By: Elina St-Onge,
There seems to be this endless war separating science from nature. We’re given two opposite polarities to choose from:
#1 : You either swear by scientific authorities and pharmaceutical methods while judging alternative information as “pseudo-scientific naturopathic propaganda.”
#2 : Or you’re a “hippie” living off herbs and crystals while rejecting all modern knowledge as a conspiracy out there to get you…
But does it need to be so black and white? IS IT so black and white? Before going any further, let’s remind ourselves of something important: The truth isn’t about defending an opinion. It doesn’t care about opinions. It isn’t an opinion.
“Opinions are made to be changed – or how is truth to be got at?” – Lord Byron (1788 – 1824)
As long as we swear by anything without a shadow of a doubt and refuse to remain flexible and open to new information that may add on to – or change – our current perspective, we cannot evolve. We cannot genuinely learn if we prefer picking sides and identifying ourselves with rigid opinions and judgments. Because attaching to an opinion is essentially about giving power to a single angle of view and sticking to it, which greatly filters the way we process information.
The voice in our head that says “this is how it is, all else must be bogus” isn’t in service of the truth, it only serves our ego’s need to be “right,” to judge and to avoid uncertainty. But as much as we may believe something to being true, in order to remain objective and advocates of truth, we need to at least remain neutral, flexible and be open to altering our perspective. Not with a “Oh yeah? Try and prove me wrong and I’ll consider but let me ridicule you in the meantime” type of attitude. Neutrality, curiosity and observation is much more powerful than finger pointing – it is the best foundation for true learning.
“People are culturally conditioned to have to be right. The parents are right, the teacher is right, the boss is right. Who is right overrules what is right. Couples have huge quarrels about considerations that are forgotten as the struggle for who is right rages on.
Political parties have institutionalized having to be right. How often has a political party welcomed the position of the other side? Imagine if all the energy that goes into trying to prove the other side wrong were channeled into actually thinking about what was best for whatever the dispute is about. Worse, having to be right becomes a barrier to learning and understanding. It keeps you away from growing, for there is no growth without changing, correcting, and questioning yourself.
If you have to be right, you put yourself in a hedged lane, but once you experience the power of not having to be right, you will feel like you are walking across open fields, the perspective wide and your feet free to take any turn.” – John Naisbitt
Here are 3 points that we should all be reminded of before jumping to conclusions within the world of health and science.
1. For The Love of Science: Question ALL Science!
It is a common trait of the human ego to want to put all faith in something – anything, and treat it as the be-all and end-all answer to all of our questions. The scientific community often accuses the herb loving “hippies” (using stereotypes playfully here) for blindly trusting alternative medicine without critical thought – which can be true in some cases. However, the scientific community itself often puts complete faith in today’s scientific authorities, claiming they cannot possibly be wrong about anything. In both cases, such faith has little to do with the truth and more to do with the assumption that some authority will provide the unbiased truth for us.
Now before I get bashed for questioning science, let me explain what I mean. It is not to say that the scientific method itself is inadequate. But unfortunately, we live in a world of many interests and agendas. We can trust that the scientific method itself works, but can we be sure that it is always used fairly, extensively and honestly – at all cost – by today’s leaders of industries?
Is it really safe to assume that all authority:
- Has no vested interests or conflicts of interest?
- Has perfect intelligence?
- Has all the facts for both sides of the fence?
- Is totally neutral and unbiased?
- Has perfect integrity?
- Has your best interests in mind?
- Is truly open-minded?
- Loves truth more than benefits?
- Does not let money or power influence what it teaches?
If the scientific community is often so keen in calling alternative practitioners charlatans who are in it for money and fame, why not hold the same level of skepticism for mainstream health businesses? Doesn’t the word “business” itself signify the sale of something in an attempt to make a profit?
Choosing to put faith in any authority – without actually witnessing elitist meetings, relationships between scientists and government and seeing what goes on in sponsored scientific studies – is merely speculation. Without investigating further or hearing out what insiders and whistleblowers have to say without prejudice, we are simply adopting the opinion that “of course, greed would not come in the way of leaders working for the greater good. Anyone saying otherwise is a conspiracy nut.” This is an assumption, it is not questioning.
