A diabetic friend of mine rejected the advice proffered in a book on health that I lent to him. His argument was that no trust could be put into advice from the single author. I assumed I knew what he meant, but on reflection, I am not so sure. Did he mean that only books with multiple authors had legitimacy? Or did he mean that the man was not affiliated to a medical organisation?

I assume the latter. Barry Groves was the author of the book (‘Trick and treat’), and essentially from chemist to self financed researcher into nutrition and health. But my friend missed the salient points were that this man was not only free from the influence of the medical powers, but that the book was the result of no less than 26 years of full time research into health and nutrition research. A meta research that precised decades of scienitific research by others.

The only way in which I feel that this impressive position of authority was that Barry was always looking to research that endorsed his own personal nutritional approach.

However, it is well established that bias blights a large percentage of scientific research. To suppress the human instinct to ‘find what weare looking for’ is a hard task indeed.

But let’s step right back.

The scientific method is held in an almost sacred esteem.  It is de rigour in the West. But a more practical and holistic view of the World dominates in the East of course. And Worldwide, there is also the additional matter of empirical result. All approaches have pros and cons, but I want to focus on the cons of the Western view first, by way of an example.

Consider the testing of drugs. The highest level of the scientific testing is to  perform a double blind, placebo controlled study, where both the testers and the subjects are unaware of who is receiving the drug and who the placebo (sugar pill). For a drug to be approved for marketing, it must outperform the placebo. More often than not, the drug will be effective to varying degrees in a number of subjects, the placebo less so, and those who took no pill, there were some smaller improvement of symptoms.

But the whole point is that it is all a matter of degree. The approved drug will undoubtably not have worked at all for some of the subjects. The approval is also subject to some observation of side effects, but they are not the main focus.  And often, side effects only manifest themselves after sustained consumption of a drug, often beyond the time period of a trial.

The net effect is that for some people, the approved drug will not only fail to help their condition, but will also cause unwanted side effects. The approval is essentially a statistical one. And this is a key flaw in the use of the scientific method for testing drugs. A single tick for approval for 100% of people when that drug was not proven effective for 100% of subjects.

And the key point I want to make is that just as Barry Groves was giving the viewpoint of one person, when you take a drug, you too are only one person. No matter how large the percentage efficacy of a drug, if you are in the wrong percentage, you will become more ill.

The double blind testing method helps you not one jot if the drug does not work for you. Yet we tend to blindly accept the one-size-fits-all advice we get from the medical industry.

The frailty of it all is actual quite funny on one sense – a New Scientific article revealed that one group of experimenters discovered that the administrationof morphine to patients in pain had no effect if the patient was unaware of the administration of the drug. They make a strong case that the double blind test method even more fundamentally flawed. There should be an additional group of subjects who receive a drug unknowingly (in their food or drink). How many drugs only ever got approval because the placebo effect was making the drug work by the power of the mind?

I talked with a district nurse of some decades experience yesterday. She confirmed something odd that I had read a while ago. That for some people, morphine fails to kill pain, and induces a state of agitation instead. Yet morphine would sail through scientific testing because of its high percentage efficacy. You just don’t want to be the one who gets agitated.

One final point, on the emprical method.  The method that is so universally dismissed as being too anecdotal to be valid. Yet the whole point is that it has a similar weight of statistical vailidity to the scientific method. But it also has a much bigger weight of support in that it is often an assessment of a method over years and decades. Nutrionists giving food advice to thousands of patients over many years build up a huge amount of empirical knowledge, tweaking their methods to suit the reality of the feedback they ge. Often, they conclude that certain individuals require highly specific treatment. And adjust their observations and subsequent advice accordingly. Compare with double blind testing, which leaves marginal cases as mere statistics.

In conclusion, years of practical experience has a higher real World value than a short lived double blind test.