Actually, more superstition than you would imagine.
The science part, we all know. By application of laws, theories, and technologies borrowed from physics, biochemistry, and engineering, veterinary medicine takes on the appearance of a science.
But, surely, mere application of scientific principles does not make an enterprise a science. After all, belief systems of all kinds use scientific principles. Religions apply the principles of economics, engineering, and more. But no one would confuse religion with science.
A science is a coherent system that produces consistent outcomes. Orthodox veterinary medicine has value, but it is neither coherent nor consistent.
The lack of consistency is obvious. Anyone having an animal treated at a vet knows that the outcome is chancy. Maybe the treatment will work and maybe it won’t. Vets make no excuses for this lack of certainty and everyone, including myself, accepts it. Animals are extraordinarily complex creations and no one should expect predictable results.
The lack of coherence, though, is another matter. After all, we expect any credentialed group, especially one authorized to deal in sickness and health to have a logical coherence. We expect their facts to be part of a real, objective analysis. Many of the “facts” of veterinary medicine are not facts at all.
A complete analysis of the logical flaws in veterinary medicine would take a much longer article and will be dealt with in the future. However, their most flagrant disregard for reality has to be the reliance upon disease entities.
Disease entities do not exist! At least they do not exist in the way that we ordinarily understand a thing to exist. Things, entities, objects have a mass that can be measured and weighed. Diseases do not have extension in time or space. There is no there there. They have no factual basis. Disease entities are a focus for treatment, a shorthand notation to explain a complex biological process.
No problem with veterinarians using shorthand to focus their treatments. The problem arises when a convenient way of talking about a condition takes on a life of its own. The problem arises when we start to confuse the label of a disease entity for the reality of a disease process.
Take for an example, Parvo in dogs. What is it? It is not the Parvo Virus. The Parvo Virus existed before 1984. But Parvo, the disease, did not. Before 1984, dogs contracted the Parvo Virus but most of them did not contract Parvo, the disease.
Even today, most unvaccinated dogs contracting Parvo will recover. Some, though, will die within 24 hours. The virus is the same. The dogs are different. Parvo, and all diseases, describe a complex response between host and pathogen. Parvo is not a thing. It is a process.
Facts are stubbornly solid. They have a solidity that superstitions lack. So the veterinarian inability to affect the immune strength of dogs is a fact that should be addressed but for many reasons is not. So since the vets lack the tools, they do not talk about treatments for immunity. In its place, they substitute an imaginary enemy they can deal with–the disease of Parvo.
Parvo, a non-existent entity, can be conquered with a vaccine, itself a very dangerous treatment. That would be acceptable except the Parvo was never there to begin with. What happened with the advent of modern veterinary medicine was that dogs were getting immunologically weaker. One treatment the vets devised for that immunological weakness was to initiate an immune response to the Parvo virus. The result of the Parvo vaccination, and the many other vaccinations, is that while dogs are now immune to Parvo and other common canine diseases, their overall immune strength continues to fall as they get sicker and sicker.
Now dogs are free of the common canine diseases. Only, they get more immune-related diseases than ever. Dogs are diabetic, cancerous, dyspeptic, allergic, and inflamed. The vets focused on disease entities rather than on the interaction of a pathogen and the host. The result is a domestic canine population more immune to a narrow spectrum of diseases and more susceptible to a much wider spectrum.
Superstition, especially the kind that denies the facts underlying sickness and health, is counter-productive. Superstition does have a positive value, though. It is a tool of the powerful against the powerless. When diseases became things, medically authorized persons gained a great deal of power but lost their credibility, effectiveness, and scientific legitimacy.