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  1. - Top - End - #61
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    Default Re: Is Alchemy Consider To Be Scientific?

    To make an example, Nobel laureate Tu Youyou found through traditional Chinese medicine that a tea made with Artemisia annua can be useful against malaria. This is very old knowledge, dating at least from the IV century AD. However, the ancient method was that of making tea with it, which meant lots of heat, which degraded artemisinin and made it less effective. Youyou devised a method of cold extraction, and artemisinin was found to be a very effective cure, although it is costly and, after decades, malaria strains may be developing resistances against it.

    In other words, even where there is something good in ancient science, we can likely develop it way further. We have a completely different method, as well as massive amounts of money, enormous institutions, huge numbers of physicists, biologists, and physicians, easy ways to store and share data and to prevent their destruction, and a culture that doesn't just recognise that progress exists, but considers it fundamental. We can spot where the ancients stopped searching and keep going in that direction, and literally see what they never could have. We have germ theory, we have equipment, we know how atoms and molecules work, we have electricity, we have fridges...
    Quote Originally Posted by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1955
    I thought Tom Bombadil dreadful — but worse still was the announcer's preliminary remarks that Goldberry was his daughter (!), and that Willowman was an ally of Mordor (!!).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vinyadan View Post
    To make an example, Nobel laureate Tu Youyou found through traditional Chinese medicine that a tea made with Artemisia annua can be useful against malaria. This is very old knowledge, dating at least from the IV century AD. However, the ancient method was that of making tea with it, which meant lots of heat, which degraded artemisinin and made it less effective. Youyou devised a method of cold extraction, and artemisinin was found to be a very effective cure, although it is costly and, after decades, malaria strains may be developing resistances against it.

    In other words, even where there is something good in ancient science, we can likely develop it way further. We have a completely different method, as well as massive amounts of money, enormous institutions, huge numbers of physicists, biologists, and physicians, easy ways to store and share data and to prevent their destruction, and a culture that doesn't just recognise that progress exists, but considers it fundamental. We can spot where the ancients stopped searching and keep going in that direction, and literally see what they never could have. We have germ theory, we have equipment, we know how atoms and molecules work, we have electricity, we have fridges...
    This always make me think of Dara O'brian talking about traditional medicine. Paraphrasing: and then we took all the stuff that worked and made into actual medicine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snowblizz View Post
    This always make me think of Dara O'brian talking about traditional medicine. Paraphrasing: and then we took all the stuff that worked and made into actual medicine.
    I don't strictly agree with this phrase, because I think that there is still some useful stuff buried in books or oral tradition that hasn't been transmitted to or put to work by modern medicine (Youyou herself made her discoveries in the Sixties, so not that long ago). But it's definitely true that the amount of "it works" in modern medicine is many, many times higher than anything one could find in traditional medicine. Plus, modern medicine doesn't just have potent means, it can also dose them with an ease that I don't think traditional medicines ever had.
    Quote Originally Posted by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1955
    I thought Tom Bombadil dreadful — but worse still was the announcer's preliminary remarks that Goldberry was his daughter (!), and that Willowman was an ally of Mordor (!!).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peelee View Post
    Also, they were totally right in that you can turn lead into gold. They just grossly underestimated how hard it is to rip three protons off each atom.
    Well firstly many got it right that you needed to go via mercury

    (you just need to induce alpha decay to get to Hg)
    (induce another round alpha decay with a proton/neutron balance that leads directly to beta decay)

