The hypocrisy of science and the decolonization of knowledge
By Yasser Farres Delgado
HAVANA TIMES – In my previous post, I explained the historical and political processes through which science and scientists set themselves up as the sole standard bearers of “true knowledge.” I demonstrated how this involved discrediting all other forms of knowledge, with no foundation for dialogue and interchange.
Let me begin this post by adding that, little by little, this posture became State policy, leaving its mark on scientific policies as well. Indeed it’s no coincidence that certain men of science – and I use the word “men” intentionally – held high political positions, a standing that in no few cases allowed them to banish their opponents, even those within their same faculty. (For example, Isaac Newton vs. Robert Hook).
Without going much deeper into the history of science, I would have to say that this relationship Science – Power also left its mark on the institutionalization of science in the colonial and post-colonial territories. In our Cuban milieu, it’s enough to cite the institutional difficulties that Carlos J. Finlay faced in trying to put forth his theory about the role of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito in the transmission of yellow fever. For two decades his ideas were ignored or scorned in both Cuba and the United States, although they did find a tiny and skeptical reception in the latter country.
From the time of its institutionalization right up until today, science has been whatever certain groups in power have allowed it to be. In general, the scientists and their financial backers are not willing to face opposition from a different vision, especially if it points in the direction of dismantling their institutions; and less still if those visions have arisen on the margins of the system itself. To this, of course, economic reasons are added. These, then, are the roots of the hypocrisy of modern science and scientists.
Science and its adherents allow themselves the leeway that they deny to other forms of knowledge: the possibility of existing and of making mistakes. Institutionalized medical science is perhaps the most hypocritical of all the branches of science, because their hypocrisy not infrequently ends up buried in the grave. In that sense, and once again taking up the ideas that motivated this posting, I ask: How can they deny homeopathy the possibility of development by arguing that it’s nothing but a placebo, and at the same time use that placebo as part of the “scientific method” for proving the true effectiveness of medication?
In effect, without a placebo there is no “double blind procedure”. How do they determine the validity of a vaccine? They apply the medicine to half of the patients in an experimental group while they deceive the other group by giving them a placebo. That’s the hypocritical method through which the effectiveness of the vaccine against the human papillomavirus, for example, has been proven, an example I mention because at this moment it’s one of the most controversial.
Medical science “pathologizes” life in order to patent remedies. To invent vaccines, like the vaccine they are currently inventing against chicken pox. There are a lot of example like this. For all this and more, it’s important that we recuperate our traditional and complementary medicine and socialize it. Note that I use the term “complementary” as opposed to “alternative.”
Once we understand the possibility of using traditional and natural medicines as a complement, we will be taking a great step forward. That’s the posture of some illustrious doctors, such as Dr. Alberto Martí Bosch, a Catalonian oncologist, naturopath and homeopath who recognizes the necessity of reassessing the current medical perspective. I suggest you take a moment to watch this video.
It’s no simple task to reach conclusions like those of Dr. Martí Bosch and to have such ideas gain authority; it means confronting a scientific community that has very conventional ideas, and also the State institutions. Ten years before the video that I mention, news items like this were common.
Fortunately, starting several decades ago and especially in the past few years, awareness has been growing about the benefits of a dialogue between those who have positive practice with conventional medicine and those who have other forms of knowledge. It’s the transdisciplinary paradigm (see the “Transdisciplinary Letter”) That dialogue, of course, isn’t always ingenuous: the same pharmaceutical companies that so deny the shamans’ validity, then invest huge sums of money in exploring the active principles in their potions and their herbs.
From my point of view, the debate shouldn’t center on which is the “true science” since “true science” is a relative and changeable concept. Rather, the principal debate should be an ethical question: How can science and scientists continue to demand for themselves all authority over knowledge, when that same science that’s generated important accomplishments has also caused large environmental, economic and public health problems? How can they continue to claim a monopoly on knowledge when there is more evidence every day, for example, that many scientific advances are related to the increase in cases of cancer and other modern diseases?
In the face of these facts that impact all our citizens, the least any State can do to act responsibly is to also foment – and I insist that I mean “also” – complementary forms of knowledge. Allow them to explore, allow them to exist, regardless of whether they are later confirmed or have to be rectified. How many medical practices have been reassessed in the course of the history of modern science?
How welcome is that recent resolution of the Cuban Ministry of Public Health! – a resolution that includes not only homeopathy, but also certain ancestral practices. I hope other Ministries also implement similar reasonable and open measures, paving the way to dialogue. And also, of course, may we see an opening of the minds of the Cuban citizens.