NOTES & REFERENCES
1. Evidence Based Medicine: It is the nature of the scientific method to produce scientific evidence, striving for high levels of certainty. It can only do this indirectly, by testing the validity of a hypothesis. It cannot prove anything – it can only disprove fallacies. Science does not prove facts; science is a ‘baloney detector’ (Carl Sagan).
Clinical medical science studies disease states and ways to fix them. Most often, it seeks to merely stabilize the disease process. Studying disease processes (pathology) can lead to discovering the reverse – healthy processes (growth, maturation, healing). We study risk factors for disease and protective factors for health.
It is safer to remain skeptical. The higher the level of evidence the more likely that we have reliable information. The following are levels of evidence:
Observations in practice
Retrospective studies and analyses
Randomized (double blind) controlled (prospective) trials (RCT)
The ‘gold standard’ is the randomized controlled trial (RCT). Of course not all phenomena can be studied this way. Some phenomena are easily quantified; therefore, they tend to be studied in great detail. The converse is true – areas not easily quantifiable are neglected by scientists.
Lack of high levels of scientific evidence does not mean that a proposition is false – it simply means that scientific evidence is lacking. It is important to realize that evidence bias may distort perception of what may be valid and useful. This means that if a great deal of evidence is introduced regarding a particular modality, other less studied but important areas will be ignored and they may erroneously be considered unimportant or invalid.
This has been the case for the brain. There has been so much scientific study and dissemination of information pertaining to other organs, such as the heart, that we could not give much consideration for the brain!
For the last hundred years medicine and psychiatry have been in a deficit paradigm. This means that the medical sciences (including industry and governmental supports) have emphasized diagnosis, stabilization and maintenance instead of prevention and rehabilitation. The paradox is that the more we diagnose and stabilize disease the more disease we will have. To have less disease we must prevent the disease and rehabilitate those who have it.
Do we have enough evidence that each of the precepts of brain health, as discussed in the following chapters, is valid? Yes, the evidence is overwhelming but not well systematized to support our thesis. There is positive evidence that the precepts of brain health are valid and there is negative evidence for the converse. Logical thinking, even scientific thinking, is not scientific evidence. We must keep our baloney detectors turned on and learn to identify, then avoid junk science (see below). Foster critical thinking – judge for yourself!
2. Junk science: In 1995, the Union of Concerned Scientists launched the Sound Science Initiative, a national network of scientists committed to debunking junk science through media outreach, lobbying, and developing joint strategies to participate in town meetings or public hearings [Union of Concerned Scientists. (1998, Winter). Sound science initiative. ASLO bulletin, 7(1), 13.]
Also: Michael Shermer: Baloney Detection Kit, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUB4j0n2UDU (Accessed: Aug,16, 2014)
3. Scientism is belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or most valuable part of human learning to the exclusion of other viewpoints. It has been defined as “the view that the characteristic inductive methods of the natural sciences are the only source of genuine factual knowledge and, in particular, that they alone can yield true knowledge about man and society.” The term scientism frequently implies a critique of the more extreme expressions of logical positivism and has been used by social scientists such as Friedrich Hayek, philosophers of science such as Karl Popper, and philosophers such as Hilary Putnam and Tzvetan Todorov to describe the dogmatic endorsement of scientific methodology and the reduction of all knowledge to only that which is measurable. “Scientism” has also been taken over as a name for the view that science is the only reliable source of knowledge by philosophers such as Alexander Rosenberg.
Scientism may refer to science applied “in excess”. The term scientism can apply in either of two senses:
1. To indicate the improper usage of science or scientific claims. This usage applies equally in contexts where science might not apply, such as when the topic is perceived to be beyond the scope of scientific inquiry, and in contexts where there is insufficient empirical evidence to justify a scientific conclusion. It includes an excessive deference to claims made by scientists or an uncritical eagerness to accept any result described as scientific. In this case, the term is a counterargument to appeals to scientific authority.
2. To refer to “the belief that the methods of natural science, or the categories and things recognized in natural science, form the only proper elements in any philosophical or other inquiry,” or that “science, and only science, describes the world as it is in itself, independent of perspective” with a concomitant “elimination of the psychological dimensions of experience.”
The term is also used by historians, philosophers, and cultural critics to highlight the possible dangers of lapses towards excessive reductionism in all fields of human knowledge.
For social theorists in the tradition of Max Weber, such as Jürgen Habermas and Max Horkheimer, the concept of scientism relates significantly to the philosophy of positivism, but also to the cultural rationalization of the modern West. British writer and feminist thinker Sara Maitland has called scientism a “myth as pernicious as any sort of fundamentalism.”
Standard dictionary definitions include the following applications of the term “scientism”:
• The use of the style, assumptions, techniques, and other attributes typically displayed by scientists.
• Methods and attitudes typical of or attributed to the natural scientist.
• An exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation, as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities.
• The use of scientific or pseudoscientific language.
• The contention that the social sciences, such as economics and sociology, are only properly sciences when they abide by the somewhat stricter interpretation of scientific method used by the natural sciences, and that otherwise they are not truly sciences.
• A term applied (freq. in a derogatory manner) to a belief in the omnipotence of scientific knowledge and techniques; also to the view that the methods of study appropriate to physical science can replace those used in other fields such as philosophy and, esp., human behaviour and the social sciences.
• 1. The collection of attitudes and practices considered typical of scientists. 2. The belief that the investigative methods of the physical sciences are applicable or justifiable in all fields of inquiry.
Scientism: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Accessed: August 16, 2014).
Reviewed on December14, 2014