Sunday, June 05, 2005

Fight fight fight

I also read a lot of blogs--I'm not just the president of Hair Club for Men, I'm also a client. Daily Kos and Salon's War Room are two of my favorites. I was wondering if one of the things I'm not doing, that I should be doing, is pulling out and posting the writings of my critics, and systematically taking them to pieces. It looks really, really fun.

Earlier today, I was reading the writings of some critics, particularly this. The temptation to excerpt whole paragraphs of it with copious comments is, well, overwhelming. I'm basing my whole future career on the idea that acupuncture works, so it's hard not to take some psychic hit to the gut from all the people who say that your chosen discipline is bunk.

I like to think that I'm a highly rational individual. I was educated to think critically about everything I read and learned. I learned to look for the places in which I accepted some facts and not others due to my existing beliefs or prejudices. And, mostly in the time after my formal education was over, I also learned to examine the model in which those facts existed (and then, of course, the model which I was using to critically examine those models, and then the model that I used to model those models, and then the way I thought about the nature of models, and so on, until my brain collapsed into a huge gross, smelly mass of meta-, and I found myself on the ethereal plane having tea and sticky buns with Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. may they rest in peace, whatever that means to them). Um...sorry, what was I saying?

We have a definitional model of science that boils down to, essentially, this tautology: science is whatever we can prove using our present rational model. Whatever has been demonstrated in the past using this model is science. So, in the past, it was the excepted principal of learned men everywhere thought that the earth was the center of the universe; that the planets moved in perfect circles around some invisible fixed point, and that fixed point moved around the earth; that a twenty pound weight would fall to the earth twenty times as fast as a one pound weight; bleeding a sick patient would remove the poisoned blood from his or her body; that frontal lobotomies were a fine cure for mental illness; and so on. Some of these models were crap and some were fine--Ptolomy's model of the solar system, e.g., made much more accurate predictions of planetary movement than the later Copernican model in which orbits around the sun were perfect circles--but all were replaced when somebody, somewhere, stepped outside the accepted model of how things were and thought...what if?

Imagine the scientists 100 years from now, looking back at us. Imagine the ones a thousand years from now. Imagine someone looking at us and regarding our science, our medicine, being as medieval as we regard the science and medicine of 1000 B.C. Try and imagine what among the things we're doing now in the name of science and medicine that they will find inhuman and unfathomable. Because I'll tell you what, I'm pretty sure performing surgery on people with chronic back pain isn't the end-all be-all of therapy. I'm pretty sure the true answer to hyperactive thyroid disease isn't to dose patients with radioactive iodine, which kills their thyroid and forces them to take those hormones by pill for the rest of their lives.

So I could be crazy, irrational, and wrong-headed to pursue the career I'm pursuing. As listed above, there are plenty of people who think that I am. I've got my own evidence, too (which maybe I'll get around to talking about some day), and my own reasons for following this which I think are pretty rational. But most of all, I think this: 99.9999% of the people who step outside the accepted model of things, looking for a better one, get nowhere and nothing. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. I mean, it's not a terrible thing to do with your life, is it?

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