entirely different status from that of the sects, and has unimpeachable claims to acceptance. The point of view of the
more » ... physician makes him unable to perceive any rational basis for sectarian dogmas, and the credence and support which they receive arouse his indignant amazement and exasperation. It brings a shock to our self-esteem when we discover that the public does not accept us at our own valuation, but that in many quarters exist misunderstanding, distrust and antagonism against the medical profession. The experience of t he profession in connection with legislative propositions on medical matters has brought a keen and mortifying realization of the extent and fervor of the opposi¬ tion to medicine. When, however, we contemplate the zeal, enthusiasm and faith of the devotees of the pseudoniedical sects; M'lien we consider the large numbers of their adherents; "ben we appreciate that their following comes from the most reputable, most substantial and most intelligent sections of the community-from the belter rather than flie lower classes of society-then we should begin to ' ' ilize thai lliese popular beliefs arc not tbe product°f perversity or wickedness or ignorance, but result from powerful causes deeply rooted in human nature. To 'iniore these causes, to deny whatever merit or justifica¬ tion the sects may possess, is to meet tbe situation inef¬ fectively. In view of its manifest powerful hold on miman nature we should look on medical sectarianism as a psychologic phenomenon presenting a definite scientific problem, and study its causes, nature and mani¬ festations in precisely the same dispassionate way as we Would investigate any other pathologic condition. PSYCHOLOGY OP MEDICAL BELIEFS , A consideration of the psychologic processes involved " the formation of human beliefs, especially medical reliefs, is essential to an adequate understanding of '" ' lical sectarianism. I'heoi-etically tbe formulation of beliefs is a function°-i\w intellect nal side of the mind. With perfect°P *3ration of the menial faculties truth would be elab-orated wilh the unerring and unfeeling mechanical accuracy of an adding or calculating machine. Thai is the ¡deal method lo be aimed at in the attainment of knowledge; beliefs so formed may be relied on as embodying truth. I n fortunately, however, the emotional side of the mind is apt to interfere with the proper working of tbe intellect, and disturbing influences arc brought into action which pervert the judgment and lead to error in the conclusions arrived at. There are a number of powerful natural propensities inherent in human nature which influence and dominate human activities, such as the love of life, the sexual instinct, (he love of action, the love of knowledge, the love of pleasure, and the love of beauty. These propensities also influence belief, those most potent in affecting the medical beliefs of mankind being the love of life and the thirst for knowl¬ edge. The love of life is one of the most fundamental and powerful instincts of man and animals. "Selfpreservation is the first law of Nature;" as a race indif¬ ferent to existence might easily become extinct, the instinct for self-preservation and the intense desire for life constitute a biologic character of the highest potency in the perpetuation and evolution of tbe race. This somatic instinct-manifested as patbopbobia, the fear of disease, the dread of pain, the horror of death-is a primal element in human nature, constant and insis¬ tent in its action in normal persons and in its exag¬ geration one of the commonest manifestations of mental disorder. All our thoughts and actions are influenced by this instinct. Everything relating to disease and its (real ment is of Ihe ill most interest to people in general, and invested wilh mysterious fascination; and the dis¬ proportionate and excessive concern of man in his Somalie well-being is apt to have a disturbing efl'ei i on the format ion of his medical beliefs. In his terror at the dangers threatening life and health man will grasp al straws, and in his desperate eagerness for help and comfort may form too hasty judgments and put mis¬ placed confidence in specious and fallacious ideas. A similar influence is exerted by man's concern and anxiety for the well-being of his loved ones, by humani¬ tarian impulsions and by tbe sexual instinct. An insatiable thirst for knowledge is another domi¬ nan! (rail, in human nature. Just as a superabundance of physical energy or ••animal spirits" leads to exuberant physical activity, so does man's superabundance of men¬ tal energy lead In exuberant intellectual activity. The human mind confidently aspires to mastery and com¬ prehension of the entire universe, and is reluctant to admit thai anything is beyond its powers. Human nature is not satisfied with merely miscellaneous infor¬
doi:10.1001/jama.1913.04340050001001 fatcat:xn7rqhzqtvhjbhngna2v633pgi