Monday, February 9, 2015

Science Falsely So-Called


 It's quite common, in the discussions  and dissent of our day and hour, to refer to 'science' as some sort of  final arbiter of the disagreement.  Science is looked to as this impartial decision maker, an illuminated path by which  all of humanity can brightly see the path forward. Science is  looked to as a settled body of facts, and one need only look at these facts to decide who is and is not right.  This tactic is  handily deployed when the scientific facts appear to be on your side.  For example, Hilary Clinton recently  used science as a bludgeon (while simultaneously trying to revamp her image into some sort of matriarchal font of wisdom as opposed to a bitter, man-hating harpy) when she  tweeted "The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let's protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest". See the subtlety?  She draws a comparison between two settled facts and then throws in her debatable opinion.  Mrs Clinton, and her ilk, claim to have great faith in 'science'.
  The problem is that not all  facts are equally established and while it is observable and demonstrable that the earth is indeed round (an observation validated by the Bible) and  that the sky is blue, the  jury is still out on many facets of the vaccination process.   There are  a great many very smart people that are on both sides of this issue, but before we start forcing people to  take shots, it might behoove us to look at the track record of 'science' or rather, what the Bible calls 'science falsely so-called"
  For example, it was  a commonly held belief in ancient times  that living matter could  spontaneously arise from non-living matter.  It was  a commonly held-scientific opinion, endorsed and defended  by the great minds of the time, for  hundreds and hundreds of years.  Everybody from Anaximander to Aristotle took the position that dead flesh spontaneously produced maggots, and that  buckets of grain spontaneously produced  mice.  It was such a commonly accepted idea that Shakespeare even alluded to it in Anthony and Cleopatra.  Francisco Reidi performed the first experiments in 1688 that cast  doubt on this notion. His experiment was simple; isolate rotting meat form  flies and see if maggots  develop.  They did not.    For his trouble he was ridiculed and called 'unscientific'.  The pressure was great enough to  cause him to doubt his own hypothesis, not based on the evidence, but rather on its reception in the scientific community.
  In 1745 an Englishman named John Needham performed experiments in which he boiled chicken broth, killing the microorganisms he  believed were present in it.  He sealed the broth up and when  microorganisms grew anyway, victory was claimed for the idea of spontaneous generation.  Later experiments proved that his  boiled broth was still being contaminated by the air  before it was sealed.  It wasn't until 1859 that Louis Pasteur was able to sufficiently isolate the samples to prove , by  demonstrable and repeatable experiments, that the prevailing scientific theory of the day was dead wrong.
  Another  common idea of medieval medicine was the idea of 'humours'. Humours can be loosely defined as 4 different bodily fluids (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile) that had to be kept in balance to  assure good health.  This 'science' is a distant cousin to herbalism.  In  humour thoery different foods were assigned to different humours, and a person was supposed to treat deficiencies in their humours by consuming, for example, more pasta to bring your bile into balance or more sugar to  adjust your blood humours.  Humours were also tied  to the Zodiac and the four season.  Further study has discredited humours, but for centuries it was as firmly established a 'fact' as  the color of the sky.  No serious  medical doctor at the time would challenge it, even though it was  kind of silly.
  All the great minds of the scientific community agreed for  almost 3000 years that  bloodletting was a valid medical practice.  This  method resulted in, among other things, the death of George Washington.  
   Trepanning , where a hole is drilled into the skull to relieve pressure ( and let evil spirits out) was practiced from ancient times to the renaissance without being questioned.
  More recently,  electroshock therapy reigned nearly 50 years as a viable  method for treating a  variety of illnesses. In the  1980's a procedure called vertebroplasty was  introduced. In vertebroplasty, a sort of cement is injected into the  spinal cord to relieve pain after an injury, and this method  enjoyed a 90% success rate until  , years later, many of the recipients  began to experience a whole new set of problems, and  further studies  found it be no more effective than a placebo.
    My point in all this this that the last chapter of this has not been written, and before we charge ahead, it behooves us to look behind. Throughout history,  scientists have come up with ideas and theories and procedures that  were widely implemented  and endorsed  and defended before ultimately  proving themselves to be  useless.  Sometimes it took hundreds of years to get the truth out, and it may very well be that future generation will sit back and marvel that we were even considering  injecting people with foreign substances against their will in the interest of medicine.  Perhaps someday the vax pushers of today will be classified  with blood-letters and trepanners.

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