Closed Minded Science – What it is and Why it really, REALLY sucks

I moved Science

When I say I studied Philosophy as an undergrad people think I spent all day eating toast, sitting around contemplating the meaning of life. I admit, I did do that a bit, but I knew deep down that all this thinking would help me kick ass at some point in my life. To be fair, it helps me kick ass in pretty much all mundane arguments with my husband, just ask him. There’s nothing like putting words into quantifiers – quantificational logic, that is, – to help you pull apart everything anyone else says. But back to the point: The educational blend of Philosopher and Nurse has helped me kick ass in getting treatment for Hana over the past year. The Nurse in me understands the medical implications and  terminology as I scour the research and the Philosopher in me keeps asking, relentlessly: Why…Why Not? Why…Why friggin Not? And: What If..?

Now I see many parallels between my philosophical approach to finding ways to help Hana to that of a scientist. This is what I thought science was all about:

  • The pursuit of understanding.
  • The discovery of truths and a realisation that understanding – even at it’s best – has the ability to transform and mould accepted ‘truths’!
  •  An acknowledgment that at any point in time, an accepted truth can change with another discovery.
  • A scientific mind is always open. Never, ever closed.

Yet when it comes to my experience as Nurse turned Consumer with fellow health care professionals  – many of whom would claim they have a scientific mind even if they aren’t outright scientists involved in research – I have been confused and saddened to see that on the whole, my understanding of science is not one that is shared by your average 21st Century medical and health care professional.

How (I think) a Scientific Mind Should Reason:

  1. I don’t know everything there is to know about this, therefore I will keep an open mind on how to tackle it.
  2. The sky is the limit, never say never. (How convinced were we that the earth was flat? That the sun revolved around us?).
  3. Truth is relative (to our understanding) and scientific truths change with not only what is discovered and understood, but is also limited by the incorporation of these truths into accepted spheres of knowledge. This in itself is limited by what is published and then, with what is actually dissemeintated to medical practitioners and the general public.
  4. The more I know, the more I know the less I know.
  5. I don’t stop asking questions.
  6. I search for and create meaning by discovering truths.

How (some) ‘Scientific’ Minds (that I have encountered) Reason:

  1. I don’t know everything there is to know about this – but I know a bit and therefore my mind is made up. (I know all I need to know and I’m sceptical about anything I don’t know or know nothing about).
  2. Truth is what I’m telling you. I don’t always get around to reading the latest publications but I’m experienced and well recognised. Trust me and do what I say.
  3. The more I know the more I know I know.
  4. I rarely ask questions because I already know the answers.
  5. I follow the well trodden path.
  6. If there is no proven cure, there is no point in looking for a cure.

How Closed Minded Science Ridicules what Others have to Say:

The problem – closed minded science – is a much greater problem than my experience as Nurse turned Consumer over the past year. I see this closed mindedness permeating my Facebook feed as articles from science blogs, medical newsletters emanating the same ‘closed by what I know’ vibe, “science has disproved that” or “science has proven this” as a means to ridicule or rule out what others may be saying about something. Gluten sensitivity came up today – “Unless you have cealiacs disease you aren’t sensitive to gluten -scientists say.” Not sure how to tell my non-cealiac husband that he better stop getting violent reactions from Gluten then. What the hell is wrong with saying “This phenomena exists, but we just have no fricken idea what it means yet? We still don’t understand it.” The problem of course isn’t science itself, it’s our ridiculous application of it – (‘it’, in the form of studies, often single, always limited, sometimes of an inappropriate structure  to what it is testing AND whether it happens to get media/social media attention) that foster a rigid, closed mind rather than opening it.

I’m thoroughly disappointed by the scientific closed mindedness I have encountered in my quest to ultimately, save my daughter’s life. I had thought more of 21st Century approaches to scientific problems. I had expected more passion, more curiosity, more courage to tackle, explore and discover ways to solve this apparently un-solvable problem, this untreatable condition. Instead my husband and I led a two man crusade for a long, long while, fruitlessly challenging the rigidity of  scientific minds that were so closed by the science they knew, they couldn’t, for a moment, entertain any notion of a science they didn’t or a science they hadn’t yet encountered.

And that’s a truth.

If this is your first time here, thank you for stopping by! There is more on my journey as Nurse turned Consumer under Brain Tumour. Please stop by my Facebook page to say hi. If you are a regular reader, thank you, and I love you!

  12 comments for “Closed Minded Science – What it is and Why it really, REALLY sucks

  1. Mary Birtill
    February 22, 2016 at 11:56 pm

    I understand totally what you’re saying Naomi and it is hard for you not to lose faith. I just pray you find some professionals out there who are open minded and are prepared to listen and engage thoughtfully and creatively with Hana’s case. Sadly our systems based global society, with financial constraints and over-work make even doctors lose sight of the individual. But there must be some heroes out there bucking the trend.
    Don’t give up!
    Mary xxx

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Naomi R Cook
      February 23, 2016 at 12:17 am

      Thanks Mary! And if not, we can be the heroes instead 🙂

  2. Poppy Lopatniuk
    February 23, 2016 at 12:20 am

    What you have said Naomi resonates with all I have been through in my long years attempting to get the health authorities in Tasmania to acknowledge and research into the cancer cluster in the area where Tim Young’s mother and her siblings and parents lived. We have the Menzies Institute for Medical Research here in Hobart and right in their backyard this extremely high incidence of cancers. They were in denial right from the start. There is an impenetrable brick wall between scientists with regard to common sense and compassion.I have come up against downright lies and corruption which has taken away all faith in the health system. I wish you luck in your good fight for little Hana. Poppy Lopatniuk

    • Naomi R Cook
      February 23, 2016 at 12:30 am

      Oh Poppy this is fascinating, I’d love to hear your story! Thank you for sharing this, it gave me shivers down my spine. I wonder if you are still searching for answers, perhaps you’ve faced just too many brick walls to continue…I’m so sorry and I completely empathise with you.

