A lot of what I talk about on this blog probably seems like “pseudoscience” – not double-blind-studied, experimentally proven and factually-based.  For some of my readers (and I of course am particularly addressing this to my father, the engineer, because when it comes down to it we’re all always still deep-down trying to or wishing we could prove ourselves to our parents…), many of the experiences and strategies I talk about probably sound like examples of extreme subjectivity and personal anecdotal evidence, with nothing particularly solid to back them up.

There are a fair number of people in the online communities which I frequent who make valiant, noble, and very well-reasoned efforts at debunking the “pseudoscience” label – people with the Weston Price Foundation, Mark Sisson, the Jaminets, Denise Minger, to name a few.  Their approach is firmly grounded in the scientific traditions of modern Western thinking, and they do an excellent (and woefully underrepresented in the wider media) job of debunking many of the nutritional fallacies that have gotten our societies into the health mess that we are currently in.  And they do this using the same paradigm that was employed to support and propound the nutritional fallacies in the first place.  They are highly intelligent, extremely knowledgeable, and frankly heroic people.

But their path is not my path.

If I had wanted to be a scientist, I would have had to make some very different decisions many years ago.  And I didn’t (much perhaps to my father’s dismay! :) ), and still don’t, want to be a scientist.

But what I have become, over the course of eight+ years of graduate study, is an expert in understanding how human communication works at a very abstract level.  My scholarly work is deeply involved in applying theoretical work of the past more or less half century to historical “texts”, with “texts” being widely construed as the evidences of human communication — writing, image-making, speaking, form- and sound-making …  One might call the philosophers/theorists that I study deconstructionists, or post-structuralists, or simply post-modernists — they are not hard-and-fast exclusive categorizations.

Generally, I apply their theories to the study of art.  But recently, some of what I understand from their work is starting to coalesce into some sort of frame around how I understand nutrition and health.  I’m not saying this post is going to be pretty, or great.  It’s the beginning of my articulating something.  It may take some time to work it out.  It could use some feedback.  It’s going to be messy.

But that’s the essence of human communication, of dialogue and conversation – of knowledge itself.  Humans are messy creatures, and this world is a messy world.  No matter how much we might try to put it to order, or say something clean, neat, and exact, we never can, not fully.  Because whatever we try to put in order always MUST be part of something bigger.  It always has a context, something which allows it to seem true and orderly at a given point in time, in a given place.  And context is always shifting, nothing ever stays exactly the same, and what may be true here, may not be true there.

What if the idea of double-blind-studied, experimentally-proven, and factually-based “truth” is inherently contextual?  What if, despite all one’s attempts at making an objective observation, one cannot ever actually be objective, or make an observation that is not a part of oneself?  What if the very act of working out something in our minds is irrevocably marked, or tainted, by those minds themselves?

Then science, the scientific method, and knowledge itself would be a product of human activity and cognition.  It couldn’t exist outside of a set of rules and a cultural context which established it as normative.

And in a different set of circumstances, a different set of equally valid rules, and a different cultural context, the conclusions that we have come to via science and the scientific method, what we take as knowledge itself, could be completely wacko, bupkis.  Or at least open for extreme skepticism, if not indignant disbelief.

I don’t think that means we shouldn’t say anything at all.  In fact, I strongly believe that we need to speak, we need to discern truth, we need to acquire and evaluate and disseminate knowledge.  But we also need to be aware that those utterances, that truth, and that knowledge are all a part of us – they can’t exist in any sort of place completely disconnected from us, from our context.  They require us, and all our conditioned thinking processes, and all our cultural “baggage”–scientific method included– in order to exist at all.

And moreover, I believe that we needn’t be bound by normative cultural “baggage”, that there exist alternative ways of thinking about the world that can be equally truthful and useful for creating and disseminating knowledge, and that the scientific method is not the be-all and end-all for validating knowledge about how the human body works and what can make sick bodies work better.  It can certainly be an incredibly useful method – but its results and conclusions can never be taken as truth with a capital T.  To presume to do so would be hubris.

