The Scientific Contribution to the Obesity Epidemic

The Scientific Contribution to the Obesity Epidemic

One cannot understand science without understanding its history. A basic question, in our study here, is whether obesity presents a problem better sol

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One cannot understand science without understanding its history. A basic question, in our study here, is whether obesity presents a problem better solved by science, per se, or by medicine: the provinces of the scientist and the physician are, for better or worse, distinct and separate here in 2004. A scientist is engaged in defining the laws of nature, whereas a medical doctor is engaged in the business of tending to the ill. Because of this dichotomy of interests, I believe that neither medicine nor the medical doctor is scientific.

The chief trouble with today‟s scientific medicine is that
it is too one-sided and, therefore, not scientific enough.
Modern medicine will become truly scientific only when
it has learned to manage the biological and
psychological forces that operate as naturae vis
medicatrix (in-born healing power of the living) and
when it has seriously committed itself to the doctrine
that, in human life, the health of the body is linked to
the health of the mind

Science is the activity that occupies the scientist‟s time. The scientist works on the assumption that he and the scientific community, of which he‟s a member, know what the world is like. The ability, therefore, of traditional science to solve problems depends upon this professional community‟s willingness to defend its beliefs. This defense often involves considerable cost. That the primary goal of any institution or individual is survival is the idea at the core of James Buchanan‟s 1986 Nobel Prize-winning “Public Choice Theory.”

The nature of traditional science is that whenever glitches threaten the basic assumptions of an existing paradigm, they‟re suppressed. But, when the profession can no longer ignore the fact that these so-called glitches are undermining the existing tradition, it begins its move toward a new set of commitments. This epochal shift represents a scientific revolution. It must be understood, however, that the initial and on-going resistance to maintain the status quo is extraordinarily powerful.

Every member of every scientific community learned the principles of his science through the models handed-down to him by those who went before him. Therefore, the members of a scientific community, whose research is based on shared paradigms, are committed to the same rules and standards of scientific practice. This commitment and consensus by a scientific community provide the fundamentals for the operation of traditional science, all of which guarantees the continuation of specific research traditions. When an individual scientist can take the basic features of his work for granted, he‟s saved from the need to begin his scientific work at the beginning-point of that science. The advent of the textbook allowed the scientist to begin his research where the textbook ended; the textbook contained all that had gone before him, and with it, there was no need to re-acquire his science‟s fundamentals.

Before the organization of science as an institution, scientists made their work available to anyone interested in it. Today, however, scientists present their work in brief articles intelligible only to their professional colleagues, and these are the same men who share the knowledge provided by the shared paradigm. They become, therefore, the only ones capable of reading the papers which are directed specifically to them. Scientists who bridge the gap between their professional group and the laity often find their professional reputations damaged rather than enhanced.

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