Wellness Philosophy: Limits of Science and Importance of Discernment

Ginger is consumed in China as food and as med...

“Medicine” is subject to personal definition. Ginger is considered medicine in China, though in the US it is not commonly accepted as such. (Possibly due to lack of research emphasis and public over-dependence on limited research?) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am a huge fan of science; being a chiropractor, my profession is highly scientific in nature. Even so, I would like to clarify a few things.

First of all, I’d like to say that science’s strength is its limited focus; scientific experiments make observations, develop measurable hypotheses, and collect empirical evidence in order to draw conclusions. Science is focused on what is measurable.

Science does not dictate what is right or ethical. It can’t tell you what is beautiful to you, whom to love, or what to believe. It simply can’t; science asks “How?” not “Why?”.

The “How?”‘s are valuable: we need to know how the body functions to encourage healing. We also need to know how the body currently exists to address its needs–this is why I take X-rays before adjustments.

But even the top research labs doing the highest level research in the health field have limitations:

*Where the funding commands, the research follows; mainly companies with financial flexibility, who want to self-promote, can fund research. Dairy products have been extensively studied thanks to dairy-industry funding. Dairy’s negative effects have only recently been studied–funny, this is at the same time new dairy-alternatives need promotion!

*Similarly,–and with similar effects–the pharmaceutical industry funds testing on pharmaceuticals of their choice. These tests are rigorous, but are done in the shortest possible time out of life-saving intentions. This means the research on long-term side effects is necessarily neglected. (I caution my patients: it is not safe to plan on taking medications long-term. Medications have their place, but we should always seek out natural means first; healthful lifestyle changes are always best.) Herbal remedies, alternative healing methods, meditation, ancient cures, healing properties of foods, and folk medicine are not extensively studied because many companies are not interested in funding the research.

*There is an unfathomable amount of information on each body system. The simple amount of scientific information out there makes it difficult for doctors to know many different fields; instead they specialize. Awareness and knowledge tend to guide our reasoning, so unsurprisingly, specialists tend to see disease as it relates to their specialty. Specialists may miss what does not fall within their expertise. (For this reason I advise: use doctors from different fields to get a second–or third–opinion. After that, trust your instincts.)


The impact of relationships is not completely quantifiable; yet, we know they are vital. Psychology can only give us incomplete information. Discernment is important in every facet of life. (Photo credit: The Photon Catcher)

Science overlooks non-measurable aspects of life because of its necessary emphasis on the measurable. Things like prayer, relationship, sense of meaning, sense of beauty, philosophy, and beliefs are beyond quantifiable measurement; these are not emphasized by the science-dependent health field. Yet, we know that these impact our health and life in ways that can not be overlooked.

You get the idea: science is indispensable for certain information because it is extremely limited.

Much of this is not likely to change. We cannot research everything–if we could, we could never know it all. Even if we could know all scientific information, we would still have questions about non-scientific topics.

Discernment is of the utmost importance for everyone.

The concept of “bio-individuality” is key: everyone is different. Just because a something reportedly works for 95% of users does not mean it will work for you. Whether the side effects of something are worth it or not is a matter of personal judgement.

I want my patients to be active in pursing health. I try to find and pass on what is new, helpful and applicable in the health-science field, but it will never replace each individual’s ambition to live and observe what keeps him or her healthy–scientific or not.

One example of how this works in my personal life is my attitude towards prayer. I know that there are not many scientific experiments completed on the health effects of praying, but I personally believe that my life would not be nearly as healthful, satisfying, and meaningful without my personal prayer time. I personally consider this an indispensable healthy habit.

I hope this gives my readers freedom to break free from the fads and get back to observing, improving, and maintaining their personal health with emphasis in all facets of life.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Please feel free to comment or email drclaps@clapschiropractic.com with any questions or comments. Check out the last post in the “Wellness Philosophy” series here.


~ by danclaps on October 9, 2012.

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