Science can answer how but no why

A reductionist western science is incapable of answering the ‘why’, science can only seem to answer the 'how'. Does science need to borrow from spirituality and vice-a-versa?

Nobel laureates, like Peter Medawar, tell us that science is designed to answer only certain (mundane) questions and not answer esoteric questions like ‘what after death’? Or ‘why does the heart contract’, etc. He compares science to a railway engine designed to run on a track but not fly like an aeroplane, in his classic, Limits of Science. The reductionist Western science is incapable of answering the ‘why’, although it tries to answer ‘how’ or ‘how much’. Unfortunately, answers needed are only for the ‘why’ questions.

As a doctor for more than five decades, I am disillusioned by modern Western science. Why does a young man, apparently healthy, die suddenly of a massive heart attack, despite his having done everything scientifically correctly, while an elderly gentleman, with advanced coronary artery disease, still jugs on beyond 80? Science is simply making models which are mathematical constructs and, with verbal jargon, they are supposed to work. When one sees liquid helium climb up the sides of its container to overflow one wonders what happened to all our laws of thermodynamics. Liquid helium, kept in a silicon bowl, leaks out through its intact base!

When we claim that the heart, a small muscular structure weighing just 300 grams, pumps blood into a capillary system of totally 500,000 kilometres, which are thinner than our hair, not letting even a red blood cell to pass through easily, we are not being truthful. But neither did we ask such questions nor do we let our students do that.

When I read science books which are more than one 100 years old, the authors did have sentences like: “My God, only God can answer this question!” Today’s science wants to be all-knowing and the concept of God does not seem to exist.

A recent science study in biology, of experiments with rats, showed that the sex and sweat smell of the researcher affects the results to the extent of 40%—male researchers being more effective. Observer’s consciousness does affect the results. Quantum physics is absolutely right when it says everything exists as energy vibrations but collapses into matter on observation. That final awareness, observation of the observer, his/her consciousness, makes this world come alive. How very true indeed!

Robert Lanza, a genius of a physician and his co-author, Bob Berman, a maverick astronomer, have written that wonderful book, Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe,  where they claim that the world lives around life and for life—bio-centrism—as they call that all-encompassing consciousness—which is at the root of all science.

Hopefully, medicine would become bio-centric and not drugs- and surgery-centric reductionism. Candace Pert, a daring young researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health, did show to the world for the first time that opiate receptors also exist outside the brain. Now we know that the human mind resides in every single cell at the cell membrane called MemBrain.
Providentially, I had written in my book, Holistic Living, in 1993 that there is a possibility of a mind in every cell. The editor of the publication had questioned my serendipitous thinking.
Recent research at Oxford, led by Professor Bingel, elegantly showed that all healing occurs, NOT because of our medicines but because of the patient’s belief in the doctor and the medicines he gives, true placebo effect, another brainchild of consciousness.

Only one thinking scientist in the Western world, Max Planck, has written that “I regard consciousness is fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness.” I don’t think that the best surgeon will not able to heal a surgical wound in a dead body without consciousness!

Caring and sharing is spirituality in essence. Occult healing methods were used in healing in many civilizations and with success. We will have to re-invent them, for the good of mankind. Let us get out of our arrogant mind-set that only science can solve all our problems. This is partly due to the success of reductionist science-based technologies, like the semiconductor, etc, which have apparently made us more comfortable at the cost of our good health. Let wisdom prevail and God help mankind.

Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS.

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    COMMENTS

    Awadhesh

    5 years ago

    You HAVE to read this article.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/h...

    Awadhesh

    5 years ago

    You HAVE to read this article.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/h...

    Nalin Patel

    5 years ago

    indians are much more aware of this, india is leader in spiritual matter, emeperical science can complement spiritual sicience.

    Pulse Beat

    Medical developments from around the world

    The Great Calcium Myth
    Our profession takes its post-graduate education primarily from the pharma company literature. So, I am sure many who read this column are already on calcium supplements for good health in old age, especially elderly women after menopause, to prevent osteoporosis and fractures. The vital mineral for good health is magnesium.

    To cap it all, when one takes calcium supplements, more calcium from your bones leaves through the kidney as the kidney exchanges calcium for sodium in the distal tubule. So, the more you take by mouth, the more you lose through your kidney. The wise thing to do would be to reduce sodium intake as you age to keep the bone calcium intact. The next best thing to keep your bone calcium is exercise—daily walk and exposure to sun as much as you can to get nature’s best vitamin D3—the foundation stone of human immune system.

