the complete debate with materialists see this
Truthspeaker's 2nd response
I did not watch the particular TV show that
you referred to and hence I cannot say anything about it. I was merely
commenting upon the series in general and my impressions of it. I am not
trying to convince anyone of anything. What I am trying to do is point
out that in the venture of science there is a very large pragmatic
No single small group of people let alone an individual has the energy
or the resources to follow the cutting edge research and extension of
science into previously unexamined areas. Everyone has to make a
judgement who and what to accept. Now one does not accept even the most
respected authority as infalliable. That is in the realm of Quran and
popes. Every statement is accepted with an implicity probability of it
being valid or not. Some statements acquire a validity that is close to
certain. Over time, and a fairly short one in human terms, earth has
gone from being viewed as flat to being round. As you point out that
there are still people who are convinced the earth is flat.
In terms of our knowledge the spectrum covers things that we are very
certain of to all the way that we do not know to even how to construct a
viable hypothesis and that is if you are fairly knowledgeable. Let me
give you an example: most people have read that the most ancient cosmic
objects seen via hubble are just over 13.2 billion light years old. I
can assure that very few people really understand the various
assumptions that are involved in arriving at the number and what is the
accuracy of that number. Now to most people it does not make very much
of a difference in digging out all the details, but to an astronmer who
intends to make a living at it, it is of utmost importance. You see
pragmatically most people just don't have the time to track down all the
details. They accept the word of people who they consider knowledgeable.
I honestly do not know an alternative to that. I can work very hard at
'knowing' a few areas, extremely hard at becoming an expert at a part of
one very very tiny area, but for most I have to rely upon other
Everyone makes a judgement about who they are going to trust and rely
upon. In the old days the knowledgeable people where the priests, and in
the islamic world apparently it is still the mufti and the imams. The
priests of today whose word is accepted by average people are the
"scientists". One can see that in the experts invited by TV
shows when some event has to be explained to the general public. As you
pointed out even the show that you referred to is giving the opinions of
scientifically trained doctors etc.
However, any person who is involved in the venture of science and is
honest will tell you that at the forefront of science most of the effort
is spent in essentially showing why what is generally accepted is wrong
and should be replaced by what. It is what nature dictates that matters,
everything else is hypothesis and eventually will change and disappear.
It used to be the dogma that people were born with a given number of
neurons and during an organisms lifetime no neurons were created. Well
that was shown to be wrong and has been replaced by something else.
Take the case of accupuncture and energy healing. I am not disputing
your statements. I know too little about it to tell you what is true
about it or not. I was merely reporting a result that I was aware of a
few years ago. I even pointed out that Harvard School was studying
Alternative Medicines intensively. Here is a link:
|Harvard Medical School has been named the
recipient of a $10 million gift from the Bernard Osher
Foundation. The gift will be used to support the school's
Division for Research and Education in Complementary and
Integrative Medical Therapies, and to establish a new institute
that will examine the safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of
alternative forms of care.
"This extraordinary gift from the Osher Foundation will
allow us to take a leadership role in building a scientific
understanding of the opportunities and risks encountered by
patients seeking complementary and alternative therapies,"
asserted Joseph B. Martin, dean of the medical school. "We
need to evaluate scientifically the effectiveness of these
techniques - to assess the current status of our knowledge and
determine what we need to do to advance that knowledge."
Any scientist who closes his mind entirely on any topic is foolish. It
really comes down to the pragmatic choice of 'does one think that
pursuing a particular area for specialisation is worth one's effort or
not'. With my background study of acupuncture would be professional
suicide. But for a person who is a trained M.D. and has had some
personal experience with accupuncture it might be a great oppertunity
even if starts the new career with giving accupuncture a low probability
of leading to new phenomanon. But that is 'his or her' judgement. That
is why science has to run as an unstructured democracy.
That last point is that just as humans accept 'authorities' who they
will believe there will always be scam artists who will pose as those
authorities to take advantage of the gullible. Part of the effort of the
rationalists who were 'debunking' the drinking of milk by the statues of
Ganesh as not being a 'miracle' but attempting to explain it in terms of
more 'materialist' answers. People of faith were willing to beleive in
the miracle of Ganesh and view it as proof that a Ganesha God really
really existed, and there were many priests who were more than happy to
encourage that belief. That is what the rationalist were addressing.
That is why when you hypothesize an explanation within the materialist
scientific paradigm ('particles and vibrations') for a paranormal
phenomanon, I personally have absolutely no problem with your stand. I
may disagree whether the phenomanon exists or not, but that is the
beginning of any scientific investigation.