  3. Marie Morrin
    February 23, 2016 at 12:58 am

    The one that always gets me Naomi is, “there is no evidence…” – therefore it doesn’t exist. That means a thing only starts to exist when there is evidence. That’s how the scientific mind works. That makes absolutely no sense to me. I have learned to respect and admire doctors and scientists if it is warranted, but I refuse to put them on a pedestal. They are just people, and once you accept that it gives you the strength and calm and self-assurance to forge ahead. Every single law of nature or physics, evey cure, every mathematical rule already existed before a scientist ‘discovered’ it. Einstein did not create the law of relativity. He just figured it out. It was always there. And I am quite sure what you are looking for is out there, somewhere. Good luck.

    • Naomi R Cook
      February 23, 2016 at 1:00 am

      YES! You have put down the exact words that I feel, I should quote you in the blog post 🙂

  4. March 19, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    I feel the same way about scientific minds you have described. Science is in infancy to understand how nature works. Our body is part of nature. Our minds interpret observations through limited knowledge as if they know it all. Science is contaminated with opinions.

  5. Lars
    December 19, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I’m frustrated by many things in medicine. I wrote this today as an exercise in getting my anger out and then posted it to a blog that spouts that kind of “there is no evidence” shinola. I hope it fits here too. It’s a short list of those things that came to mind today. I am a caregiver and have also given care to my mom who died of cancer. I now face several chronic problems that threaten to disable me. Some of them are listed here, others are based on experiences i’ve had helping others.

    Until science and medical practice both start caring about the patient first, and their pocketbooks second, we won’t have any trust in science to tell us anything useful. Typically dumb examples would be:

    1. Nerve and tendon gliding exercises for capal tunnel syndrome, why is this nearly unknown? could it be because surgeons need yachts?

    2. That obesity has a 5% cure rate via diet/exercise and bariatric surgery only gets you from about 40ish BMI to about a mid-30s BMI, so that’s not a solution either (but that doesn’t stop people from making billions of dollars (a year!!) on these “therapies”

    3. That curing cancer by poisoning patients is pointless, if they have only a couple of years, let them spend it with family instead of lining your pockets with gold

    4. By the time they tell you about endurance breath training (used by military and athletes) using simple cheap devices (google respiratory exerciser), you’re nearly already dead from COPD and you’ve already lost all your muscles – and when they do, they send you to a “rehab” center where an “interdisciplinary team of experts works with you” (read: treat you as a cash cow while you’re dying instead of giving you a device and instructions up front)

    5. Obese people are treated differently in the medical office regardless of fitness level, and are assumed to be lying if they claim they are fit (capable of passing a cardio test) – ie. oh? your knee hurts? poor you, you should lose weight… instead of… let’s get an xray and check for fracture

    *I’ve quit telling doctors I exercise daily, although I do. It’s not worth the doubtful looks.

    6. Thin people are hardly ever tested for diabetes type 2 (beyond simple yearly blood sugar test, which we all know is very fallible) simply because they are thin – even though they may be wasting away from it. Ditto heart disease, stroke risk factors, etc…

    7. People with IBS-C (constipation type) are told to eat fiber and drink water when first of all they’ve already done that, and second it can be horribly dangerous if it turns out their abdominal pain is caused by diverticulitis.

    8. Elderly people are told they are a “fall risk” when actually they have been overmedicated to the point they can’t finish sentences, usually with multiple types and high doses of blood pressure pills. This is also a common tactic for keeping “troublesome” patients in bed in nursing homes by discouraging ambulation.

    9. People with migraines showing up in the ER aren’t looking for drugs, they need the strongest sudafed you can get them – they need vasoconstrictors you dopes, and not 4 hours later. Then, you give them a referral to a neurologist. Lets. Try. Treating. The. Problem.

    last but not least:

    10. People with chronic pain being told they are a risk for selling street drugs. Doctors are not cops and shouldn’t be. Ditto for employers, they aren’t cops either. If you can’t see what’s wrong with that, you need to think harder, try a few cases out, explore the issue.

  6. Clare
    June 29, 2017 at 8:20 pm

    You’re not alone in this; as
    a veterinarian since 2000 I’ve seen this permeate it’s way through my field. I left a veterinary Facebook group this morning over this! Medicine is not the same anymore and the level of incompetence due to this attitude is alarming. I’ve had clean up duty after these vets numerous times and I would refuse to lie and cover to the owners- how are people with little to no medical knowledge supposed to get decent care for their animals?? Its downright dangerous! Medicine is an educated guess but today’s approach seems to place blind trust in what was once a theory but now is viewed as an absolute.

    • Naomi R Cook
      July 3, 2017 at 11:53 pm

      Hi Clare! Good to hear from you and I totally agree with your point that ‘theories are becoming absolutes!’

    • Michael Hall
      July 11, 2017 at 8:49 am

      I’ve always respected the diagnoses of vets who do not get any verbal help from their ‘patients’ I once met a fantastic highly experienced vet called George Rafferty and had the pleasure of shaking his hand when salmon fishing in the highlands of Scotland.His popularity with the farmers of Speyside came from results from that ‘thinking’ vet.
      I have lately proved to myself that had I been able to converse with him rather than umpteen GPs and a surgeon he would have been able to advise that I should take so and so and be cured -possibly.
      Having an open mind is essential in overcoming difficult problems. One thing seems obvious that those with closed minds achieve very little. Never give in should be the moto.

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