    Looking at the sun before 9am and after 4pm is another very important health-giving act. Do not directly look at the sun but look above, below and on the side of the sun. This will help the whole retina to get sun’s UV rays which stimulate the pineal and pituitary glands to tune up your endocrine orchestra.

    In addition, the retina needs sunlight. We destroy that also by wearing sunglasses even inside the buildings. When I see dark glasses, I come to two conclusions. Either s/he is a politician who cannot look you in the eye or he is an underworld don.

    Antioxidant LIES
    We are told that, as one ages, free radicals float around in the system and they, in turn, damage the cells and the chromosomes. They need to be mopped up and destroyed. In retrospect, I suspect this myth was created by the industry which wanted to sell antioxidant supplements, to make big money.

    The advertisements for antioxidant vitamins and creams, etc, are so persuasive that even a sceptic would buy and consume them. The correct science is that these free radicals are there to help ageing cells to die by apoptosis, a natural process of cell suicide which, in turn, facilitates new cell formation to keep one healthy. By destroying these free radicals, we are only hurting the body’s normal phenomenon of self-regulation.

    If we prevent cells from dying by apoptosis, we are encouraging these cells to outlive their life span and get mutated. A mutated rogue cell is the beginning of cancer! In addition, when we discourage apoptosis, we are encouraging cell death by necrosis, a very dangerous proposition as the cell contents spill into its environment encouraging inflammation, cancer growth and many other ills.

    Apoptosis is a process where the cell dies by shrinking and not breaking its wall, as in necrosis. The shrunken cell loses its morphology and becomes amorphic to be eaten by the phagocytes.

    This beautiful working of the human body is nature’s way of letting the human being live well. The reductionist scientist always thinks that s/he is smarter than nature and tries to misunderstand nature’s efforts and tries to interfere from outside. The hapless common man gets caught in this.

    In fact, this is why adverse drug reactions cause maximum deaths these days. The higher the number of drugs that come into the market, the more the illnesses.

    I teach my students that if the bedside clinical picture does not fit into any textbook description of a disease, think of adverse drug reactions whose protean presentations can fool the best medical brain. Most antioxidant and vitamin tablets have caused more misery, illness and precocious death.

    Please do not jump to the wrong conclusion that fruits and vegetables containing antioxidants are also bad. On the contrary, they help good health and healthy ageing. How they work is still a mystery but what science does not know is that they have many other health-giving elements in them that our in-vitro tablets do not have. Nature keeps her secrets.

    Long back, a large study of post-menopausal women in Canada had shown that fruits and vegetables reduced diseases and postponed death while capsules and tablets containing the same ingredients did the reverse!

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    A World without Medicines
    The world without (reductionist) medicines will be a boon to mankind. Take a look at the example of cholesterol-reducing drugs
     
    “The groundwork of all happiness is health.”— James Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)
     
    The latest Reader’s Digest has an article with the above-mentioned title where the author seems to be frightened of a future world without medicines, as drug companies will no longer be interested to make good drugs if the rules allow medicines to be manufactured and sold with generic names. Generic drugs remove the present day power of the pharma lobby to sell the same medicines with their patent for anywhere between 1,000-5,000 times the cost! I pity the author, Catherine Kane; obviously, she is a non-medical person and looks like an agent of the pharmaceutical corporate monstrosity. 
     
    I, as a doctor and medical teacher with more than half a century of experience, am daily praying for a world without reductionist chemical medicines for the good of mankind. The leading cause of death, today, seems to be the infamous adverse drug reactions of those reductionist molecules.
     
    Most, if not all, diseases begin in the human mind as that is the only reality in this world of biocentrism. This world is created by our consciousness. In this context, there is no room for reductionist thinking. “Positive sciences do not answer the question ‘why’,” wrote Nobel Laureate physiologist Charles Sherrington. They can only answer ‘how’? 
     
    Let us take a common example of that ghost—cholesterol—as a disease. If your cholesterol goes up, no one asks or answers the question: Why does our body cholesterol go up while it is being manufactured in our liver for our own survival? We have a limited reductionist thinking—cholesterol is up; it needs to be brought down! We create drugs—one of the best money-spinners—which create misery with their side-effects.
     
    Cholesterol has many functions in the body. Trillions of cells in our body have their cell membrane made up of cholesterol. Billions of cells age and die everyday and billions of new ones are replaced, needing lots of cholesterol for good health. 
     
    Cholesterol is needed to manufacture steroids, or cortisone-like hormones, including vitamin D and the sex hormones testosterone, oestrogen and cortisone. This, in turn, controls  myriad  bodily functions. Bile acids are manufactured in the liver with the help of cholesterol. Bile acids are essential for digestion and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E and K. 
     
