Real, genuine science, as opposed to Christian ‘Science’, is the quest for knowledge. This is knowledge gained through research, observation, verification, and duplication of results. The scientific method is a rigorous and well-accepted way to acquire and verify new knowledge that has its roots in the emergence of science itself in ancient Egypt and Greece, and evolved into its present form during the 17th and 18th centuries.1
A recent news item on CBC News here in Canada caught my attention. It highlights a concern about the increasing number of harmful organisms that are developing a resistance to all available antibiotics. The issue of resistance to antibiotics first gained awareness shortly after the first antibiotics came into use in the 1940s, so it’s not a new problem. The difference now is that there are more organisms that are resistant to all (including so-called “last resort” antibiotics) than ever. What that means for all of us is that more of us will suffer, and potentially die due to infections. Very few people who seek medical care will go through their lives without taking antibiotics at least once. I’ve had four different instances in which I’ve had to take antibiotics in the last six years.
The version of this story that appeared on TV delved more into research being conducted by a Canadian scientist who is looking into other existing drugs as a possible new defense against dangerous microbes.2 This highlights to me what gives me a lot of reassurance in science, the scientific method, and science-based medical care. In the face of a problem, there is a move towards finding a solution through the acquisition of new knowledge. This is done through research that is verified and tested thoroughly. The solution, if there is one, will be found, and it will be one that’s been thoroughly tested. The article, and additional articles that are linked from it, point up that mistakes have been made, and that the use of antibiotics needs to be more measured–that the overuse of antibiotics has probably hastened this crisis. This is also one of the good things about science–it admits its mistakes, and never claims to be infallible.
This all points up, to me, a big difference between real science and pseudoscience–which is what Christian Science is. Christian Science makes a lot of claims, and I can predict the reactions of most typical Christian Scientists to this news story: it will be used as further proof of the superiority of Christian Science over medical care. I can almost see the next blog post by one of the Christian Science Church’s so-called “syndicated” columnists: “modern medicine ineffective against infection.” They will go on to tout the 80,000 or so “verified” healings in Christian Science (almost all of which use anecdotal evidence to bolster their claims, and verifications are almost always done by fellow Christian Scientists who are friends of the testifier) as further evidence of the effectiveness of Christian Science. What they fail to mention is that medical science never makes promises it can’t fulfil, and when it comes up against a problem, rather than resting on dogma, science will seek out knowledge to overcome the problem.
Science evolves as new knowledge comes to light, so yes, advice changes and shifts. That’s how it is supposed to work. This is good, not bad–as Christian Scientists would have you believe. Christian Science has not changed or evolved since 1910 when its founder, Mary Baker Eddy, died. Science (the real kind) is “a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.”3 Christian Science is not a science. At the most, it’s a philosophy. It doesn’t seek knowledge. It claims to have all knowledge (that in and of itself negates any legitimate claim to be a science). That’s a lofty claim nobody is entitled to make, and no true scientist would ever make such a claim.
- “Ontario scientist thinks old drugs could become our new antibiotics” (CBC News).
- “Health officials concerned over spread of resistance to last-resort antibiotic” (CBC News).
- “Bacteria with worrisome superbug genes found in U.S.” (CBC News).
- “Bacteria develops antibiotic resistance in 12 days” (Global News)
- “Drug -Resistant Organisms” (Government of Canada: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety).
- “Antibiotic/Antimicrobial Resistance” (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
- “Antimicrobial resistance” (Wikipedia).
1 “Scientific Method.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 20 July 2016. Web. 10 September 2016.
2 “Ontario scientist thinks old drugs could become our new atibiotics.” CBC News. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 7 September 2016. Web. 10 September 2016.
3 “Science.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 5 September 2016. Web. 10 September 2016.
I fully agree. Interesting chapter in recent book written about two women born toward the end of American Revolution, buried together in VT as a “couple,”. Relevant, was charter of their old age. Author does an excellent study on medical practice of late 19th century. It was an ignorant and hideous time, especially about purging, both ends of the body at the same time. Many people died painfully, hideously, needlessly of fairly simple illnesses. It struck me that no wonder many people were saved and embracsed CS.. I lost a ,60 year old neice last summer who checked herself in to Brookline BA, “fired” four Practitioners in about four weeks before she died. It was so unnecessary! She was well educated, had a number of delightful essays printed in CS Monitor and at age 60 was waiting for her career to “take off”. It was so difficult communicating with her and I loved her so much
The problem is that there are many documented healings of illnesses like AIDS and Cancer using non medical treatment such as prayer totally unrelated to Christian Science. One that comes to mind is a woman whose name is Niro Assistant. I think that’s what her name is. Anyway, she was diagnosed with ARC (AIDS Related Complex) which is a precursor to full blown AIDS. She converted from HIV+ to HIV-. She contacted many in the medical world to study her to see how an incurable and deadly disease was cured. The medical profession turned completely away. Again, she didn’t have and doesn’t have any contact with Christian Science.
That’s interesting. I feel like I’ve heard of this case before. This points up a weak link in the scientific method–the human link. If researchers turn away from evidence that doesn’t point them in the preconceived direction they wanted to go, they all too often ignore it. What they need to do is study that evidence and go where it leads. It’s a huge disservice to science to discard evidence you don’t agree with. You need to follow it and find out what its telling you.