Science and the Left: Naturopathy

Conservatives for Science: How did ‘naturopathy’ became aligned with the American Left?

Science-Based Medicine has two posts that help explain how the ‘naturopathic medicine‘ movement, once a fixation of the Far Right, has more recently became aligned with the Political Left. For those like myself who are still fairly new to the entire pseudomedicine topic, both posts also help provide a foundation for understanding the related controversies.

A View to the Past

By 2000, a major shift had occurred. Although chiropractic seemed to adhere more to right wing principles, and right holdovers Hatch, Burton, and the old-style supplement set persisted, quackery’s advanced guard had become predominantly left-wing. It included the cultural relativism, post-modern wing that fertilizes “Integrative” medicine. The push in California for naturopaths and for loosening practice guidelines for sectarian practices came from the left. The ’90s had brought a surprising and revolutionary change – from the left, and recognizable as the outgrowth of the student rebellions of the 1960s – manifested in 40-50 year olds who bore the same anti-establishment psychologies of their youth. That part of the change was easy enough to see and understand. But what came next surprised and perplexed us, taking us another decade to figure out. It was political attack from the left.

Naturopathy and Liberal Politics: Strange Bedfellows

How did naturopathy ever become affiliated with the American Left? I can only imagine that this sprang from the Sixties and the essential lapse of critical thinking, especially among young people, that accompanied the social upheavals of the time, laudable and not so laudable. I was a college student in the early 1970s, and can easily recall the intellectual laissez-faire that was encouraged, even required of otherwise intelligent people—including students who, only a few years previously, had been expected to learn the tools of critical thinking as part of their college educations. Thus “other ways of knowing” and “differing paradigms” (a mangling of the writings of Thomas Kuhn) had suddenly become de rigueur.