The Role of Science in Health
By Don Bennett, DAS
many of my readers know, I don't teach people what to think, instead,
I prefer to teach people how to think. And since matters
of health aren't a subjective issue, it shouldn't be a matter
of opinion as to how we can live to achieve optimal heath (the
best health a person's DNA will allow them to have), it should
be a matter of facts.
If I mentioned
the natural diet of giraffes, no one in their right mind would
disagree because it is plain to see what giraffes are designed
to eat. And the same can be said for every other species on the
except one; us. How is it that we can know, for certain,
what every species in the world is meant to eat, yet there isn't
similar agreement regarding what we are best suited to eat? We
can get away with this because humans no longer exist in the wild
as we did many millennia ago, so we can't be observed eating what
we're meant to eat. But the thing is, we've got brains, and we
should be able to use those brains to figure out what we're best
suited to eat. But those brains can also get in the way of figuring
It is human
nature for our judgment to be colored by personal preferences
and biases, social pressures, and con-artists and others who desire
to manufacture public opinion for personal gain. But when we climbed
out of the Dark Ages, there were some people who wanted to know
the truth about the real world, and recognized those things that
could get in the way of discovering the truth, so they created
a system of inquiry that would prevent interference from human
nature. This was the scientific method. And thus, the field
of science was born: a systematic knowledge of the physical world
gained through observation and experimentation.
science can be perverted, with many examples of junk science,
loaded studies, and pseudo science infiltrating our lives on an
almost daily basis. But by applying the scientific method, we
can ferret out the nonsense.
So what must
a scientific way of looking at things, that squares with reality,
be based on? How about
* No authorities
* No biases or personal preferences
* Reliance on evidence
And the requisites
for this method of inquiry must include a respect for rational
and honest discussion, a desire to peer-to-peer, the ability to
change a position when the evidence merits it, an intolerance
of distortion and misrepresentation, and above all, a skeptical
interrogation of accepted notions.
This is the
"ethos of science." And it can make the world a better
place by burying myth and dogma. And in the area of the health,
employing the ethos of science is crucial for a health educator
so they don't end up teaching any inaccurate information; information
that could negatively impact people's future health. It's not
enough for a health educator to believe that what they're
teaching is true and correct; they need to recognize the possibility
of being wrong, and adhere to the ethos of science so they can
have the best odds of being correct.
gets in the way of being a "proper" researcher and educator?
Well, for one thing, some people have high levels of certainty
uncoupled to the world of evidence, argument, and rationality.
If this certainty is fueled by a level of arrogance, this is not
a good scenario for a health educator because they will not likely
be open to doing any peer-to-peer work, and will certainly not
be able to realize if they've been teaching something that is
incorrect, and adjusting what they teach accordingly.
for not applying the ethos of science in an educational practice
is the desire to be popular and make a lot of money. Those learning
from a health educator whom they like usually will not consider
that this is the educator's true motivation, but if it is, wouldn't
you want to know about it? And it would be lovely to think that
all health educators are sincere, honest, altruistic, and truly
care about those they teach and counsel, but unfortunately, this
is not true. Most are, but it's the few who aren't who are a root
cause of people getting diagnoses of serious illness later in
are those educators who are caring, sincere folks, and
who honestly want to positively inform the conversation about
how to be healthy. And they certainly are science-based in their
thinking, but because they wear "science blinders" they
limit their research, and therefore their recommendations are
not necessarily the best ones they could have come up with. As
an example, take those researchers/educators who only consider
multiple, double-blinded, peer-reviewed studies. If you ask them,
"What about a raw vegan diet?" they will invariably
respond with, "Show me the studies." And while it's
nice that they are open-minded, they are still closed-minded in
the sense that they will not also consider empirical evidence.
What if, in reality, those studies will never be done, and what
if a raw vegan diet is superior to a cooked vegan diet? So to
confine one's definition of evidence to structured studies only
can be a limiting factor in determining what works best when it
comes to health restoration and maintenance. This is when a narrow
view of science does not serve us. Now, I'm not saying that we
should be so open-minded that we entertain woo woo pseudo science,
but we should not limit our inquiry to or base our recommendations
solely on published studies only.
are those educators who are caring, sincere folks, but who let
their own personal biases color their otherwise good judgment.
Here we can include those educators who are vegan first and foremost
for ethical reasons. Deep down, they want as many people as possible
to go vegan for the sake of the animals. And while this indeed
is a noble cause, if they bad mouth a raw vegan diet because it
will be less inclusive than a vegan diet that contains cooked
food such as "hamburgers", "bacon", "cheese"
and grain products, this does the public a disservice. And to
apply rigorous science to support the diet you wish to promote
in this case a vegan diet while abandoning science
to speak ill of a different vegan diet because it could result
in less people going vegan is disheartening to say the least.
This is why the scientific method was created in the first place,
to prevent this kind of miseducation, both of the researchers
and those they share their conclusions with.
So if you're
a fan of the philosophy, "Give me the truth though the
heavens may fall" then you'll want to employ the ethos
of science in your studies. And you should want those you learn
from to do the same.