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  • Reflections On Scientific Dogma by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Monday, January 25, 2010 8:12 am Email this article
    "The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has today [ Oct 2005 ] decided to award The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2005 jointly to Barry J. Marshall and J. Robin Warren for their discovery of 'the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease'."

    It was good to see these two winning the Nobel Prize, with the key piece of following text appended.

    "This year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine goes to Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, who with tenacity and a prepared mind challenged prevailing dogmas."

    "Who with tenacity and a prepared mind challenged prevailing dogmas…." A few short words. As if the Second World War could be encapsulated thus, "In the Second World War, the Allies defeated Germany, Japan and a few other countries after a series of successful engagements."

    (This article was written by Malcolm Kendrick, MD, author of the wonderful, eye-opening, paradigm-shifting book The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth About What Really Causes Heart Disease and How to Avoid It .) Barry Marshall And Robin Warren Were Attacked And Humiliated

    Barry Marshall and Robin Warren were personally attacked and ritually humiliated for questioning the wisdom of their superiors

    I followed the helicobacter story from pretty early on in the proceedings. At first, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren were personally attacked and ritually humiliated for questioning the wisdom of their superiors. When this didn’t have the desired effect, their work was rubbished. Barry Marshal, at one point, was forced to swallow helicobacter pylori himself, then develop ulcers, in order to prove that bacteria could cause ulcers.


    Drug Companies Attacked Them Because They Threatened Profits

    Drug companies attacked these doctors because they threatened profits from anti-ulcer drugs

    As the work of these two became better known, and appeared to be threatening the multi-billion-dollar market in ulcer-healing drugs, the major pharmaceutical companies lined up expert after expert after opinion leader to intensify the attack. It would have been easy to fold under this level of pressure. Good on Marshall and Warren for sticking to their guns.


    Dogma Closes Minds

    Most scientists are NOT open-minded

    Their story highlights an issue about science that has bothered me for years. Namely, the incredible, stifling power of dogma. One would hope that scientists have open minds, but the more you study science, and scientific thinking, the more it becomes clear that the minds of most scientists remain firmly, and highly aggressively, shut.


    ‘Do You Know Who I Am?’

    ‘Do you know who I am?’ scientists often ask

    I have tried to train myself to put all ideas into one of three places — probable, possible or unlikely — and never to allow myself to become emotionally attached to any hypothesis. But most scientists, especially medical scientists, seem only to have two places to store their thoughts. They are true or false; right or wrong; sensible or stupid. This is usually supported by the killer scientific argument, “Do you know who I am, young man?” This is knows as Eminence-Based Medicine.


    Dogma Believed Bacteria Could Not Live In Stomach

    The dogma believed that bacteria could not live in the highly-acidic stomach

    As we know now, when it came to bacteria living in the stomach, the prevailing dogma was that no bacteria could live in such a highly acidic environment. On the face of it, this seems quite a sensible thought. I think I probably believed it to be true myself. It just happens to be utterly wrong.

    Scientists also argued that sunlight was essential for the development of life — until whole colonies of plants and animals were found living next to volcanic vents thousands of feet under the sea.


    1950’s Dogma Refused to Believe The Idea of Tectonic Plates

    The idea of tectonic plates was a vicious battle

    I communicated for a time with Thomas Gold, a geologist, who argued that the surface of the Earth floated about on tectonic plates. He was flung out of various geological conferences in the late-1950s, along with anyone else daring to propose this madcap idea. (Read the literature today and you get the impression that this theory just gently evolved under the benign gaze of wise geological opinion leaders…. Not so, this was a vicious battle.)


    Dogma About Breast Cancer Surgery

    Dogma recommending radical mastectomy was wrong

    Last year, I spent some time looking into the history of surgery for breast cancer. For about 80 years or so, the dogma was that surgery should remove as many lymph nodes, and as much of the breast and surrounding tissue, as possible. This was the so-called radical mastectomy. To argue otherwise was to be hurled from the bosom of a surgical society — as happened to several brave souls. The thinking behind the radical mastectomy was, of course, utterly, and disfiguringly, wrong.


    Dogma of Bed Rest After a Heart Attack Was Wrong

    Dogma of bed rest after a heart attack was not only wrong, but damaging

    At one time, if a patient had a heart attack, it clearly made sense that he should spend eight weeks in strict bed rest to protect the heart from strain, or some other such superficial and stupid nonsense. During astronaut training, it was discovered that six weeks of bed rest was horribly damaging to the heart. And so the bed rest idea was itself put to rest. Quite how many hundreds of thousands of people were killed by enforced bed rest will, I am sure, never be known.


    Opinion Leaders

    Opinion leaders perpetuate dogma; they are not the one’s who move science forward

    I could go on and on. These are just the examples that spring most readily to mind. Perhaps this is the nature of scientific endeavour. Only those few brave individuals with the energy and sheer bloody-mindedness will break through prevailing dogmas to move science forward. Whilst the “opinion leaders” effortlessly crush the other 99 percent under the jackboot of prevailing thought.


    If I Had One Wish


    I wish scientists would take an oath to support and encourage new ideas

    If I had just one wish, it would be this: that all scientists took the following oath. “I shall always support and encourage new ideas, no matter how superficially idiotic and wrong they may seem. I shall also remember that established and comfortable ideas may well be wrong, and should be attacked and criticized at all times.”

    The chances of this happening are, officially, fat.

    PS:  A raised cholesterol level causes heart disease. Ho, ho, ho.



    Article Previous Published on THINCS.org

    This article was previously published on THINCS.org

    This article was previously published on THINCS.org (The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics).

    I republished the article here with Dr. Kendrick’s permission.


    Malcolm Kendrick’s Contact Info

    Malcolm Kendrick’s Email Address—.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Dr. Malcolm Kendrick can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

    Malcolm Kendrick, MD is the author of the wonderful, eye-opening, paradigm-shifting book book The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth About What Really Causes Heart Disease and How to Avoid It .)


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