Evolution of Chinese Medical Diagnostics

Diagnosis in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) consists of two parts: the first utilizes the “four pillars of diagnosis” to observe symptom manifestations and examine disease pathology; the second investigates disease and differentiates syndromes. The analysis is based on data from the four pillars of diagnosis.

According to Oriental philosophy, humans have both a tangible body and an intangible body (e.g. meridian system, aura, spirit) that is normally invisible but can be seen by those especially gifted or those well trained. Unfortunately, some CWM physicians solely gather objective instrumental data from the tangible solid body. Because Chinese medical diagnoses are based on the belief that “all internal illnesses can be manifested externally,” TCM physicians learn to discern subtle symptoms, investigate pathology, and differentiate syndromes figure in order to provide the basis for disease treatment and prevention. Utilizing Oriental philosophy and practical technology, well-trained TCM physicians can precisely recognize distinct illness patterns.

Polanyi’s theory of knowledge describes TCM as mostly “Tacit Knowledge.” Tacit knowledge is superior to general scientific knowledge in those circumstances where it overcomes the conscious and logical limits of the scientific method. Inferential, subconscious, and intuitive knowledge taps into the invisible or not yet visibly manifested disease patterns. Most Western scientists and medical doctors have been educated in approaches that ignore Tacit Knowledge, and ancient Chinese contributions to an insightful process which considers the whole system, not just its sick part.

Clearly, a “tacit” approach is not learned merely by attending lectures or reading books; it is acquired not only by gaining knowledge but also by gaining wisdom.

CWM and TCM differ in their historical development. The thousands-of-year-old TCM diagnosis is mainly based on TCM philosophy, clinical practice, cultivated meditation, and TCM “introspection” experiments. TCM considers various parts of the body as an organic whole, and differentiates syndromes. CWM diagnosis is mainly based on instruments, lab analysis, and solid evidence of infection; CWM does not trust patient symptoms or subjective feelings, because these may or may not be reliable information, unless backed by objective evidence.

TCM diagnostics uncover disease syndrome manifestations. The method, called “differentiation of syndromes” figure, interprets disease characteristics of a syndrome by analyzing information from the four pillars diagnostic method. Case studies confirm pathological conditions and disease nature, and act as guides to disease prevention and treatment. If TCM hands over diagnosis to CWM, it will lose its foundation and undermine its greatest advantage.

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