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    Quote Originally Posted by snowblizz View Post
    This always make me think of Dara O'brian talking about traditional medicine. Paraphrasing: and then we took all the stuff that worked and made into actual medicine.
    I dont remember where I read or heard this from but I always enjoyed it. "You know what they call alternative medicine that works? *&^%*^&% MEDICINE!" Basically someone so tired of one of his magic water crystal aura lavender huffing friends who insisted the old ways worked they went into a rant about it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Traab View Post
    I dont remember where I read or heard this from but I always enjoyed it. "You know what they call alternative medicine that works? *&^%*^&% MEDICINE!" Basically someone so tired of one of his magic water crystal aura lavender huffing friends who insisted the old ways worked they went into a rant about it.
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    Actual Alchemy is more of a phylosophical and essoteric practice. However, it did lead to the development of chemistry and many scientific discoveries, because most of it's practices revolved around observing the natural world to come to essoteric conclusions about the supernatural, the nature of divinity and the cosmos, and ascending the alchemist's soul to a higher state of existance than a mere mortal. One of it's tenets, inspired by the emerald table, was after all "As above, so below", which meant, as things are in the physical world, they reflect the nature of Divinity, that created the world in it's image.

    So, Alchemy was as much a science as a phylosophy and theology.

    Most Scientists in it's era were also Alchemists, and vice versa, and thus the word was used interchangably. Newton for example, was an Alchemist in that he was a Mathematician and a Physisist, as much as an Astrologer and a Theologist, and used his discoveries in an atempt to understand and explain the Nature of the World Above.

    Modern science was based on the premise of distinguishing observable fact from phylosophical speculation that was unable to be proven. Thus, part of what consisted of Alchemy was transmuted (if you pardon the pun) into multiple modern sciences like chemistry, physics, astronomy and biology, wile other parts became more phylosophical in a theoretical backround, rather than pressented as fact. This was an important step to distinguish between a physician who could actually heal you for example, and a charlatan who would sell you some wonder medicine for all you could afford, that included goat piss and snake blood to give a dramatic effect.

    Thus alchemy is in it's own way the grandfather of modern science.

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    "I mean, fire shouldn't even count. It's a chemical reaction."


    Well, technically, if you consider "elements" to mean states of matter, fire can be in the 4th state of matter, namelly plasma, thus giving some credit to that theory. But yeah, your average flame is a chemical reaction.
    Last edited by Asmotherion; 2020-08-18 at 09:40 AM.

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    Google defines alchemy as "the medieval forerunner of chemistry, based on the supposed transformation of matter. It was concerned particularly with attempts to convert base metals into gold or to find a universal elixir." So yes-ish. I think the term pseudo-science would be more accurate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snowblizz View Post
    This always make me think of Dara O'brian talking about traditional medicine. Paraphrasing: and then we took all the stuff that worked and made into actual medicine.
    The problem with this thinking is that the stuff that was taken...was working...it was and is medicine. So by thinking of it as "actual" medicine it is dismissing the fact that it was working before. I mean hell Reiki is now offered in some hospital now, covered by insurance. It has been shown to work in randomized controlled studies. There is diddlysquat for a good scientific reason of WHY it works. To a fair extent acupuncture treatment for things like addiction treatment support has also shown to work. Again beats sugar pills.
    Now do I think that because these things have been shown to work it means the one-atom-of-lavender-infused-water or placing a specific kind of feldspar on my noggin will do what the somewhat-too-intense person down at my local crystal shop tells me it will? Not in the slightest. But is does mean that respect and an open mind is worth it. Particularly if one thinks there is only a single variable involved when they may be more than that.

    in the larger thread question. Eh it varied. "Alchemist" was such a variable term. People could use that label (for themselves or others) for a people performing such a wide array of actions (especially over space and time) that is a very vague term. You mucked about with materials looking for "Truths"? congrats you can join the alchemist guild. Some do nothing more than perform really bad logic and focus on the soul, some try to test herb concoctions, others were basically your local opium dealer with an affectation, some make dyes and mordants....a fair amount of modern scientific thought grew out of alchemical thinking. So while some parts of the alchemical community were all about pouring mouse dung/clove/opium mixtures out the bottom of a sword or linking metals to planetary bodies others were slowly creating a fair amount of the rules and ideas that would lead to science. Oh and many were a total mix of the above. looking for lead-saturn connections on Tuesday and figuring out the ideas of molarity and stoichiometry on Wednesday. So alchemy was a lot of early science and lots of hookum mixed together. Today the stuff we call alchemy is usually the stuff that was not included in "chemistry", "pharmacology", "astronomy", "nutrition", or a fair amount of theology etc that in time were all pulled from the alchemical basket...but at the time they were all basically one thing.
    So as a whole was it scientific? Nope.
    were parts scientific: at times yes. but we often don't call those part alchemy anymore.
    was that mess how a lot of scientific thought and method was created? Yup.

