Monday, December 5, 2011

Science, that Science?

"The Diaphanous Frippery of Science" Part 2 of 3

Sure He that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and godlike reason
To fust in us unus’d. ~Shakespeare

While Ontology reasons for an “is.” Epistemology determines the “know.”  The latter obviously is the force “du jour” that determines the real cause while the former labels, mostly incorrectly the correlation as the potential cause. The character of the scientist, experimenter physician rests on the style and integrity of the proof, he or she provides. There is a great big rift between axioms and facts. Now what do you think, is the way to go? Shall we reach out and touch the face of heaven, even if ever so briefly with the strength of our conviction, the firmness of our facts and the courage of our principles. Or, shall we embark upon the uncharted seas where distant mirages are considered as footprints of land?

“But there it is,” you say!
“No it isn’t,” I say.
“It is!”
“No it is not!”

Yes, lets go in search of that Fata Morgana!

Epidemiology and the takeover of medical science!

Ontology may then be considered “the way of the opinion” and Epistemology registered under “the way of the truth” under the aegis of Parmenides. Although the stretch is elastic and subject to break, it does shine the light between growing abstractions in tautological “studies” and the inherent stable facts that reveal themselves through perseverance. Now before you start writing about this to your favorite aunt and complaining about the discourse, consider this, that after John Snow, known to many as the father of epidemiology who by direct observation, cold hard facts and elimination of all extraneous information, was able to determine, correctly, the cause, of the dreaded and deadly diarrhea causing disease “Cholera,” as vibrio cholerae tainted water and not the air, the field of epidemiology erupted into its own galactic frontier. 

Vibrio Cholerae
Cholera beds in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Cholera Endemic in Africa 2009

An addition to such a luminary is another name William McBride, of whom you might have heard, he was the first physician like Snow to determine the cause of phocomilia a birth disorder where thousands of children were born without arms or legs in the world and it came to him that the cause was the drug Thalidomide used for sedation in pregnant women, a drug that he was employing as the treatment du-jour. It was his deductive reasoning of the facts that laid bare Thalidomide as the causal agent.

Unlike today those scientists were hard on the heals of truth, of causation before shining the light to others (or trumpeting their success). Today we use confounding, conflicting and “enterprising” data to decipher what “is.” We have the premise of “publish (any old material ratified by statistical power created via mathematical fiat) or perish (your tenure, reputation and name in the scientific community) mentality.” For instance today we are inundated with Vitamin E preventing cancer and then later the same vitamin is considered to be promoting the risk of lung cancer. Same story with Vitamin C also (As some of the fairer sex might be inclined to pay $200 for a bottle of Vitamin C cream for the color on their face. I wonder if those rosy cheeks are from the loss of money from their purse or the before and after lack of change in the skin tone).

 The list of these modern cure-alls goes on with flax-seed, ginger-root etc. Is there some benefit? I am sure to some there is, maybe, but real proof is lacking. Yet, to tout them as cure-alls is a travesty for the gullible mind. Absolute sadness! Greed and vanity are why conflicting studies are being published at such an alarming rate. “This causes that!” In one rant and “No! that does not cause this!” in another one. And you think medicine is based on absolute certainty? I wish for all of us to take every study/article that passes beneath the glare of our scrutiny and rip its innards apart with questions. In so doing the reality will slowly make itself visible. The thinking, that what ever is published in a “peer-reviewed” journal is worthy of worship, is a psychological construct wrapped in a pacifying delicious bun, sadly, the deliciousness is only in the first bite. Using such superficial and incomplete data to propagate myth is akin to a perpetual whirlwind of insanity. Most times it will and does bite back.

“I heard that eating broccoli daily helps the fur on a cat’s back.” The mouse says.
“Really!” the cat replies.
“Uh huh and if you eat it twice a day it can also help with digestion.” The mouse squeaks as his whiskers stick out in triumph of knowledge.
“That’s good to know!” the cat looks down at the mouse.

I throw the foregoing in here for informational purposes only so I may jog the dials in our brains. Prevents rust, you see, as it does in mine. The point being, time ossifies sclerotic thinking. Question any and everything! It is the only way towards true enlightenment.

Sclerotic Thinking and the Ivory Towers.

Be still the Golgi Apparti in my brain cells. Relax, you trusty Purkinjee fibers of my heart for here lies the dilemma in this dogma. All these self-satisfying tales of statistical brilliance arise in the inner sanctums of erroneous thinking that stem from the confines of the tall, unapproachable, self-serving, slippery ivory towers where the steps go only in one direction-Up. If you happen to have climbed up to the top (and if you did, you will never know these written words) then the only way out is being pushed out of the small solitary unguarded window by another of the same ilk or gently lowered with a toe tag. The tower is the ultimate prison of thought.

So what of this science? Is it true? “Ca’ depends!” as the French would say. You can find conflicts in the scientific community that spring not from real thought but from a politicized version of it. The proof surprisingly emerges from the mountains of raw data that is translated for the consumption of the common herd. No disrespect here for the public. For we as the public, have taken the stance that any word spoken from the ivory tower is the correct word, undeniable, unquestionable and un-approachable. Is it? You ask. But of course it is, if you don’t have the endorphins and acetylcholine still floating between synaptic shunts in your brain, it must be! Right? But, if you can think, understand and question, then truly that is the best defense, of and for, our scientific future. Isn’t it? There are no superiors in the game of science!

“We have finished the simulation on the helicopter!” The scientist addressed the Colonel.
“All issues fixed regarding the rotor?” The Colonel thundered.
“Well, sir...”
“Ah, there is one issue albeit very minor, sir?”
“The fastest rotation we have tested in reality is 3000 RPM for this material.”
“Yes and what has that got to do with it.”
“Well we tested the rotor at 4000 RPM in a simulator only, not in reality.”
“Well then that is good!”
“We need another week to confirm.”
“No time for that. Simulation is as good as the real thing. Get the bird ready for test flight!”

Newspaper report. “On Saturday the test flight of XYZ-789 a prototype version of a helicopter was aborted due to rotor failure. Two minor injuries were reported”

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son! ~”If” by Rudyard Kipling

Reference: (American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine Vol 177. pp. 470-471, (2008))

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