The innocent assumption that truth is important can be dangerous in our capitalistic mad-house, where no truth is of sufficient importance that it may be permitted to stand in the way of profits. But, we are not to despair of the ultimate triumph of truth, for truth is a part of the universe and must prevail. Truth is one and immutable--Error has as many forms as Proteus. Truth and fallacy go their opposite ways. They do not gravitate in the same direction. They do not revolve around a common center. But truth is of value only in a world that lives by it. Bigotry and bluff do not always stand for truth: more often they merely camouflage ignorance and failure.
Through education and through everything that he hears and sees about him, a child acquires so many lies and blind follies mixed with the essential truths of life that the first duty of the young man or woman who desires to grow into a healthy adult is to cast away all truth and untruth that he or she has acquired at second hand, everything which has not been learned by personal observation and experience, and take a fresh start. No idea, however old, no "truth," however grand, should be looked upon as a sacred cow. All should be thrown into the fire together and have all the dross burned out of it. During adolescence, when the mind is still pliable and green, is the ideal time for this unburdening to occur. The adolescent who achieves this elimination of tradition and convention and, who loses his or her cultivated admiration for things old, may then enter adulthood fully prepared to think with courage and without the warping influence of blind credulity.
Because we have an educational system that does not educate, because we have embalmed our superstitions in creed and ritual, because we have preserved many of our superstitions in our science, man is at all times only 30 minutes from barbarism. Because our teachers are not permitted to tell the truth, even when they know it, lest they step on the favorite corns of some of our vested interests--commercial, religious, political or scientific, etc.--our young people are brought up on lies. A professor of history in a city college, who had spent several summers in historical research among the archives of his state, once told me that there is a great difference between history as it is taught and as it actually occurred. When I asked: "Professor, do you tell these things to your students?" he replied: "I know which side of my bread has butter on it. If I were to tell them these things, my job would not last a week." Such is our much talked of "academic freedom." Our teachers are as free as our press. Many of them know that they are teaching lies; but their jobs depend upon the lies, so they keep their jobs.
Our people are not trained to investigate primary principles; very few, indeed, ever think of tracing a system or a theory to its basic premise or starting point. In medicine this is peculiarly true. For 2,500 years it has been assiduously and zealously seeking to build a science of medicine on false principles, with the inevitable result that all of the results of this vast amount of work and thought may be summed up as a vast collection of problems in pathology and therapeutics, amounting to nothing more than "incoherent expressions of incoherent ideas." Theirs is a wrong basis at the outset. Starting with the assumption that disease is an entity, and that in the poisons found in the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms there exists a specific for each disease, we detect the sources of the errors and fallacies that envelop in mystery the medical system. Medicine today is founded on hazardous experiments instead of being based on principles brought to light by physiological and biological science.
In the past, the medical profession sought to arrogate to itself all knowledge having important relations to disease and recovery therefrom, virtually saying that they and they alone are the conservators of the bodies of men. When life was in its greatest peril in sickness, we were supposed to have such reverence for the physician and such unbounded faith in the saving potency of his bag of poisons as to compel us to think and feel that the issues of life reside with him, and he was supposed to have control, almost supernaturally, over our mortal destiny. No matter how useful a general diffusion of such important knowledge, knowledge which relates to our very existence, and the means of developing and influencing the forces concerned therein, the knowledge was to remain the exclusive possession of a small professional class, too sacred or too occult for the common understanding. The people, of course, were to see the art of restoring health only as a complex system of drugging. Their prescriptions were supposed to be of such a character as to defy the scrutiny of popular inquiry; they demanded a confidence almost unqualified.
Tracing the progress of the healing arts opens up for the student an arena in which has been enacted some of the most astounding scenes connected with the rise and progress of civilization. Change is indelibly written upon every page of its history; yet this change can hardly be called progress. This constant mutation, this prevailing disposition to exchange old systems for new ones, to cast off old cures and adopt newer remedies, is due to the uncertainties of the subject entertained and to the evident lack of a valid foundation for medical theories and practices. It reveals that all the systems of medicine were outside the pale of truth.
A study of medical history reveals that each succeeding generation of physicians repudiates the theories and practices of its predecessor and spends time and talent without stint in inventing new theories and new practices, only to have these suffer the same fate as those of their predecessors. It also reveals how easy it is to make the same fact apparently sustain opposite theories.
For 2,500 years the highest powers of the human mind have been devoted to the invention or discovery of cures for the diseases of man. Many of the brightest minds of earth have engaged in this search. Untold mountains of wealth have been poured into the effort to find cures. For the past 50 years scientists have devoted so much time, energy, talent and technical knowledge to this search that it makes all preceding efforts in this direction pale into insignificance. The whole field of nature has been ransacked to discover antidotes for the many diseases with which man suffers.
The chemist has analyzed every substance, both inorganic and organic, of nature. He has created combinations as varied and numberless as the leaves of the forest. Not a mineral or a vegetable poison, however malignant, but has been added to the truly frightful load of medicines to be used to cure man's diseases. The poisons of insects, of spiders, of snakes, as well as the excretions of animals have been added to the materia medica. In the hope of discovering some panacea or some specific for the ills of man, ambitious men have added numberless drugs (poisons) to the armamentarium of physicians.