Here is a little bit more on acupuncture.
There are quite a few papers coming from the Harvard Medical School. A
story worth remembering about medicine is that less than 40 years ago it
used to be standard practice to remove the tonsils and appendix of a
person admitted into surgery because these were considered
non-functional appendages. Similarly, the tale of frontal lobotamy is a
sad tale for modern medicine. A lot of people were given that treatment.
One under the cuckoo's nest is a great movie that has that in the
background. Traditional or non-traditional medicine one needs to be
aware that there is very little integeration has been done of all that
is known. Apparently science knows a lot of bits and pieces about human
system but we have very little understanding of how the whole system
works as a unit. So it is always smart to do as much research as
possible on ones symptoms when dealing with any medical practioner.
|Acupuncture's Secret: Blood Flow To Brain
Updated: Thursday, Mar. 4, 2004 - 9:20 AM
Acupuncture on pain-relief points cuts blood flow to key areas
of the brain within seconds, providing the clearest explanation
to date for how the ancient technique might relieve pain and
treat addictions, a Harvard scientist reports today.
Although researchers still don't fully understand how
acupuncture works, ''our findings may connect the dots, showing
how a common pathway in the brain could make acupuncture helpful
for a variety of conditions,'' says radiologist Bruce Rosen of
Harvard Medical School. He'll release the findings at the
American Psychosomatic Society meeting in Orlando.
Rosen's team used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRIs,
on about 20 healthy volunteers before, during and after
acupuncture. This type of brain scan shows changes in blood flow
and the amount of oxygen in blood.
Researchers applied acupuncture needles to points on the hand
linked to pain relief in traditional Chinese medicine. Blood
flow decreased in certain areas of the brain within seconds of
volunteers reporting a heaviness in their hands, a sign the
acupuncture is working correctly, Rosen says. The needle
technique is not supposed to hurt if done correctly. When a few
subjects reported pain, their scans showed an increase of blood
to the same brain areas.
''When there's less blood, the brain isn't working as hard, ''
Rosen says. ''In effect, acupuncture is quieting down key
regions of the brain.''
The specific brain areas affected are involved in mood, pain and
cravings, Rosen says. This could help explain why some studies
have found acupuncture helpful in treating depression, eating
problems, addictions and pain.
The brain regions involved also are loaded with dopamine, a
''reward'' chemical that surges in reaction to everything from
cocaine to food, beautiful faces and money. The reduced blood
flow could lead to dopamine changes that trigger a ''cascade''
effect, releasing endorphins, the brain's natural pain-relieving
and comforting chemicals, Rosen says.
Rosen's study ''is a very exciting first step,'' says
neurobiologist Richard Hammerschlag of the Oregon College of
Oriental Medicine in Portland, but controlled research on pain
and addiction patients will be needed to prove the point. Brain
scans should be done on patients getting acupuncture at real and
bogus points, he says, and patients shouldn't know which group
The placebo effect is so powerful it could affect blood flow,
says UCLA neurobiologist Christopher Evans, a pain expert.
There's even some evidence that placebos can increase brain
chemicals, such as endorphins, Hammerschlag says.
The placebo effect is merely a word that describes the phenomanon that
the physiological system appears to produce very many helpful and
curative responses when the subject merely 'believes' that he/she is
receiving actual medicines from someone they trust knows what they are
doing! Now why that takes place is a total mystry. There are very few
explanations for the placebo effect, and the main reason is that we are
largely ignorant about how the brain generates feedback loops to affect
the physiology of the person.
There are many many physiological mechanisms that are barely catalogued
let alone understood yet. But the important point is that so far the
consensus is that explanations within the scientific paradigm will be
used to understand. When people start proposing that the language of the
supernatural (God, angels, good and bad spirits, jinns, satan, devil,
etc. as actual real entities) is to be employed to 'understand'
something that I become extremely sceptical and doubtful. The reaction
is pretty much the same when I find myself walking alone at 2:00 am in a
well known bad and rough part of the town. I am not going to be on my
Acceptance by 'experts' usually requires something been tested and
probed in different ways. And even after having been accepted as
'understood' there is always a yound graduate student or postdoc whose
dream is to become famous by overturning accepted wisdom. So far in
science there are very few basic laws that are cosidered robust enough
and fundamental enough to be viewed as close to being fully understood.
If the superstring theory is correct then the earth is not a 3D pear
shaped (close to a sphere) object but a 11 to 16 dimensional object that
is approximate to a sphere in a particular 3D projection.