Sunday Morning Philosophizing on Science

Kristen Sparrow • August 05, 2012

From “The Betrayal of the Self” by Arno Gruen on the history of science.

“The scientific worldview that began its rise in the seventeenth century simply assumed that all reality could be described by its methods.  Whatever could not be accommodated by this approach, such as our oral nature and our existential conscousness, was simply excluded from “scientific” observation…On the pretext that their methodology cannot adequately deal with human experience, they simply abolish it.  (He the quotes Joseph Wood Krutch ‘We cannot conveniently deal with consciousness and therefore we are justified in disregarding it’, is simply to invite the confusions which have in actual fact arisen.  It is to assume that what a given method finds intractable simply does not exist”
In this passage he is describing the scientific method in the context of social science and emotional experiences.  But the same can be applied to the study of acupuncture or placebo.  Some of the more arcane aspects of acupuncture are incomprehensible to our model of medicine and are, therefore, disregarded.  Likewise with the placebo effect, since our models cannot adequately deal with the placebo effect it is disregarded, or even worse inconsistently evoked.(We rarely see calls for   Gruen again “Whatever in human experience cannot be accommodated by a specific methodology is then declared invalid: it does not exist.”
So though I rely on the scientific method to try to improve the reproducibility and utility of acupuncture, I recognize that some of the beauty of acupuncture is that there is a degree of mystery about what makes it work.  To me this is the part of the fascination of acupuncture in particular, that it may reveal whole new “paradigms” (overused and cliche term, I know.)