Saturday, January 30, 2010

We're going to need some crystals...

This might be a bit tangential to class but hey, that's what the blog is for. A number of times recently I have noticed a tendency of people to criticize science (sometimes 'mainstream science' or 'traditional science') as being very inflexible and unwilling to change whereas the alternative is the one portrayed as open to change. You often see this in the debate over 'alternative medicine'.

In reality the truth is pretty much the exact opposite. Science is remarkably open to new ideas. BUT what science does is to test those ideas. That's really all science is - a way of organizing our knowledge by proposing and systematically testing different ideas. Those ideas that don't work are eventually rejected (flat earth, miasma, witchcraft etc) and those that do work (germ theory etc) get increasingly refined and sometimes completely replaced by a whole new paradigm (Newton to Einstein etc). In many ways science is ALL ABOUT change. A career in science is not a good idea if you don't like change.

Most scientists are not against 'alternative medicine' because it is outside the mainstream - they are against it because it has been tested and there's little evidence it works. So why do many people believe in it? Because the placebo effect is HUGE. People DO improve if you give them a pill, potion, wave a magic wand, or stick needles in them - but only because they believe they will. This is also a problem with much traditional medicine. Many anti-depressant medicines (one of the most prescribed drugs) show only marginal improvement over a placebo.

Scientists have repeatedly tested many alternative 'therapies' and in cases where there appears to be some evidence of an effect (eg acupuncture) you'll find a fairly rich literature (in acupuncture though it is hard to rule out the placebo effect). In cases where there are good studies demonstrating no effect scientists tend to lose interest (eg homeopathy).

So I'm not sure why scientists, who have tested many if not all these 'therapies' are portrayed as being unwilling to change when advocates of pseudoscience like homeopathy, astrology or the notoriously litigious scientology persist in their beliefs even as evidence accumulates that their beliefs are wrong.


Anonymous said...

One also has to account that science is observed in the eye of the beholder, and depending on the funding source or personal viewpoint, it can have a non-scientific outcome. Alternative medicine is not just a placebo affect, but positive thinking and empowerment do affect the physiology of the body. When a doctor limits the will or spirit of the patient by saying they have 7 weeks to live (based on statistical "science") that also can have profound affects on the person, if they choose to believe it.The body was created with its own healing wisdom. "Alternative" medicine, which used to be ancient medicine, knows the right buttons to push. Acupuncture, massage, and breath work are ancient traditions worth keeping around, which science has proven to be more than placebo! Relaxation has an immense affect on the nervous system.

Statistical science, which is the majority of science found within modern medicine, is not good science or empirical science. For example, 50% of smokers get lung cancer. Well smoking must not the cause, since only half get lung cancer. Genetics is not the cause, since most people who get cancer, did not have a family member who had the same type or one at all. The germ theory is highly questionable too. If it was a law, meaning it happened every time, then everyone would be sick all the time, since we are composed of microbes and we share them all the time.

Claude Bernard had a good point. Louis Pasteur even agrees with him in his personal journeys at the end of his life.

Dr. Hamer disproved the germ theory and turns modern medicine on its head in the 1980's. Within the realm of empirical science, he found that all his cancer patients experienced some traumatic event that took them off guard before their diagnosis. He found that all cancer heals on its own, if the patient is aware of their original conflict, and that instead of it being a disease or flaw of nature, it is actually a special biological program! His post doctoral thesis wasn't even read, and when he took them to court, the head guy said they didn't read it because "they were afraid he would be right."

So in regards to science being all about change, I must disagree. I think it depends on who is funding the operation. The germ theory is outdated, and to change that now, would cause a credibility issue within modern medicine.

I have applied these "new" yet ancient theories to my work, in my holistic medicine practice, and it is real. The power of the mind cannot be refuted. Is seeing believing or is believing seeing?

Is medical science a whole science when they leave out the "unquantifiable" data of a patient's experience, emotions, and even spirit? Mmmm... I think there is a lot of room for growth within science. Maybe it can use a dose of intuition.

John Latto said...

Err, okay. That would be the same Dr Ryke Hamer who had his medical license revoked, has been repeatedly prosecuted and convicted for treating patients without a license and proposes that his method is a "Germanic" alternative to mainstream clinical medicine which he claims is part of a Jewish conspiracy to decimate non-Jews. That Dr Hamer?