The discipline of being scientific

Consider the story of Ignaz Semmelweis, the “savior of mothers.” Semmelweis was a Hungarian physician practicing in Vienna, in the 1840s. At that time, puerperal fever was an epidemic in Europe, transmitted to expectant mothers in hospitals. Doctors would move from barehanded autopsy to obstetrical examination without washing their hands between duties. Tens of thousands of young mothers died because doctors did not, and refused to, simply wash their hands. Semmelweis was the first to disinfect his hands and instruments, which eliminated puerperal fever from his maternity ward.

Semmelweis collected loads of controlled data that showed a clear correlation between 1) washing the hands with a strong chlorine solution, and 2) mothers not dying. However, when his doctor peers heard about his easy solution, they attacked him and refused to acknowledge his data. When given the choice, they preferred the very real possibility of their patient’s death over the two minutes required to wash their hands and verify the data. They would not even try it, for the sake of saving lives. Only decades later did Semmelweis’ practices gain widespread acceptance, after his death.

Today, we are shocked by the behavior of those doctors who refused to acknowledge helpful, new information. They are criticized as barbaric, murderous. We assume that people are far more evolved and caring now, given our advances in medical science.

Unfortunately, people today are no less prone to the same dysfunction that has plagued medicine for centuries—especially those practices that 1) support natural functioning without simultaneously 2) damaging or compromising any body system, 3) with the intent to achieve actual health, i.e. “natural medicine.” In fact, the tendency to attack or dismiss helpful new information has been called the Semmelweis Effect. Not only doctors, but also laypeople react to new information as if it were an impossibility. They are actually offended by it. One might cynically cite money as the underlying issue, but saving lives by washing hands was not a money issue. Forces more insidious than money compel the average person to disregard real solutions.

It may be tempting to point the finger at professionals. However, the responsibility falls to every individual to be scientific. What does that mean? Being scientific means healthy behavior—in this case, learning and/or supporting learning when faced with unfamiliar information. Refusing to make observations, or to acknowledge someone else’s observations (data), has nothing to do with science or healthy behavior. Those incapable of learning always have an excuse or escape plan. For example, in an effort to sound progressive, some people (especially doctors) assert that they “never argue with results.” But then, when presented with the results, they fail to acknowledge the results. No results, no argument. To acknowledge data means more than pointing one’s eyes at some print. It means being capable of learning.

Healthy, scientific behavior means to welcome new information, without blindly believing or rejecting it, and to invite experimentation and study. This is how actual learning occurs. One need not believe the information before studying it, applying it, or benefiting from it. Rational belief emerges organically after data is obtained and acknowledged—and repeated enough times for the observer to recover from the anxiety of encountering new information. One must acknowledge the data, then apply the new information, then acknowledge the results, over and over, until reality sinks in.

When caring for one’s own health, it pays to cultivate the discipline of being scientific. “Discipline” implies challenge. Being scientific is firstly an emotional challenge. Exciting, helpful information, especially when unacknowledged by one’s friends or family, provokes emotional turmoil. Discipline compels one to resist the urge to reflexively reject the information, despite turmoil. If discomfort can be allowed to happen for long enough, while one insists on learning, then the discomfort will burn off. The intellect will expand accordingly. Sophistication develops to the extent that one can live through turmoil and rise to new comprehension. One should not expect medical professionals to accomplish this personal feat. Authorities are subject to dysfunction as much as anyone else, and therefore tend to succumb to unscientific temptation.

The Arneson Method is especially challenging for people to acknowledge, including those in desperate need of pain relief. Since the method permits spontaneous activation of a healing mechanism specially designed to arrest various pain types, it is not only completely natural and non-invasive, but also the most effective method available to the human body—a mechanical truth verified many times. These facts automatically render it suspect and contemptible to the average mind. Like other advanced natural medicine, including extremely sophisticated native practices outlawed around the world, the Arneson Method will probably never gain mainstream or even alternative medical acceptance. Only those few scientific enough to try it will collect the forbidden data.

New natural exceptional medical developments are typically met with two uninformed attacks. They are thoughtless defenses against the anxiety provoked by new information. I present them here to assist those who aspire to being more scientific.

1. “If your method works so well, then why don’t you have clients lined up for miles?” This attack (disguised as a question) assumes that people are rational when faced with helpful, new information, which they are not. If everyone has the same reaction, waiting for the method to become fashionable, then no one tries it. No one reports any data to friends or family in need of help.

2. “If this medical theory were true, then everyone would be applying it already.” This attack assumes that 1) current theory was never new, and 2) no new theory can be valid. The absurdity of this logic does not occur to the average mind. Thus, medical history repeats itself predictably, even when tens of thousands suffer and worse.

In general, the healthiest practices in natural medicine and lifestyle are still rejected by mainstream opinion. Therefore, we seldom hear about the best practices. Personal scientific discipline may be the pivotal factor that delivers one to better health, when popular opinion would lead elsewhere. As a discipline-building device, one might continually ask oneself: Do I really know everything already? Am I capable of learning more? Which matters more—my health, or popular opinion that cannot acknowledge our natural potential or the methods that access it?

© 2019, 2020 Portland Pain Institute LLC