Using Science When It Suits Your Interests.

The other day, after writing my post about why I think it is both legally and ethically correct that David and Collet Stephan were found guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their now deceased son Ezekiel, I happened to glance at some Twitter pages belonging to those engaged in ‘alternative treatments.’ (I will not call any of them doctors even if they call themselves such.)

What I found interesting is the number of posts that had to do with scientific research. This seemed odd to me. If your assertion is that science-based medicine is flawed and its critiques of your own field are wrong because of, well, science – then why post scientific research as support to whatever it is you are doing?

The argument seems to be – science is wrong and misguided, except when I think it (or can manipulate it to look like it), supports what I want.

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The other posts I noticed were articles about ‘errors’ on the part of medicine or science or corrections and evolution of previous research or practice.

I think these were supposed to be ‘reveals’ or ‘proof’ of the flaws in science-based medicine.

They are actually proof to the contrary – the ability to detect, admit and correct error and continuously strive for greater more accurate understanding and knowledge, is actually a hallmark of science and why it improves itself and our lives with it.

The real problem I see in medicine isn’t science, it is humans; specifically some of our less admiral personality traits like laziness, arrogance, ego and some rather disturbing manifestations of bias.

Learning, correcting and admitting error is not only very scientific, it is also very reassuring and hopeful to someone like me, who is often critical about many aspects of the medical profession.

The ability to acknowledge fallibility imbues greater trust in me as a patient, not less.

In contrast, the TL’s of the ‘alternatives’ had no critiques or admissions of  error about their own field. There was no willingness to question, no room for doubt – this was the terrain of true believers – and marketing.

On the pages of actual doctors, (at least the ones I follow),  I often see articles about over and/or inappropriate prescribing of medications, discussions on how to improve patient safety, potential benefits and pitfalls of new research etc. For sure there are things I wish were there that usually are not  – discussions about all those things that fall  under the social determinants of health, the lack of critical examination of research funded by self-interested parties and the need to recognize faulty assumptions that interfere with proper diagnosis and treatment. I especially wish they would apply what we know about psychology and neuroscience and establish impenetrable and unbending conflict of interest guidelines.

Most of what I have witnessed in medicine is just a slightly more condescending version of what I witnessed in other fields such as law and journalism – the professional elevates the significance of what they do know while ignoring and dismissing the worth and relevance of  what they don’t.

Still, in my experience, I find if I can tap into the scientist within (if it exists- some have abandoned lab coats for stock quotes), there is a willingness to engage, which I take to be evidence of thinking.

(As opposed to the almost autonomic level of interaction which can take place.)

As I wrote in my post about the Stephans, the most disturbing thing in the ‘natural/alternative’ sphere is not their bluster about medicine, which, like any good ad campaign appeals to emotion at the expense of reason and facts, it is their complete and utter lack of reflective, critical thought about themselves.




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