    Just like a fair amount of physics and biology came from theological study at times alchemy was a similar mishmash of stuff we would today call not-science and science and there is no clear line.
    Last edited by sktarq; 2020-09-04 at 03:58 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    The problem with this thinking is that the stuff that was taken...was working...it was and is medicine. So by thinking of it as "actual" medicine it is dismissing the fact that it was working before. I mean hell Reiki is now offered in some hospital now, covered by insurance. It has been shown to work in randomized controlled studies. There is diddlysquat for a good scientific reason of WHY it works. To a fair extent acupuncture treatment for things like addiction treatment support has also shown to work. Again beats sugar pills.
    Now do I think that because these things have been shown to work it means the one-atom-of-lavender-infused-water or placing a specific kind of feldspar on my noggin will do what the somewhat-too-intense person down at my local crystal shop tells me it will? Not in the slightest. But is does mean that respect and an open mind is worth it. Particularly if one thinks there is only a single variable involved when they may be more than that.
    Science is open-minded by principle.The difference between the scientific method and every single other "knoledge tradtion" in the world (like alchemy) is that science admits that it is starting from a position of ignorance. Rather than make a grandstanding declaration of "this is how the world works" and try to retrofit the facts observed into that (like alchemy does with the 4 elements), science starts with the observed facts and try to figure out how the world works form there. It's the most open-mended approach possible.

    That there are parts of traditionnal medicine that works is very much the point of the post you quoted. But it doens't mean that the foundations of traditionnal medicine are shaky as all hell. So we're getting rid of the things that don't work. We're getting rid of the nonsense that people came up with to explain the things that work, like acupuncture. And, while we're applying the things that work we try to figure out how they work so we can make more of the same. We've known for the longest time that willow bark helped agaisnt headache but it's only until we discovered it contained aspirin that we made real progress.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    Again beats sugar pills.
    Ironically, sugar pills also "work" to a surprising degree, when compared with "no treatment". Numerous studies have shown that a placebo has a statistically significant beneficial effect on many illnesses, when no better treatment is available.
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    Default Re: Is Alchemy Consider To Be Scientific?

    Though more recently it has been questioned if the placebo effect might only decreases the patient's discomfort, and not actually improve the recovery.

    Which would still be very significant as research in managing medical conditions is concerned, as that is usually the primary issue for patients.
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    Quote Originally Posted by veti View Post
    Ironically, sugar pills also "work" to a surprising degree, when compared with "no treatment". Numerous studies have shown that a placebo has a statistically significant beneficial effect on many illnesses, when no better treatment is available.
    But what if they have diabetes?
    Quote Originally Posted by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1955
    I thought Tom Bombadil dreadful — but worse still was the announcer's preliminary remarks that Goldberry was his daughter (!), and that Willowman was an ally of Mordor (!!).

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    Default Re: Is Alchemy Consider To Be Scientific?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vinyadan View Post
    But what if they have diabetes?
    Unless the pills are at Farnsworth Suppository size, I suspect the amount of sugar in a sugar pill is less than what might be found in most meals.
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    Default Re: Is Alchemy Consider To Be Scientific?

    Many 'sugar pills' are actually bicarbonate of soda.

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    Has anybody brought up that the transmutation of lead into gold has been proven possible. It goes slow, racks up a staggeringly enormous power bill, and requires equipment that takes up more space than a football field, but it CAN be done.

