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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Better Science: Specialization

"If something is philosophically false, it is just as discredited as if it had been disproved in a lab. We often forget this."

My professor, a long-haired hippie type, paused. As usual, he had managed to cover himself in chalk. He had a habit of losing his balance if he held still too long. He let the statement float a moment more before moving on.

It makes sense why we forget fundamental truths about how the world works. We get focused in one area and begin to forget that there's other stuff out there. This fragmentation is the problem of specialization. We no longer see how things are connected.

But they are connected.

Connected Ideas

Let's take Science as an example. Science is not a single field of study, wholly disconnected from everything else. Consider just one obvious force influencing science today... Economics.

You can get money to further your study if you decide to study the "right things." These powerful financial incentives direct science down a particular path, thus muddying the pure waters of research.

I am unaware of the use of the scientific process in food production [GMOs, baby formula, FDA restricted items] or technology development [computers, cellphones, cars]. Far as I know--please, correct me if I'm wrong--these entity-driven advancements are influenced by businesses, not scientific review. Science is used as a tool to drive profits ...not find the truth of how these things can and do affect us, for both good and ill.

The birth industry's "best practices" has a long history of getting stuff wrong in favor of philosophical and economic influences.

In the interest of better science, we must look at our study of the natural world beyond the confines of a specialized field. We must consider our ideas in the broader context of knowledge, understanding and wisdom. At minimum, we must be willing to acknowledge the other factors influencing our views.

I think Mandy's quote from Dr. Ruth Beechick is an excellent reminder. We should strive to learn in a unified way. As we learn the many facets to something, we can being to think about applying that knowledge in a specialized situation.

What do you think of specialized knowledge and study?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester


Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

I can't separate it from my religious beliefs and politics. That's why we don't participate in IAN or other "scientific" studies. The last thing I want to help create is understanding of an "autism gene."

I will be raising the last generation of autistic children if they ever find it, because the next generation will go into the medical waste bag.

Karen Joy said...

This doesn't answer your question, exactly, but I came face to face with the concept of "science as a tool to drive profits" when my youngest son was diagnosed with celiac disease, eight years ago. Why are do many European countries have an exponentially greater rate of diagnosis? Because American medical doctors are trained how to best diagnose diseases and conditions FOR WHICH THERE IS MEDICATION. That's where the research dollars are going, and medical & pharmaceutical companies contribute millions of dollars to public and private universities. American doctors are not trained in the gentle art of fostering and encouraging HEALTH, especially preventative measures.

It really is a travesty.

There's little money to spread the word about celiac disease, to research it, to educate doctors... WHY? Because a medication for it is entirely unlikely, due to the way it functions within the body.

What has driven the uptick of knowledge about celiac disease in recent years? CONSUMERS!! Consumers who research, online, to find out what their problem is, and who have started to increase demand for gluten-free grocery products.

(That, and a major medical study out of University of Maryland, which showed that roughly 1 in 130 people test positive for CD in the United States. Even doctors with a pharmaceutically-subsidized "MD" after their name can't avoid those stats.)

(Yes, this is a soapbox of mine...)

Karen Joy said...

And, by the way, thank you for at least touching on the profit-driven, anti-woman, anti-baby, anti-evidence-based birth practices which have rooted themselves into the American fabric. Another travesty. While doctors continue to have monetary incentive to encourage mothers to have c-sections, we will continue to see 30%+ rates in our country. When pro-mother practices are put into place, and when the endocrine system is allowed to function as God designed it to, a vast, vast majority of the time, a mother will labor and deliver well -- not according to a doctor or a hospital's timetable, but according to the baby's timetable.

So many of the "advances" in maternal-fetal care, especially in the last 30 years, have had unintended, negative consequences. And, once a concept or practice becomes habit and socially acceptable (like epidurals), it becomes harder and harder to root out of the system, even when myriad research material has proven that (for example), epidurals slow labor, increase maternal fevers, increase the use of vacuum and forceps delivery, increase the risk of c-section, decrease the newborn's ability to nurse quickly and effectively, increase both fetal and maternal mortality rates, etc etc etc.

Luke Holzmann said...

Mrs. C, I hear you on not being able to separate out everything. And, if we do find the "autism gene," may it be when we can do something positive about it. May the picture you paint never come to be...

Karen, that is a fascinating--and sobering--observation about celiacs. I hadn't thought of it--as I merely have an intolerance to wheat. I love getting information from people with soapboxes. They tend to have the good stuff <smile>.

Oh my, yes. The more I hear about the birth industry--and the food industry, for that matter--the more disturbed I get.


Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

Luke, I hope it never does... but look what testing has done for the Downs Syndrome community. Many are aborted.

Karen Joy said...

@Mrs. C ~ Yes, the numbers for aborted Down's babies are gut-wrenching. NINETY PERCENT of women who find out in advance that they are carrying a Down's baby choose to abort. That's not to say that 90% in entirety are aborted, because many women don't know in advance for one reason or another (no u/s, or the u/s doesn't pick up on it, etc).

Luke Holzmann said...

...ugh. Yeah.

I don't even have words...



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