Dear colleagues and friends,
In the blue sky of Hong Kong, over the turquoise South China Sea, lush green islands are seductively visible through veils of white silky clouds. Contrasting this beautiful view of the world from the sky with the solemn mourning in China over the quake disaster, I felt a rush of contradicting emotion that mixes a deep sense of sadness in the human suffering and the continued aspiration of humankind to a positive future of hope and beautiful dreams. Does such a contradictory reality reflect the true nature of things as we see it… and beyond? I could not help but to seek the wisdoms of Lao Tse, Hegel and Einstein to explain the phenomenon. Perhaps only poetry would sooth me emotionally. I started to find comforts in the poetic lines of Qu Yuan and Shakespeare.
Millions are affected and a potential death toll of nearly 100, 000, I learned of this disaster with a text message of sympathy from David Tredinnick MP upon landing in the Beijing Airport. The sudden news of calamity was very much evidenced by the heavy atmosphere of the airport which is usually vibrant and lively. The graphic pictures and stories of thousands of school children being buried under the rubbles gave me a sense of sadness that I have never experienced in my life. On my way to the educational conference at Tianjin University of Chinese Medicine, I also learned that many universities I am related to, have students, whose families have been killed or affected in the disaster. Linking it with the Myanmar cyclone disaster and the famines in Africa, I was surmounted by a surreal sense of human reality beyond the threat of economic recession, credit crunch or the academic debates in medicine. It was difficult to cope with the feeling of frustration, both emotionally and mentally in my inability in the face of the awesome might of natural forces.
Humankind is entering a turbulent period of uncertainty economically, socially and ecologically. With uncertainty, the dynamics of change quicken. A heightened sense of search for new values, new knowledge and a new global balance is necessary in the emerging 21st century new order. To do this, we have to question the depth of our understanding of nature and our world despite the progress of science and technology.
The real issue that challenges us is not merely physical survival, or material prosperity; it is one of relationship – our relationship with nature and with each other. This involves a better understanding of our universe and the development of new human values in our era of globalisation. Differences in values cause many problems in our brave new world. The inflation of oil, rice and other commodity prices and the credit crunch may damage our financial stability, but it is human values that will determine war and peace.
All these thoughts bring me back to the idea of ‘integration”. I am not just thinking of integrative medicine, I am thinking of cross-fertilisation of cultural values, ideas and economic collaborations. To me an integrated world does not mean a homogenous one, but one of diversities organically linked for mutual sustainability.
In a recent charity event in aid of the quake disaster, the Chinese Ambassador in London, Madam Fu Ying gave a moving account of the heroic stories during the rescue. the vivid pictures of suffering resurfacing in my mind, recounting my two weeks experience in China. Amidst the songs of East and West, a noble spirit of integration was echoed by a passionate speech from Sir David Brewer in solidarity with the suffering Chinese people. This evening was a brilliant example of my concept of “diversities organically linked for mutual sustainability”. “Globalisation” is now replaced by “glocalisation” in a “win-win” situation of perfect Yin and Yang balance. In the face of adversity, we need a sense of compassion and unison. A performance of the Chinese dance “One Thousand Hands Guan Yin”” by the China Disabled Performing Arts Troupe at this charity evening led us to an expression of our noble human spirit despite the differences in our ideology.
The apocalypticism of many economic prophets such as George Soros on current global economic crisis may be worrying. The calamity of natural disasters and ecological problem such as global warming may be alarming. But let us not bemoan, blame or descend into defeatism. We should now re-examine our values, review our knowledge with a spirit of integration and solidarity. We will enter into a new relationship of global harmony; overcome our crisis into a better tomorrow.
As Forbes Magazine periodically reminds us of the ranking of our world billionaires, I would like to share with you a new word I have just learned, namely “Googolplex”, the highest denomination in numbers beyond billions and trillions. The number is writing one, followed by writing zeroes until you get tired. If our society is keeping on the ideal of purely acquiring wealth, making profits and creating shareholder values, I wonder how many of us will have the energy of becoming “googoplexillionaires” …… and what is the ultimate point of our human civilisation ? The important point is looking after “ 1 ” which is our “body-spirit”, and the zeroes will look after themselves!
Back to reality, I would like to share with you a letter from me to Professor Jeremy Nicholson as part of the CUC –TCM Week email exchanges on the validity of Chinese Medicine.
Let’s start a lively debate……and initiate actions to overcome our difficulties together. I hope you enjoy the rest of the year of recession, and please come back to me with your comments.
Letter to Professor Jeremy Nicholson
Sent: Tuesday, May 13, 2008 4:05 PM
Subject: Update on TCM Week at Royal Society of Medicine (27 July – 2 August, 2008)
Dear Jeremy et al,
Your concern on the scientific validity of Chinese medicine is an understandable one from the position of a serious evidence-based research scientist. Your challenge is not the first and by no means the last being thrown at the fundamental system methodology of Chinese medicine. Hitherto there has been no adequately structured answer to your challenge from the Chinese medicine circle. During the last CUC meeting on 30th April 2008 at Brunel University I gave a talk on this very subject “Chinese medicine system methodology and science”. The debate is ongoing in China and around the world. Not only are you welcome to the debate but in my opinion it is necessary for top scientists to participate in order for us all to progress in the search for knowledge that defines human civilisation and our evolution.