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    The problem with this thinking is that the stuff that was taken...was working...it was and is medicine. So by thinking of it as "actual" medicine it is dismissing the fact that it was working before.
    It's still medicine in the same sense that you can still light your house with rushlights (candles used by medieval peasants). They'll technically light your house up, but they're a lower quality of light, you need a ton of them and they might set your house on fire
    Last edited by Bohandas; 2020-09-06 at 11:20 PM.
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    Default Re: Is Alchemy Consider To Be Scientific?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    Has anybody brought up that the transmutation of lead into gold has been proven possible. It goes slow, racks up a staggeringly enormous power bill, and requires equipment that takes up more space than a football field, but it CAN be done.
    "I don't mean to be pedantic or anything, but the color of gold... is gold. That's why it's called gold. What YOU have discovered, if it has a name, is some... Green."

    (Couldn't resist.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tarmor View Post
    "I don't mean to be pedantic or anything, but the color of gold... is gold. That's why it's called gold. What YOU have discovered, if it has a name, is some... Green."

    (Couldn't resist.)
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    Default Re: Is Alchemy Consider To Be Scientific?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fyraltari View Post
    Science is open-minded by principle.The difference between the scientific method and every single other "knoledge tradtion" in the world (like alchemy) is that science admits that it is starting from a position of ignorance. Rather than make a grandstanding declaration of "this is how the world works" and try to retrofit the facts observed into that (like alchemy does with the 4 elements), science starts with the observed facts and try to figure out how the world works form there. It's the most open-mended approach possible.

    That there are parts of traditionnal medicine that works is very much the point of the post you quoted. But it doens't mean that the foundations of traditionnal medicine are shaky as all hell. So we're getting rid of the things that don't work. We're getting rid of the nonsense that people came up with to explain the things that work, like acupuncture. And, while we're applying the things that work we try to figure out how they work so we can make more of the same. We've known for the longest time that willow bark helped agaisnt headache but it's only until we discovered it contained aspirin that we made real progress.
    Open minded by principle, yes. By action and attitude? often no.
    By issue is not with dismissing the parts of traditional medicine that don't work but that it it is often done so without proper testing and often deeply out of context in ways that will skew results (looking at certain extracts vs whole treatments for example) I basically look at traditional medicine as a bunch of rationalized (but not per se rational) grab bag of ideas based on often long experience of near random testing. It is a very long set of observational trials of low quality but they may well have collected something interesting with all the phooey. So for all the talk of science being open minded and rational many people who claim to espouse it don't live up to anything close to the ideal. Just because some of it...really sunlight and 2 atoms of basil water?? REALLY?....is total male-bovine-post-digestive-matter doesn't mean that the whole can be dismissed. I think one of science's strength is that it can learn from things when it actually applied like it says on the tin.

    as for "progress" on the asprin front....eh? I would generally say that if you have the ability to cure a headache that is all the progress most people NEED ... pain to no pain...it is better that we learned the the exact acid that was the active ingredient, the ability to synthesize it, and from there the principles that allowed us to develop new painkiller....yes I do. But I don't think that stops the willow bark from being real medicine. The willow bark is not fake, and that is the point I'm aiming at. Sure the asprin from Bayer is going to be of a more reliable dose, have lower chance on contaminants etc and has other things that make it superior but that just make it better medicine not somehow more real. And that's my point there is a real-vs-traditional dichotomy that is not needed in most cases. There is effective and ineffective medicine. and plenty of "real" medicine is utter quackery (P-hacking, bad sampling, inappropriate comparisons, only publishing favorable results, replication study failure, the entire fields of phrenology, etc) that has been dressed up in the socially appropriate norms and given the blessing of the ideological high priests (peer viewed papers).

    and Veti...yes I compared to sugar pills over "no treatment" precisely because I wanted to remove that effect from the statement.

    And yup rushlights work. It is not that the light isn't real...we just have BETTER lights now. Kinda like we have better ways of moving goods from one place to another than by domestic animal, most of the time. Sometime, in some often unusual situations the pack mule is still the better option. And we can become blind to best way to handle a problem just because we dismiss things that are low on the progress ladder.

    The advantage of science is that is can learn from its mistakes pretty well...and because of that in 50 years we will look back on what we see today as unassailable truths, real science, etc with laughter and derision. Odds are on whole subfields being tossed are quite high. It's the best we've got but it is nowhere near as perfect as many people seem to think it is.

