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:
- I don’t know everything there is to know about this, therefore I will keep an open mind on how to tackle it.
- The sky is the limit, never say never. (How convinced were we that the earth was flat? That the sun revolved around us?).
- 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.
- The more I know, the more I know the less I know.
- I don’t stop asking questions.
- I search for and create meaning by discovering truths.
How (some) ‘Scientific’ Minds (that I have encountered) Reason:
- 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).
- 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.
- The more I know the more I know I know.
- I rarely ask questions because I already know the answers.
- I follow the well trodden path.
- 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.
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