07 September 2016

Woo and science

I haven't had a good year. You'll notice that my most recent post was in January, and this is already September. What's up is that life, the universe, and everything (42!) has been getting me down. I've been fearful and angry. Too tired to even consider writing, never mind thoughtful writing.

But I had a bit of a breakthrough, and I'm hoping to get back on track again. Writing is good for me, even if it's just on my blog, read by few people.

One of my breakthroughs was kinda beautiful. Oh, people will judge, but who cares. I'm not entirely rational. Never have been. I go by what I feel, my gut, my instinct, whatever you wanna call it. It rarely fails me, and I often regret not listening to it. It's always kind of bugged me that I believe in things I can't see or prove, because I am a scientifically minded person. I like rationality. I like proof. I like data. But I know what I feel. I know how I feel. So it's an internal fight. I'll give up on things like God, unproven medicine, spirituality, prayer, energy, etc., for a few months, and then I get miserable, angry, and just all around shitty to people. Simply put, I feel better when I do irrational things like praying to a god I can't see, spending money on homeopathy (yes, I know! I really do!), etc. Some people tell me it's a placebo, and to them I ask, "So?" Seriously. So. Fucking. What.

If none of this is real, but I feel better, so? I feel better. I'm wasting my money on illusion? So? I feel better. Without drugs. Without doctors. Without weekly or monthly therapy. I feel better, for a lot less money than I see people spending on vacations, drinking, therapy, medications with serious side effects, etc. And what does it cost me? A few minutes talking to "myself" (God, the universe, whoever), a six bucks on a vial of sugar pills, and occasionally a therapy session with someone entirely unqualified by government to do therapy (What? You never got advice from someone without a degree?).

Now, of course, none of this means I'm going to eschew science, western medicine, or all rational thought. Of course not. I'm not suddenly going to decide my kid doesn't need seizure meds or that I'm never going to take an advil for a headache. That would be ludicrous and dangerous. I might take some homeopathy when I have a cold though. Or give some to the kids. Because if it tricks me into feeling better all on my own, that's better for me than some cold medication that can't cure the thing anyway. Or I might get acupuncture when I'm feeling tired all the time again. I feel better when I do that. Cool, eh? But quackery, Luna! Quackery. I know. I don't care.

I really got thinking about this when I saw how happy a friend is. She's really into something called Psych-K which is the woo-iest, quackiest thing I've run into in a long time. And my friend is Happy. People are searching for answers. Some go to woo. Some head for science. Some just get angry and try to bend everyone to their will, their view of how society should be. And some people get angry. They're clinging to their beliefs, angry at those who try to tell them it's horseshit, because in a way, they know it is, but they're using it to hold on to their happiness. I talked with my friend about this, because she's not particularly threatened, and she's not fearful. She thinks everyone would benefit from her program, and I don't. I think it's something that works for those who need it and are open to it. It allows them to heal wounds in a way that is different from cognitive behaviour therapy, or whatever the flavour of the day is in psychology these days. But it does work. For those people.

It's why energy healers are so popular. They're people who are really good at cold-reading people and telling them what they need to hear. Why's that a bad thing again? Because it's expensive? So's therapy. So are vacations. So is that liver transplant. I've gone to a few healers. First time was a lark. I thought it would make for a great blog post, and it was only $40. I was blown away. Suckered in, my husband said. :) But then he saw the changes in me, and how they lasted months. Months and months. (6 weeks is the usual standard for placebo effect time). And again, if it was completely placebo, if this guy tricked me into making myself feel better, how exactly is that a problem? Because it's not real healing? How isn't it? I mean, is it because the problem comes back? Does therapy cure you after the first appointment?

Or is it the "You are believing a lie" story? You can't believe in a lie, because... because that's not true. Bwuh? But if I'm getting better, how's it a lie? Because science can't prove it? Because it's been shown to be false? And? And again, so what? And hello, you know that science gets shit wrong all the time, right? And it changes all the time too. Is butter healthy? How about milk? Soy? High fat diet? High carb diet? Atkins? Ketogenic? One of my sons is on a drug that failed a clinical trial rather spectacularly. And yet it works for him. Prescribed by his neurologist, it's the best medication he's ever had. We're almost 2 years on it, so wellllll past the chance that the effect is placebo or confirmation bias. The latest and greatest in science says it shouldn't work. It does. Are we believing a lie? Or is it that science can't yet explain why it works? Same principle. So yeah, we're believing in what we see, what we experience, and what works for us regardless of whether scientist can prove it works or not. Pardon me!

So I suppose I wonder why people get so defensive about science, so frustrated with people like me who go by our senses instead of what others tell us is rational. What exactly are they trying to save me from? Happiness? Being wrong? Or is it about them being right? Is it about them needing to make me see how I'm wrong because it validates their view? I don't know. I do know that if it weren't a threat on some level, they wouldn't care at all. In the same way that I do not in the least bit care if someone thinks kale is edible, when I know it to be the most vile thing ever grown, but I don't go trying to outlaw kale. I mostly don't care what people think of my views. I really only manage to give a shit when someone is trying to get alternative medicine banned, or convince others not to go to church, or is screaming QUACKERY! at anything not mainstream in a bizarre attempt to convince others not to do the things that are helping them in some way, because the screamy angry person can't even fathom something that isn't rational being helpful. The resistance to letting people do whatever they want is really fucking weird. How's my acupuncture treatment hurting you? How's my reiki preventing you from living a happy life? Oh right, it's not. Not unless you find it threatening. And hey, that's your problem.

I have another friend, a science guy, a dude who really doesn't grok the idea of any of the stuff I'm talking about. He cannot begin to fathom that I'm happy to believe in shit I can't prove. I was telling him one day about how when I walk under street lamps they often dim or even shut off (and this was before that bit in Harry Potter) entirely until I'm past them. He was laughing, thinking I was lying, imagining things or bullshitting him. When I said that I really wasn't, he got quite upset with me that I would not take his word for it, as a physicist, that what I was saying was impossible. I was supposed to ignore my eyes, my own experience, and believe him that it was impossible. And then he visited me. And I took him for a walk. And the lights popped out or dimmed as I walked under them, and brightened up as I walked away. And he saw it with his own two eyes, and he believed me. His knowledge in physics was suddenly utterly irrelevant as he experienced it himself. My eyes were no longer lying. I was no longer a bullshit artist.

And so when I'm told to be rational, I remember that streetlights used to go out when I stepped under them (this changed a few years ago - I kinda miss it) and that a really smart physicist didn't believe me until he could experience it too. But it was real. Even if I couldn't show why. And the other things, the things I can't show in that way, I can believe them, even if no one else does, and it doesn't matter at all if it's 100% horseshit, because if a steady diet of horseshit makes me a healthy human, I'll just keep eating it up.

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