Monday, August 13, 2012

The Emperor has no Clothes

I have a problem with religious devotion to scientific studies. In fact, I have a few problems with any faith-based approach that disavows us of common sense.

Why am I on about this today? I heard a story on NPR this morning about reflux. They reported that some people falsely believe (my emphasis) certain foods cause reflux. Why is this belief false? In fact it is true. If you eat something and subsequently develop reflux, that's pretty solid evidence. When I eat yeasty bread, I get heartburn. Do I need a study before I stop eating yeasty bread? I do not.

If there is no definitive study proving something is true, the assumption we come away with is that it doesn't exist. It's not the science. Real scientists are endlessly curious. They know that what's "true" today could all change tomorrow as the result of learning something new. That's one thing I love about science. Real science involves understanding that truth is not fixed.

It's the thought form science conveys to we laypeople that points us in the wrong direction. We like to think that scientists are smarter than we are. They know what they're talking about. We begin to believe the conclusions arrived at after studies as The Truth. Everything else, including our own experience, is false.

If there isn't a study that says so, our symptoms and reactions to foods aren't real? That's crazy. Studies refer to statistics, not to individuals. You are not a statistic! Nor am I.

The first sad step away from good health is a tendency to ignore symptoms and changes in our own bodies, for whatever reasons. When we defer to the ubiquitous study or to those we perceive to be higher authorities, we surrender the ability to be discerning, to notice, and to trust our unique, complicated bodies. The most brilliant medical practitioners in the world can not tell you what you're feeling internally. Only you can do that. Only you.

For a long time I clipped newspaper and magazine stories about absurdly useless studies, such as lengthy, expensive studies that proved children who eat nutritious breakfasts are less likely to fall asleep in school than those who skip breakfast. They needed to conduct a study to prove that? Good lord.

May you pay close attention to the needs of your miraculous body today and every day. All the symptoms, the shifts and changes you feel in your body - all of them are very real. Very. It is respectful to acknowledge, to listen and feel. Studies are interesting but not definitive for individuals.

To your good health. Shalom.


ellen abbott said...

it's because at some point, science and medicine refused to accept experiential evidence as evidence. if the

Reya Mellicker said...

Big mistake

Rebecca Clayton said...

About those bogus studies--many times, the reporter (or the PR person, if it's from a well-funded research person) misses the point of the study all together, and takes away the premise the study started from. Now that the big science and medicine journals have an online presence, you can often look up the abstract and see what the study was really about.

The contrast can be hilarious! (In a nerdy way.)

Reya Mellicker said...

That is good to know! I don't doubt that there is a problem in the translation. I tend not to believe anything I hear on the radio, see on the internet, or read in the papers. Who knows what it's really about.

As for the abstracts, I'm going to look for them. I heard that it costs a bundle to subscribe to professional scientific journals, but maybe easy to understand abstracts can be located without having to pay the big bucks.

I will check it out.

Rebecca Clayton said...

Reya, with all the science books you read, I'm sure you can read the abstracts. The New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, Nature, and Science all have their recent abstracts online, and sometimes some editorials, commentary, etc.

A very cool thing is happening with (Public Library of Science). Articles are free for researchers to publish, and free for anyone to read, download, etc. A lot of prominent researchers submit articles here, the articles are peer-reviewed, and the quality is high. More and more articles are being published here, open access, for anyone in the world to read. Very exciting!

Reya Mellicker said...

This is excellent information, Rebecca. Thank you!