As many of my readers know, I don’t teach people what to think; instead, I prefer to teach people how to think. And since matters of health aren’t a subjective issue, it shouldn’t be a matter of opinion as to how we can live to achieve optimal health (the best health a person’s DNA will allow them to have); it should be a matter of facts.
If I mentioned the natural diet of giraffes, no one in their right mind would disagree because it is plain to see what giraffes are designed to eat. And the same can be said for every other species on the planet … except one: us. How is it that we can know, for certain, what every species in the world is meant to eat, yet there isn’t similar agreement regarding what we are best suited to eat? We can get away with this because humans no longer exist in the wild as we did many millennia ago, so we can’t be observed eating what we’re meant to eat. But the thing is, we’ve got brains, and we should be able to use those brains to figure out what we’re best suited to eat. But those brains can also get in the way of figuring this out.
It is human nature for our judgment to be colored by personal preferences and biases, social pressures, con artists and others who desire to manufacture public opinion for personal gain. But when we climbed out of the Dark Ages, there were some people who wanted to know the truth about the real world, and recognized those things that could get in the way of discovering the truth, so they created a system of inquiry that would prevent interference from human nature. This was the scientific method. And thus, the field of science was born: a systematic knowledge of the physical world gained through observation and experimentation.
Now, yes, science can be perverted, with many examples of junk science, loaded studies and pseudo science infiltrating our lives on an almost-daily basis. But by applying the scientific method, we can ferret out the nonsense.
So what must a scientific way of looking at things, that squares with reality, be based on? How about …
- Open questioning
- No authorities
- No biases or personal preferences
- Reliance on evidence
And the requisites for this method of inquiry must include a respect for rational and honest discussion, a desire to peer-to-peer, the ability to change a position when the evidence merits it, an intolerance of distortion and misrepresentation and, above all, a skeptical interrogation of accepted notions.
This is the “ethos of science.” And it can make the world a better place by burying myth and dogma. And in the area of the health, employing the ethos of science is crucial for a health educator so they don’t end up teaching any inaccurate information; information that could negatively impact people’s future health. It’s not enough for a health educator to believe that what they’re teaching is true and correct; they need to recognize the possibility of being wrong, and adhere to the ethos of science so they can have the best odds of being correct.
But what gets in the way of being a “proper” researcher and educator? Well, for one thing, some people have high levels of certainty uncoupled to the world of evidence, argument and rationality. If this certainty is fueled by a level of arrogance, this is not a good scenario for a health educator because they likely will not be open to doing any peer-to-peer work, and will certainly not be able to realize if they’ve been teaching something that is incorrect, and adjust what they teach accordingly.
Another reason for not applying the ethos of science in an educational practice is the desire to be popular and make a lot of money. Those learning from a health educator whom they like usually will not consider that this is the educator’s true motivation, but if it is, wouldn’t you want to know about it? And it would be lovely to think that all health educators are sincere, honest, altruistic and truly care about those they teach and counsel, but unfortunately, this is not true. Most are, but it’s the few who aren’t who are a root cause of people getting diagnoses of serious illness later in life.
Then there are those educators who are caring, sincere folks and who honestly want to positively inform the conversation about how to be healthy. And they certainly are science-based in their thinking, but because they wear “science blinders,” they limit their research, and therefore their recommendations are not necessarily the best ones they could have come up with. As an example, take those researchers and educators who only consider multiple, double-blinded, peer-reviewed studies. If you ask them, “What about a raw vegan diet?” they will invariably respond with, “Show me the studies.” And while it’s nice that they are open-minded, they are still closed-minded in the sense that they will not also consider empirical evidence. What if, in reality, those studies will never be done, and what if a raw vegan diet is superior to a cooked vegan diet? So to confine one’s definition of evidence to structured studies can only be a limiting factor in determining what works best when it comes to health restoration and maintenance. This is when a narrow view of science does not serve us. Now, I’m not saying that we should be so open-minded that we entertain woo-woo pseudo science, but we should not limit our inquiry to or base our recommendations solely on published studies.
Then there are those educators who are caring, sincere folks, but who let their own personal biases color their otherwise good judgment. Here we can include those educators who are vegan first and foremost for ethical reasons. Deep down, they want as many people as possible to go vegan for the sake of the animals. And while this indeed is a noble cause, if they badmouth a raw vegan diet because it will be less inclusive than a vegan diet that contains cooked food such as “hamburgers,” “bacon,” “cheese” and grain products, this does the public a disservice. And to apply rigorous science to support the diet you wish to promote — in this case a vegan diet — while abandoning science to speak ill of a different vegan diet because it could result in fewer people going vegan is disheartening to say the least. This is why the scientific method was created in the first place, to prevent this kind of miseducation, both of the researchers and those they share their conclusions with.
So if you’re a fan of the philosophy “Give me the truth though the heavens may fall,” then you’ll want to employ the ethos of science in your studies. And you should want those you learn from to do the same.
Don Bennett is an insightful, reality-based author, and health creation counselor who uses the tools in his toolbox — like logic, common sense, critical thinking, and independent thought — to figure out how to live so we can be optimally healthy.