of living organisms have to survive long enough to grow, repro-
duce, and then evolve. For this survival to take place, the organ-
isms’ homeostatic and repair processes must be consistently
directed toward maintaining a state of balance with the external
environment (i.e., health). Any organism that does not behave
biochemically and physiologically in this manner dies and cannot
evolve. Thus the phenomenon of evolution, as the action of
countless living organisms over eons, multiplies life’s anti-
entropic quality and is incompatible with a mechanistic view of
living systems.

These easily observable examples of life’s “special quality” sug-
gest an “organizing force” that goes beyond what is possible from
mere chemistry. This quality that makes life unique should not be
mistaken as a metaphysical concept, although an argument for or
against such concepts is not intended here. The point is only that
vitalism is a medical philosophy based on observable scientific
phenomena. Unfortunately, a definitive definition of this quality
(in the old literature called the “vital force,” defense mechanism,
or simply “Nature”) will have to wait for vitalistically or holisti-
cally oriented researchers. Reductionistic research has not pro-
vided much clarification of these special qualities of life — just ask
a modern reductionistic biologist to explain how homeostasis
works. They can describe what happens on a biochemical and bio-
physical level but they cannot describe why it happens.
alternative medicine
At this point in the discussion, not many mechanistic practi-
tioners would have reason to be uncomfortable. However, the
conflict becomes evident with examination of the premises upon
which the practice of vitalistic medicine is based. What truly
separates vitalism from mechanism and makes it useful as a

medical philosophy is its perspective on disease and its associ-
ated symptoms.

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