At least that’s what my mind, with all its culturally-engrained pathways, has worked out as my truth for the moment.

 

A few other interesting perspectives:

The Truth Wears Off:  The Decline Effect and the Scientific Method

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

Science Sucks, Tradition Rules 

 

Photo Credit:  Smithsonian Institution on Flickr Commons.  “Biochemist Gerty Theresa Radnitz Cori (1896-1957) and her husband Carl Ferdinand Cori (1896-1984) were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1947 for their work on how the human body metabolizes sugar.”


This post is part of Works for Me Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Gluten-Free Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, and Pennywise Platter Thursday.

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9 Responses to Scientific Validity

  1. Wenchypoo says:

    Speaking of deconstruction, my engineer hubby rolled up his sleeves and dismantled the old Food Guide Pyramid when it was still current (back in 2006):

    http://wenchwisdom.blogspot.com/2006/10/engineer-dismantles-food-guide-pyramid.html

  2. Lisa C says:

    “What if, despite all one’s attempts at making an objective observation, one cannot ever actually be objective, or make an observation that is not a part of oneself?”

    Love this.

  3. Right on!!
    I acutally wrote something vaguely in the same vein. I do have a healthy respect for science, but not so much when it comes to nutrition. In a messy world, this is an especially messy corner.

    I’d love you to take part of my Monday blog hop at Ruth’s Real Food.

    • I just realised you already did share a link! Great! I hadn’t check all the entries yet when I wrote the message.

      • Megh says:

        :) No problem! Yeah, I think it’s a fantastic idea to do a Real Foods 101 carnival! I don’t if I’ll have a link to contribute every week — some of the stuff I do seems a bit complicated for 101 — maybe 201! But I am going to try to write more posts with the 101′s-ies in the future!

  4. Rachel says:

    You definitely put your heart into this post! Thank you for linking up at Healthy 2day Wednesdays! Sorry I have been out of the loop for a bit, we have moved houses! Hope you’ll join in this week!

    BYW, I just have to ask. Just from reading a little but about you, looking at your products you use on your widget, etc. It seems akward you have a Febreze commercial, just thought I’d ask????

    • Megh says:

      Ha, yeah, that’s google ads for ya … :( Not a febreeze fan! I debated on putting the google widget in … sometimes it puts in relevant stuff, sometimes pretty not so relevant at all! I keep hoping it’ll figure things out a little better as time goes on tho…

  5. Dad says:

    Since your other comments are “kinda bla” I’ll stir the pot.
    The scientific method does not prove the truth. It establishes an accepted means to verify and validate our understanding of nature. The history of science shows that an accepted theory represents the best explanation of experimental evidence at the time and there will always be new evidence that supports or challenges a theory.
    Science is unbounded by time and space and even our notions of what constitutes space and time are subject to the experimental tests of science. Science is certainly a human construct just the same as I would contend are religion (I contend that man created god out of his arrogance to justify that he is greater than all other creatures.), society, politics, ect. What distinguishes it is that it has proven to be the best construct we humans have found to understand nature. It spans generations and no understanding of nature can ever be considered as an absolute.

    What experiments are conducted is influenced by the time in which they are conducted. It is not an issue of which experiments will be conducted but which can be replicated. We humans interpret the results using the construct of science because it is the best construct we currently have. It is the best construct because it has been successfully applied for 2500 (The fundamentals of the construct were developed by the Greeks.) years to steadily increase our understanding of nature. No other construct has been successful in achieving this increased level of understanding.

    The constructs of science do not govern how science is applied. Application of science quickly moves out of the realm of science.

    Ultimately I see science as promoting the concept that it more important in life to be curious and ask question rather than believe something simply because someone else believes it and if you develop a theory of how nature works support your theory with experiments. Recognize that you will never arrive at the truth, that is a set of theories that explains everything, because at some point in time an experiment will refute the theory or place a new limitation on the theory.

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