Why medicine is not science

Medicine is a part of technology, and since I have covered the difference between science and technology here, I’ll make the discussion of medicine very short. Medicine is the application of science to the treatment of illnesses. It is hard for the layman to grasp the idea that medicine is not science, because the coverage of “science” in the major source of public information, the media, is restricted almost entirely to medicine.

Medicine may have motivated some research, which has resulted in scientific breakthroughs, just as technology (such as steam  engines) motivated some branches of physics (e.g.,  thermodynamics).  But motivation differs substantially from the end product: If Ponzi scheme results in the accumulation of wealth, we do not  identify wealth with Ponzi scheme. If a novel brings fame to an author, we do not equate fame with writing novels. And if sheer curiosity brings about scientific discovery, we should not identify curiosity with science.

Despite the fact that many biological (biophysical, biochemical, bio-molecular, …) discoveries may have taken place in medical and health institutions, medicine remains an art, a technology. And the  historical fact that medicine may have been the starting point of modern biology does not change anything.

2 thoughts on “Why medicine is not science”

  1. I am reminded of a recent conversation (related to me by a sister) between my nephew and brother-in-law (a research physicist) regarding a “lack of curiosity” displayed by the brother-in-law’s physicians. The nephew (a Marine Biology major) remarked to his Dad that he should remember that MD’s aren’t scientists. They are more akin to Engineers; by which the description “Medicine is the application of science to the treatment of illnesses” parallels a similar description of the engineering disciplines; i.e. “engineering is the application of science to . . .”

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