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    Default Re: Is Alchemy Consider To Be Scientific?

    I just wanted to observe that homeopathy (which I assume the two atoms alludes to) isn't traditional medicine. It was created in 1796 by a German physician, Samuel Hahnemann, who tried ingesting cinchona, used to cure malaria, while healthy. He got shivers and fever, both symptoms of malaria, and so assumed that medicines cause an effect similar to that of illnesses they cure. Then he had other people assume medicaments and note all of the side effects. If the side effects were similar to the symptoms of a disease, he recommended that medicament against that disease.
    Dilution was added to avoid the harmful effects of the medicines, under the mistaken assumption that the positive effects were of a non-physical nature and could be maintained even if the substance was pretty much not there any more.
    Quote Originally Posted by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1955
    I thought Tom Bombadil dreadful — but worse still was the announcer's preliminary remarks that Goldberry was his daughter (!), and that Willowman was an ally of Mordor (!!).

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    Default Re: Is Alchemy Consider To Be Scientific?

    Alchemy is generally considered to be a "proto-science" in the historical context from what I seen.

    From my perspective when it comes to alchemy in fiction, it's somewhere between magic and what we would call modern science. In fact, I'd wage that if one of them was plants, and the other was animals, alchemy would be like fungi, its own seperate thing albeit with elements of both. Granted, given how fungi is a bit clsoer to animals than plants, it's debatable where alchemy is closer to traditional science or magic (I would argue that science is plants and magic is animals here in this metaphor; while alchemy at first glance appears very scientific, the underlying mystical principles and subtleties do lead it closer to magic, though ultimately it is its own thing.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vinyadan View Post
    I just wanted to observe that homeopathy (which I assume the two atoms alludes to) isn't traditional medicine. It was created in 1796 by a German physician, Samuel Hahnemann, who tried ingesting cinchona, used to cure malaria, while healthy. He got shivers and fever, both symptoms of malaria, and so assumed that medicines cause an effect similar to that of illnesses they cure. Then he had other people assume medicaments and note all of the side effects. If the side effects were similar to the symptoms of a disease, he recommended that medicament against that disease.
    Dilution was added to avoid the harmful effects of the medicines, under the mistaken assumption that the positive effects were of a non-physical nature and could be maintained even if the substance was pretty much not there any more.
    All of that kind of makes me wonder what other things he was ingesting while he thought all of this up.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fyraltari View Post
    Science is open-minded by principle.The difference between the scientific method and every single other "knoledge tradtion" in the world (like alchemy) is that science admits that it is starting from a position of ignorance. Rather than make a grandstanding declaration of "this is how the world works" and try to retrofit the facts observed into that (like alchemy does with the 4 elements), science starts with the observed facts and try to figure out how the world works form there. It's the most open-mended approach possible.

    That there are parts of traditionnal medicine that works is very much the point of the post you quoted. But it doens't mean that the foundations of traditionnal medicine are shaky as all hell. So we're getting rid of the things that don't work. We're getting rid of the nonsense that people came up with to explain the things that work, like acupuncture. And, while we're applying the things that work we try to figure out how they work so we can make more of the same. We've known for the longest time that willow bark helped agaisnt headache but it's only until we discovered it contained aspirin that we made real progress.
    I think the topic is a little more complex, especially when also talking about applied science.

    The initial stance is often a negative one, "That is not supposed to work" or "I can't imagine why that should work", followed by the stance of "We already have standard procedures in place", leaving no chance for co-existance.

    Why co-existance? "Folk Medicine" used herbs as medicine, which is basically why we did research there, see your example with willow bark. Once we got the pharma industry up and running, there was also a huge push against folk medicine. You doc didn't say "ok, prep a willow bark tea. If not available, grab some aspirin". In a sense, that nearly killed the whole field of folk medicine, which is a loss, because I think that we haven't examined everything there is for potential research.

    The counter example are yoga, qi gong and zen, all three with a religious background.

    Sure, all of this is very different from something like "alchemy", because there're concrete results and not just faulty philosophy at work.

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