Introducing Knowledge-based Medicine - Conference Presentation - Medicine is not science: Guessing the future, predicting the past.

Conference Presentation Universidad Franscisco de Vitoria Person Centered Medicine July 2014; 07/2014 (2014)
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There is a middle ground of imperfect knowledge in fields like medicine and the social sciences. It stands between our day-to-day relatively certain knowledge obtained from ordinary basic observation of regularities in our world and our knowledge from well-validated theories in the physical sciences. The latter enable reliable prediction a great deal of the time of the happening of events never before experienced. The former enable prediction only of what has happened before and beyond that of educated guesses which may sometimes prove right and others not when we test them. The imperfection of our knowledge between those limits is a consequence of complexity. Reductionist empiricism fails when faced with complexity but we all still have to live in a complex world where reductionist science cannot help us devise reliable theories from which we can predict the behaviour of the world around us. We cannot predict reliably. We can only monitor actively and manage actively the world around us if we want to try to control our environment. We have a limited prediction horizon. Science and empiricism work well if we want to send Voyager I and II over 3 billion miles away but not for most other things. In medicine how and when to apply probabilistic, conjectural, incomplete medical theories and explanations requires professional expertise, intuition and judgement (non scientific knowledge) which is essential. Medical diagnosis is a skill of predicting from knowledge of what has happened before that the past will recur in the current patient applying expertise and intuition from knowledge and experience of prior cases and probabilistic medical research and theory. The physician is left to an educated guess as to how the future will develop for the particular individual patient the focus of his or her current attention.


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