Most contemporary research concerning modernizing traditional Chinese medicine is aimed at confirming the effectiveness of certain traditional doctrines, methods, and treatments through scientific experiments designed in terms of modern scientific theories and approaches. This paper argues that such research should also consider the issue of falsification. Not everything in traditional Chinese medicine can be confirmed. We need a complete mechanism through which to reject the false and maintain the true.
By investigating several major academic journals in the field published in mainland China, we find that there have been several different types of research concerning modernizing traditional Chinese medicine. First, the modern Western pattern of clinical trial has been used to test the effectiveness of traditional Chinese drugs. Second, modern Western medical ways have been employed in administering traditional Chinese drugs to patients. Third, modern scientific experiments have been designed to analyze the chemical components of traditional Chinese drugs and disclose their functional mechanisms at the micro-level of the body. Fourth, efforts have been made to explain and reformulate traditional Chinese medical theories and clinical experience in terms of modern scientific and medical theories. Finally, modern medical methods and technologies have been chosen to test particular traditional Chinese clinical doctrines and principles. All of this research has been very helpful for us to understand traditional Chinese medicine in terms of modern science and technology.
However, some scholars are worried that such research has abandoned the identity of traditional Chinese medicine as a peculiar medical system. They doubt that the diagnostic and therapeutic doctrines and approaches of traditional Chinese medicine can be subject to the investigation and test of modern scientific theories and methods without destroying their very characteristics. However, these scholars fail to see a crucial role played by the method of experimental research in selecting scientific hypotheses and theories. Traditional Chinese medicine, as a medical system, ought to be open to the test of experimental research to confirm its useful parts and falsify its false components. Only through this process of differentiation can traditional Chinese medicine become a real scientific system in the modern sense.