Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/122

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Messrs. Editors:

DR. J. R. BLACK'S second epistle, published in the October issue of the "Monthly," can hardly have surprised your intelligent readers, and may even have excited their pity. When people like Dr. Black see a way to achieve publicity, they must be pardoned for trying to make the best of their chance, even on the terms accepted by that Paris quack who volunteered to be pilloried, if they would permit him to exhibit himself in a pair of canvas breeches, displaying a printed advertisement of his pills. Besides, the doctor has somewhat modified his original plan. Having undertaken to pose as a martyr of medical orthodoxy, but finding his nasal organ out of plumb to a degree he had not quite bargained for, he now attempts to effect his retreat under a dust-cloud of irrelevant obscurities.

After admitting that dyspepsia in children can be explained by the agency of causes distinct from hereditary transmission (which he had denied in his first letter), he now defies me to prove that, by moderate eating and abstinence from virulent drugs, children can escape the disease. Has the plan ever failed where it had a chance of a fair trial, as in hygienic homes, or in Schrodt's "Boarding Kindergartens"? Or does Dr. Black know what his thesis implies? He can not deny—1. That the digestive organs of children are governed by the same pathological laws as those of adults, the difference, if any, being in favor of the children, since every birth is a hygienic regenesis, and since diseases, as he himself admitted in his first letter, do not exist per se from the moment of birth. 2. That a correct regimen and abstinence from noxious drugs will prevent dyspepsia in adults, and cure even far-gone dyspeptics. Yet he holds that a correct regimen and abstinence from noxious drugs will not prevent dyspepsia in children. In other words, the laws of health hold good in the ordinary affairs of life, but may be set aside when it comes to account for the mortality in the infant-wards of an Ohio drug-hospital. Dr. Black informs us that the public is deeply interested in the issue of our controversy. Feverishly. But your readers can make their minds easy. Nature is not so inconsistent as Dr. Black; and I will under-take to insure any child against dyspepsia, nay, any cured dyspeptic against a relapse of the disease, on the sole condition that they shall avoid dietetic abuses and Dr. Black's prescriptions. In his distress to evade the logical inference of his admissions, Dr. Black suggests that some of my arguments might be used to disprove the hereditary tendency of insanity and consumption. Before the doctor's friends permit him to undertake another pathological controversy, I would advise them to enlighten his mind on the difference between functional and organic disorders, and thus enable him to understand the reason why consumption or cancer, but not dyspepsia, can be called an hereditary disease, and why hereditary diseases and not dyspepsia reappear in successive generations at the same period of life when they were first contracted. If I had ever doubted the chronic persistence of mental derangements, I confess that Dr. Black's arguments would have convinced me of my error. The manner of his attempt to defend the drivel of his first letter is a sufficient proof that the taint of idiocy is ineradicable.

In trying to explain away the silliness of his soap-water argument, Dr. Black volunteers the confession that Nature protests against the use of soap when the sensitiveness of the cutaneous tissue has been morbidly increased by the influence of a skin-disease. In other words, he admits that a morbid condition increases the danger of using even the mildest chemical depurative. Yet to the morbidly sensitive membrane of the diseased digestive organs he proposes to apply the virulent "intestinal soaps," as he calls his cathartic drugs. The "striking benefit" resulting from the use of patent laxatives is too exclusively confined to the experience of the patentee.

Dr. Black's assertion that I propose to cure syphilis on the let-alone plan is a fiction which can be pardoned only to a non-plused sophist at the brink of a reductio ad absurdum. Not only have I never propounded such a theory, but I have repeatedly named syphilis as the representative disorder of the exceptional class of diseases which (for reasons stated on page 729 of "The Popular Science Monthly" for October, 1881, and on page 199 of my work on "Physical Education") have to be cured by an artificial removal of the cause.

As a last attempt to retrieve the reverses of his game, Dr. Black tries to score a point on a lexicographical quibble. In defending my plea for longer pauses between meals, he says, I have spoken of digestion and assimilation as being one and the same thing. The truth is, that I men-