Monday, 16 April 2012

The first recorded medical trial?

It is sometimes said that the first documented medical trial is found at the beginning of the Old Testament book of Daniel (1:1-16).  This is the story in which Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are among a group of the most gifted children selected by Nebuchadnezzar, who have just besieged and conquered Jerusalem.  These special children were to be taught to speak Chaldean and to learn the ways of the conquerors in order that they could govern the Israelites.

This claim might make it appear that the bible contains some science, but when you examine it, as usual, the 'science' is more or less at kindergarten level.  Yes, some of the children were fed with pulses for 10 days , while the others were fed portions of the king's meat and wine.  At the end of the trial period their appearances were compared.  Of course Daniel and his three friends'  'countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat'.

This sounds a bit like science doesn't it.  But if a medical trial was carried out like this in the present day, would be really considered to be scientific?  I think there are two possibilities.

  1. In alternative medicine circles, such as a test of a homeopathic 'remedy', it could be regarded as 'proof' that the magic remedy worked reliably without side effects.  What a wonderful result.  The results proved exactly what was expected.
  2. But in real science this would not be acceptable.  This is the simplest sort of medical trial that could be performed.  The main reason that it would not be considered valid (apart from the very poor statistics of examining only four subjects) is that it is not 'double blind' (and couldn't be).  Indeed it is not even 'single blind'.  In other words, everybody knew which children were in which group, and they all had a suspicion that there might be a difference in the outcomes.  Who judged the results?  Were they independent?  The fact that the bible doe not specifically say so would be enough for the study to be thrown out in the present day.
As usual, the claim that you can find science in the bible is found to be wanting.  I never remember hearing this story in church for some reason. Maybe the clergy have spotted the scientific flaw?  :)  On the other hand at least the story is rational and believable, unlike the great majority of the bible.  Maybe this is the reason.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego - famous for a less believable story

As for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they went on to much greater fame by surviving being thrown into the 'burning fiery furnace' where they met an angel who 'looked like the son of god'.  Yes apparently everyone knew what the son of god looked like!

Subsequently they were promoted to positions in Babylon.

And just for a little fun, here is a song by Louis Armstrong.  I would have embedded it but that feature has been disabled.


Anonymous said...

Earn Money Clinical Trials said...

One of the proof that even with out technology we can do certain things, just like that imagine "at the beginning of the old testament" a clinical trial?, well not even a single piece of micro chips is used those days.