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The trap of scientific evidence: The scientific claim of 'no evidence' both indicates that we have evidence something isn't true, and that no one has really looked. This fact bears forth the alluring capacity for science to sweep inconvenient truths aside rather than tackle them.

When there is 'no evidence' for something under the scientific method, this might be empirical results telling us that we should accept alternative explanations for that thing. Unless of course, we never tested that thing in the first place, in which case our claim of no evidence has no particular meaning at all. This is, at worst, deployed lazily and at best, deployed maliciously to claim that something is false when really we mean that nothing can be claimed about that thing at all. But sometimes a scientist will disregard both. There is no scientific evidence for the benefits of parachutes. We don't need science for this because it makes sense and we can observe it in other ways without needlessly murdering our control group. In contrast, there is a great deal of scientific evidence for homeopathy, but scientists are apt to dismiss it because it doesn't seem to make sense. This is evidence of the cracks in the scientific facade. When we have observations, scientific or not, we should not simply dismiss the inconvenient ones using questionable 'rational' common sense. Often, we should simply explore further. Science is, by design. a destructive force. When a question can be made sense of by eliminating the alternative possibilities, science is magnificent. When we must build to explain, the scientific method holds us back. In these times it shows us that it is a belief system like any other, and we must work harder to fill in the gaps.

Full article at bottom of email

It's not 'just' a placebo: The phrase "it's 'just' a placebo effect" is used to wave away inconvenient findings that some alternative therapies work, because we don't know how they work. But many of us frankly don't know how any medicine works and this blind one-directional faith is often misguided.

Not only do we not know how many of our drugs solve the problem we use them to treat, this is often built into our processes of drug discovery. The most successful way to discover drugs is to see which random chemicals have beneficial effects, and only discover later how such a thing happens. We don't spend much time questioning such a thing because we must surrender to the experts and their mysterious methods of knowledge production. Ignoring other kinds of knowledge production simply because the one that we have chosen doesn't know how to deal with it is a deeply flawed response. Even the most skeptical medic will accept that the placebo effect works along many dimensions to improve health outcomes. But our obsession with chemical pathways at the expense of the powerful tools of the mind is absurd. What are many of our illnesses except the cognitive suffering they produce? Indeed, many psychiatric conditions are indistinguishable from the suffering they produce, by virtue of the way we diagnose them. Even if all an alternative therapy is doing is addressing this, is that not something to celebrate? Something to pique our interest? Something to add to our repertoire of treatment? All this without delving into the fact that the complexity of the human body still lies far outside our understanding, and just as many medical discoveries encountered resistance, so too will all the new discoveries yet to be unveiled remain long hidden by academic disdain. It seems much wiser to err on the side of open-mindedness and simply use the tools available to us for whatever benefit they might provide.

Highlights from the Marginalia:

On the view that there is no fate worse than death: appears to assume human immortality. One does wonder if suffering that can't be reversed in a human lifetime, or suffering that takes generations to dilute away would still be preferable to a life lost for this writer.

On the Jesuit tradition: the creation of an "unparalleled network of knowledge which superseded religious tensions"

On the inability of humans to recognise innate ideas: [this] conspiracy ... [is] why we wrongly view affective psychiatric disorders as destiny, whereas cognitive disorders such as dyslexia seem only ‘in the mind’

Notes:

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Warm regards,

Dorian | The Armchair Collective

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This week's article selection: The trap of scientific evidence

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