There has been a bit of a break from posts as we focused on the new clinical trials and scientific data so I thought this would be a good time to re-name the blog and talk about what, I think at least, are some of the major problems with science today.
Recently there has been a large amount of data coming out that makes it very clear that we are going to have to fundamentally re-think the way we look at biology and the aetiology of disease. It is also becoming clear that scientists are unfortunately all too human and have fallen prey to some logical fallacies for far too long. So in honour of our little slice of trying to unravel it all, the new theme and name for the blog will be “It’s a bit more complicated than that”.
To the problems then. The way I see it there are two major problems with the way things are being done at the moment:
1) The reductionist method that has worked so well for us in the past has now become a hindrance to understanding, as many papers do not adequately address the complexity of metabolic disorders. The reality is that diseases such as diabetes, IBS, high cholesterol, hypertension and the like don’t actually exist – in the same way that cancer doesn’t exist. This is because the terms we use describe a result, not a cause and there are many different causes that can end up with metabolic problems such as loss of blood glucose control. Even Type 1 and Type 2 encompass many different conditions and we don’t properly understand what they are, so it is very difficult to measure whether something is working or not and the assumption that all people are the same is a dangerous and damaging one.
2) The second is more insidious and that is that there is a growing need for people to be proven right rather than actually know what is going on and many people in the fields are more politicians than they are scientists or medical professionals. This is a problem in any field but it is absolutely catastrophic in science and incredibly dangerous and negative in medicine. The most obvious and ridiculous example of this effect is the idea that herbal medicines cannot be real when the pharmaceutical industries absolutely rely on “natural” remedies to function (84.5% of all FDA approved cancer drugs started off as natural products and 46% are still classed as natural – the numbers are similar for all fields).
The combination of these two effects means that there is a lot of unnecessary argy-bargy going on in the medical space at the moment and the patients are the ones missing out. Often there will be statements from doctors’ groups or the DAA along the lines of “there is no evidence that this treatment works” This is often patently untrue; what they actually mean is “there is both evidence for and against and the results are currently unclear”. What this means for the person on the street is that you need to look closely at what is being found and see whether you fit into the group of people that a treatment works for or not, or often to just weigh the risks and if they are minimal give something a go and see if it works for you. To be clear I am not advocating non-scientific rubbish that has either been shown to not work or has no reason why it would such as astrology homeopathy and the like. Rather I’m saying use real science to determine whether something might apply if there is no consensus yet.
Over the next few posts we will look at this problem in relation to specific breakthroughs like diet, exercise, cholesterol and the like. Also if anyone has something that they would like our scientists to investigate specifically feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally we are going to invite our colleagues and students to make some posts on the work they have been doing over the last year.