    Cholesterol is also needed for the formation of the myelin sheath, a neuron consisting of fat-containing cells that insulate the axon from electrical activity. This ensures proper function of our brains by aiding the route of electrical impulses. The absence of cholesterol might lead to loss of memory and difficulty in focusing. Cells cannot talk to each other without the help of cholesterol. Such a vital substance, 80% of which is produced in our own liver, cannot be lowered forcefully by drugs without serious collateral damage.
     
    Looking holistically, the body produces excess cholesterol only when it needs it badly! When one needs more steroids, bile acids, myelin and cortisol, the liver pours in more cholesterol into the circulation. Steroids and cortisol go up, when one is in the fright-flight-fight mode! Anger, jealousy, fear, greed, hostility, pride and superego produce the fight-fright-flight state. The latter is needed in a dangerous situation like when you see a tiger in a forest to run away, but not on a chronic basis. 
     
    If one is in that dangerous mode, on a daily basis, cholesterol goes up seriously. Similarly, overeating, especially fatty food and fatty meat, demands more bile acids for digestion and the liver responds by producing extra cholesterol to assist in the making of fatty acids in the liver. Sedentary living does not encourage cholesterol catabolism either. 
     
    When the question ‘why does the cholesterol go up in the first place’ is viewed with  holistic glasses, the foolish (reductionist) need for drugs to lower cholesterol disappears. All that one needs to do is to get into the parasympathetic mode in daily life with Yoga, praanayaama, daily exercise and moderation in eating which, together, would eventually obviate the need for high cholesterol production in the liver. 
     
    One can see the double-whammy here. The extra work for the liver to manufacture extra cholesterol for the body’s needs in the fight-flight-fright mode is removed saving the liver from chronic damage while the need for the deadly anti-cholesterol drugs disappears totally. One can, at the same time, enjoy a proper meal like any one else as long as one remains within limits. No need to shun any food, including fats in moderation. The immune system, the body’s inner healer, works wonders in every situation where the body physiology goes astray as long as we live sensibly in tune with nature.
     
    The world without (reductionist) medicines will be a boon to mankind. Herbal medicines are good, in the unlikely event that the immune system needs assistance. The greedy drug lobby could explore that area for making their living in peace while providing good herbal medicines produced with good manufacturing practice!
     
    (Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He can be reached at [email protected])
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    COMMENTS

    N.Paramasivam

    5 years ago

    I was thinking that Cholesterol as a dangerous one for humans, but now I understand it as Nature Gift for humans, doing a wonderful function. All said done, Exercise, Walking .. Most relevant for each and everyone. Dr.Hedge brought out beautifully.

    N.Paramasivam

    5 years ago

    Good article relevant modern world.

    Ashish

    5 years ago

    Another great article highlighting the importance for bodies natural healing processes and adverse impact of additional chemical interventions.

    Simple Indian

    5 years ago

    A very insightful article by Dr. Hegde. Didn't know cholesterol is so important for body, as modern medical fraternity seems to have given it a bad name, just to boost sale of medicines to 'control' cholesterol (though there are two types of them, one believed to be good-HDL, and one bad-LDL).
    Yes, eating in moderation, considering what suits one's health/metabolism is important. Eating the right food and in moderation is important, rather than blaming food for our ill-health. It would indeed be a dream if we could live in a medicine-free world.

    Pramod Bhave

    5 years ago

    This article has put the trditional villon the colestrol in an entirely different light.Thankd to Dr Hegade

    Rajenra Muley

    5 years ago

    Excellent article. Explained in so simple manner to be understood by a layman.
    The information needs very very wide publicity for the benefit of mankind.

    Ramesh Poapt

    5 years ago

    Thanx DrHegde! Pl continue to present such articles. I didnt find much from your side in recent period,hence I had to request ML b4 few days. excellent!! Sir, can you please guide on how to get rid of danger- free radicals and science behind it please?

    SuchindranathAiyerS

    5 years ago

    It is like Government. We need less medicines and more healing. It is extremely doubtful whether all the medication unleashed on the World has made it a safer and healthier place. Apart from pain management, preventive medicine and cases such as dentistry and orthopaedics where the body's natural healing process needs more help, the rest is like the DRDO and the Governance and Courts of India. Intended solely to provide unaccountable employment and lavish life styles to the corrupt and the incompetent. I am all for minimalism. I feel that the Princely State of Mysore had better and more effective hospital, doctors and health care that has been progressively commercialized and degraded to the sole benefit of the Neta-Babus.

    Rajeev Juneja

    5 years ago

    One of the best easily understood articles on cholestrol in the human body: Excellent awakening...

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