Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/123

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CORRESPONDENCE.

113

tioned them as synergistic operations. But within the scope of my argument I would have been justified in treating them as identical functions. Does Dr. Black wish to deny that intestinal digestion, in its normal phases, includes an assimilative process? But, as in the case of dyspepsia infantum, the doctor's experience is perhaps limited to the action of a drug-convulsed system, in which case the activity of the digestive organs does, indeed, but rarely lead to assimilation.

Dr. Black's exception-plea in favor of the stimulant superstition illustrates only the radical confusion of his pathological theories. For that energy of action which he mistakes for a sign of restored functional vigor demonstrates nothing but the urgency of an expulsive process. The functional activity excited by the influence of a drastic tonic proves only the virulence of the drug, and the system's eagerness to rid itself of a deadly foe. In my treatises on "Dyspepsia and Climatic Fevers" I have exposed the two most specious fallacies of the stimulant-delusion; and there is an end to all inductive reasoning if the analogies of the stimulant-vice and the medicine-habit do not establish my tenet that the poi-on-hunger in all its forms, whether as mania a potu, or a hankering after a digestive excitant, is wholly abnormal and mischievous; that its repeated gratification rarely fails to inoculate the system with the seeds of a progressive stimulant-habit; that the dyspeptic's dependence upon Dr. Black's calomel pills is an aggravation of the original disease; and that even the temporary results, effected at such risk, by the use of virulent drugs, can, in nine cases out of ten, be more safely and as directly attained by other means, as by refrigeration in the treatment of malarial fevers, or indirectly by reform of the predisposing habits, as in consumption and various enteric disorders.

In one of his tirades against heretical theories. Dr. Black carries his bravado to the degree of appealing to the testimony of "stubborn facts"—in other words, to the lessons of experience. I would advise my colleague to avoid that arena. Hospital statistics might prove that the homoeopathists can challenge our best record and demonstrate by proofs, which should satisfy a depredator of their sugar-pellets, that they can beat it. by total abstinence from the so-called remedies of the drug-shops.

In his first letter Dr. Black proposed to let dyspeptics trust themselves to the guidance of their morbid appetite, and, after I proved that the absurdity of that plan could be demonstrated by the analogies of the alcohol-habit, our entrapped medicine-man tries to slip out by the following hole: The chronic hunger of the dyspeptic, he informs us, is a craving after food, while the unquenchable thirst of the alcohol-drinker is a craving after poison. Does that subvert my tenet that, in regard to the persistency of the appetite, both cravings are wholly abnormal? For, let us remember that the original point at issue was the question about the proper number of daily meals. Now, in pursuance of Dr. Black's plan, his patients would have to eat about forty meals a day; for, in his first letter, he advised dyspeptics to follow the promptings of an appetite which he now admits to be morbid and unappeasable, as caused by a chronic state of semi-starvation. Thus Dr. Black continually shifts his ground, to dodge the inferences of his own premises. But the fact is, that he never expected to maintain his positions. He merely wrestles against time, and accepts his successive overthrows in the secret hope that the shrieks of his afflictions might attract the aid of some brother-sophist. Hence, also, his repeated allusions to a "numerous class of physicians" whose wrath he warns me to deprecate. Like other champions of orthodoxy who find that their logic leaves them in the lurch, he tries to retreat behind the shelter of a numerical majority.

By my outspoken denunciation of the stimulant-superstition, Dr. Black holds that I have offered an insult to that large body of medical men to whom is due the credit of the most important discoveries in hygiene, physiology, surgery, etc. My orthodox contemporary will try in vain to identify the interests of his cause with the progress of those sciences. All their promoters have contributed their share to undermine the foundations of the position which he tries to defend. For the last hundred years the history of medical science has been the history of a continued and increasingly rapid collapse of the drug-delusion—a delusion whose defenders have always tarried in the rear of progress, and, after doing their utmost to obstruct the path of reform, have recognized its triumphs only by sharing the fruits of its victories. My invectives were not directed against the thousand earnest seekers after truth, not against its great discoverers, the pioneers of the true healing art, not against men like Bichat,[1] Schrodt,[2]

  1. "To what errors have not mankind been led in the employment and denomination of medicines! They created deobstruents when the theory of obstruction was in fashion; and incisives when that of the thickening of the humors prevailed. Those who saw in diseases only a relaxation or tension of the fibers employed astringents and relaxants. The same identical remedies have been employed with all these opposite views. . . . Hence the vagueness and uncertainty our science presents at this day. An incoherent assemblage of incoherent opinions, it is. perhaps, of all the physiological sciences, that which best shows the caprices of the human mind. What do I say? For a methodical mind it is not a science at all. It is a shapeless collection of inaccurate ideas; of observations often puerile; of deceptive remedies, and of formulas as fantastically conceived as they are tediously arranged."
  2. "If we reflect upon the obstinate health of