Here I would like to put your challenge in a broader perspective:
1. The intellectual history of human kind in both Eastern and Western traditions has thus far arrived at broadly two methodologies in the Cognitive theory of knowledge. One is a philosophical approach based on cognitive logic e.g. Hegelian Dialectics. The other one is scientific method based on empirical evidence in experimental science. The mathematical model in science cannot be classified as hard objective evidence and therefore only theoretical postulation in logical symbols that belongs to neither science nor philosophy. Linguistic philosophers such as Bertrain Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein tried to clarify the issues but did not succeed in my opinion.
Jeremy, your challenge basically is a philosophical one cloaked in scientific language.
Here, I wish to clarify that we must not complicate the debate by introducing issues such as the economics of pharmaceutical medicine and the FDA or MHRA in the regulatory aspects of medicine. These are not core issues in the philosophical challenge you just raised. To take acupuncture for example, it must be viewed as an integral part of Chinese medicine before you can understand its validity. This is a philosophical approach based on the concept of Yin & Yang balance of energy the imbalance change of which explains disease. Even so, the Neurotransmitter Mechanism of acupuncture is well accepted by most scientists to prove the validity of acupuncture. The concept of Yin & Yang is mirrored in the latest discovery in astrophysics on the imbalance of “Dark energy and visible positive energy” explaining the expansion of our universe.
2. “Medicine is not an exact science… Scientific data depersonalises the doctor/patient relationship (we need) a holistic view of care in treating the patient and not the Symptoms”
May I quote the above from a paper given by Prof. Heinz Wolff at Brunel University on the occasion of his 80th birthday on the 29th April 2008 organised by Prof. Ian Sutherland, the day before the CUC meeting.
As one of the highest profile UK scientist, Prof. Heinz Wolff came to the above conclusion on his 80th birthday. He echoes the insecurity of the empirical evidence view of science, the foundation of which has been shaken since Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity and the latest development of Quantum Theory in particle physics. My lecture on the 30th April 2008 drew the parallel between the philosophical analysis of Chinese medicine to the Relativity-Quantum Theory in New Science.
May I quote Einstein and Niels Bohr, both brilliant scientific thinkers to illustrate my warning to the Evidence based scientists of the old Newtonian Mechanistic School of empiricism, that their very foundation is being shaken under their feet:.
“All my attempts to adapt the theoretical foundation of physics to this (New type of) knowledge fail completely. It was as if the ground had been pulled out from under one … …” – Albert Einstein from P.A. Schilpp “Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist” page 45
“The great extension of our experience in recent years has brought to light the insufficiency of our simple mechanical conception and, as a consequence, has shaken the foundation on which the customary interpretation of observation was based” – Niels Bohr, Physicist Atomic physics and the description of nature” Page 2
In the dawn of a new science, philosophical thoughts are again essential to stabilise the uncertainty in scientific thinking on the true nature of our universe or multiverses according to the 11 dimensional view of the String Theorists in particle physics. Seeing is no longer believing! (See “Warped Passages’ by Prof. Lisa Randall) Chinese medicine and western evidence based medicine is part and parcel of this broader multidisciplinary debate in the theory of knowledge between science and philosophy – both at the macro and micro level.
The Cognition of man and the philosophy of social-economic change is also part of the interconnected pattern of existence and its dynamic of change. The Chinese looks at the pattern of change in the balance of health and disease within the body in the same way.
3. In perspective focusing on medicine, the evolutionary knowledge of Chinese medicine over the 5000 years of its history, survives until today. This objective fact must show that Chinese medicine methodology is clinically effective. Saying that we must take Chinese medicine “out of the dark age” or “Chinese medicine coming of age” is nonsense even in the scientific context as illustrated above in the discoveries of New Science.
Whether the TCM Week is the right venue for such a debate, or the audience at the TCM Week will be interested in more practical issues, should not be the reasons for you or other scientists not to participate in the forum of debate. As someone interested in such a difficult challenge as modernization of Chinese medicine and its integration within western societies, you should definitely attend.
The cutting edge of scientific thinking is philosophy. Evidence based experimental science is built on the philosophical concept of empiricism fortified by Newtonian physics. The New Science of Relativity-Quantum theory is edging close to the frontiers of philosophy like Chinese medicine!
This intellectual debate is on going. I hope my comments are viewed as constructive by both sides of the argument.
With my best regards,
Benny, Man Fong Mei
Professor Man Fong Mei
Chairman, Chinese Medical Institute and Register
Chairman, China-UK Consortium for Medical Integration, Research and Collaboration (CUC)
Chairman, Chinese Medicine Council (CMC)
Vice Chairman, World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies (WFCMS)
101-105 Camden High Street
London NW1 7JN
Tel: +44(0)20 7388 6704
Fax: +44(0)20 7387 8081
THE MFM E-LETTER expresses the personal view of Professor Man Fong Mei on health, medicine and other East-West intellectual issues. He is currently the Chairman of the Chinese Medical Institute and Register (CMIR)，Chairman of The Chinese Medical Council, UK（CMC）, and Executive Chairman, Consultative Working Committee of the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies (WFCMS). Professor Mei has published and delivered numerous papers in the past two decades. He is also a professor and visiting professor at three Chinese medical universities and an active member of several medical specialty research committees. If you are interested in receiving future issues of the MFM E-Letter, please visit http://www.acumedic.com/email-updates/mfm_e-letter/ to subscribe for free.
You can also follow Professor Mei on Twitter: @Prof.Mei
The content of this e-letter does not constitute a statement of guarantee of any kind. It is subject to change without notice and without prejudice.