The same message applies for the natural alternatives crowd: believing that ill motives are the only thing fueling all modern practices and experts is merely speculation as well. It is a generalized judgement without precise investigation.
That being said, it is important to question everything and assume nothing. Questioning doesn’t mean pointing fingers or being paranoid. It just means questioning. It just means valuing the truth more than the comfort of opinion.
“Science is supposed to be adaptable, able to evolve and falsifiable. However, in our society, we tend to get stuck in ruts with science. When we find a solution to something, we often treat it as the be-all-end-all solution to our problems. When an alternative solution is suggested, or an attack is made on the current solution, people tend to get defensive and criticize these new propositions without allowing the research to be done. Instead of remaining opened minded and thinking ‘Oh, maybe that would work better!’ they usually retaliate.” – Garrett Melee
Article from theguardian.com: The Way We Fund and Publish Science Encourages Fraud
2. Avoid Association Fallacies. See every situation as UNIQUE
“The warrior treats each situation as if it were unique and never resorts to formulae, recipes or other people’s opinions.” – Paulo Coelho
To avoid association fallacies, every issue brought to the table should be regarded as unique. It should be explored individually for the sake of knowing the truth about a particular case, not for generalizing or picking sides once again. For example, there is currently a lot of noise being made about the use of cannabis oil to cure cancer. Someone who holds prejudice against natural alternatives will probably resort to ridicule or claim that “if it was legitimate, it would have been acknowledged by mainstream science by now.” Once again, this reaction stems from choosing faith in one thing and prejudice against another – rather than neutrally questioning and investigating the issue as an individual case.
On the other hand, believing that no mainstream advancement in medical treatments deserves acclaim is also biased. Believing that all modern practices are founded in corruption isn’t research, it’s putting every individual case in a box. As much as conspiracies do exist in this world, the conspiracy mindset is just that: a mindset.
If we’re interested in the truth, we need to go beyond mindsets and beliefs and become as neutral as the lens of a microscope. The lens of a microscope does not filter, it is not emotionally engaged, it does not generalize what it sees, it does not associate it with anything else. It holds no agenda. It does not deny some aspects of what it sees while sugarcoating others. The lens of a microscope simply looks at what is right there in front of it. Simple.
“Your drive to produce hard-edged opinions stoked by hostility is likely a sign that you’ve been brainwashed by the pedestrian influences of pop nihilism.” – Rob Brezsny
3. END THE WAR: Science is not the opposite of Nature, Nature is not the opposite of Science
Since when did nature become “bogus” or “unscientific?” Does it make sense to make science and health be exclusively about high-tech machines and artificial chemicals, while dismissing what already exists in nature? The “science vs. nature” debate is all in our heads. They are not opposites. True science is about unbiasedly researching all aspects of life. Technology innovation and the creation of new materials – whether it be synthetic chemicals or genes – is great (I know some would debate this but let’s pretend we lived in a purely ethical world for a second). Exploring nature and all of its properties is JUST as great. There is equal value in both worlds and they should complement one another, not ridicule and compete with each other.
“The only reason why one would ridicule what comes from nature is if they have divorced themselves from nature. Yet we are a part of nature. We are nature. If you think you’re smarter than nature, think again. Nature made you.” – unknown
No Matter What Conclusions We Arrive To, It Shouldn’t Be About Feeding Sides or Opinions.
Once we integrate these 3 insights in the way we process information, whether our research leads us to the conclusion that most of our society is corrupted or not shouldn’t matter or make us more judgmental and one-sided.
If Bob, for example, after 20 years of research, feels the need to speak out against Big Pharma or scientific authorities, it does not NECESSARILY mean he is biased. Maybe he has decided to undertake research in a neutral manner and has simply arrived to those conclusions. If John, after 20 years of research, feels the need to correct conspiracy theories, it does not NECESSARILY mean he is a shill working for the government either. Maybe he too has decided to undertake research in a neutral manner and has simply arrived to those conclusions.
In the end, the message I wish we all take from this – including myself – is to stop resorting to fighting and judging without caring to understand. We need to get off our high-horse, shake each other’s hands, be curious – not opinionated – about the truth and agree to value the common good more than our personal egos. If this wisdom was collectively integrated, I bet all corruption would fall away by itself anyways and debunking would no longer have to be such a fight ;-).