Tuesday, January 29, 2008


'Natural' is a word that raises my hackles. A story is told of an old gardener who was confronted by the local parson who admired the garden.

"You and God have made a beautiful spot together." said the parson.

"Oh Ah," replied the gardener, "but you should have seen it when he had it to himself!"

Everything that's natural is supposed to be somehow superior, but even the bucolic scenes of yesteryear that we so admire were the product of technology. My attention was recently drawn to an aerial picture of the border between Israel and the Gaza strip. The land on the Israeli side has been tilled and planted, watered and harvested. The neat strips are the effect of applied technology. On the Palestinian side and indeed the Egyptian side, the absence of technology leaves chaos.

TB is natural and so is malaria. So is HIV. You don't need to postulate man-made global warming to inflict harm on the poor. Natural phenomena do it well enough.

Snakes are natural and so are crocodiles. So is the funnel web spider. The natural tiger will kill you given half a chance; so will the lion. Natural influenza in 1918 killed more people than the technological guns and bombs of the massed armies in Europe.

We live in a technologically replete world. There is no going back to horsepower, poultices and nightsoil. The chemicals we use are refined and pure, not the nasty, foul smelling mixtures our forefathers used.

Cold caves and contaminated springs are natural. We have insulated houses and clean water because of technology.

It seems that the world is warming. I would bet that it is a natural event rather than a technological disaster. The remedy won't be Luddism but technology.

CLL is a natural disease. The remedy won't be natural herbs, either as infusions or enemas, but technological chemicals cleverly directed at the natural disease by man's ingenuity.


Vance Esler said...

Very well said.

I hope you don't mind if I quote you next time I engage in a discussion with patients about this sort of thing.

Terry Hamblin said...

Quote away!

chemobrain said...

Me too please.

Grateful said...

This was a theme in American art from the early 1800s. Perhaps the best representation is a painting called "The Oxbow" by Thomas Cole showing the beneficial effects of man on nature http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ho/10/na/hod_08.228.htm

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised if at least some treatments are derived from herbs or other plant sources.

Plants have sophisticated defenses because, unlike animals, they can't run away from danger.

I also don't think it is unlikely that early CLL could indeed be cured or controlled using natural substances.

Or don't you remember the paper in 'Leukemia Research' a while back by Dr. Frank and others about the patient who was cured of CLL by 'twigs, bark, and roots, from a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Leukemia Research
Volume 27, Issue 9, September 2003, Pages 859-863

Other products such as feverfew (parthenolide), honokiol, gossypol, green tea (EGCG), curcumin, resveratrol, vitamins such as D3, minerals such as selenium and others are all potential agents used against cancer cells, including CLL.

A number of people have reported positive benefits after treatment by TCM practitioners.

Terry Hamblin said...

I'm not saying that plant derived products may not target tumor cells, just that it will take man's ingenuity and technology to identify, extract, purify and apply them. Vincristine is derived from the periwinkle and doxorubicin from soil bacteria, but you won't get far on periwinkle tea or soil poultices.

Richard said...

The latest high efficiency light emitting diodes (LEDs) are apparently using a technique that evolved naturally in butterflies millions of years ago. See:-


It appears we still have a lot to learn from nature.

Terry Hamblin said...

Exactly my point.I don't see anyone lighting their homes with a net full of butterflies, but LEDs are a result of man's technological ingenuity.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine just passed away. She had lung cancer, and refused all treatment.

Her husband is of a church that believes that God is more powerful than man, and that man cannot improve on what God created.

Ergo, prayer is more powerful than the puny medicines she refused to take.

I do have to admit that in cancer, the medicines are puny indeed. Where's man's cure for CLL???

Terry Hamblin said...

If that is the criterion then God is puny too. There are some notable successes in the human treatment of cancer. The successes are chiefly surgical, but chemotherapy cures most cases of childhood leukemia as well as the majority of cases of Hodgkin Disease, a sizeable proportion of diffuse large cell lymphoma, Burkitt's lymphoma, Chorion Carcinoma and other cancers.
However, it isn't a competition. I can't find anywhere in my Bible where God promises to cure cancer in this life.