Thoughts on Research

November 9th, 2010

I have always enjoyed reading research, especially when it supports an idea or belief of mine! Research is the hot discussion topic these days in the Rolfing® community. The problems with research have been well documented. There is a belief that science and research are self correcting and this is how some folks justify a bogus or flawed study.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to talk with some research friends of mine at the University of Washington. It was really interesting and got me thinking….here are some of my thoughts on what I learned:

In all scientific arguments of the modern day, epistemology (the study of truth) can be written as:

TRUTH=BELIEF+EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE.

The meat of the work is twofold:
1) How much empirical evidence is necessary to complete the equation? This differs greatly among people. For some religions, empirical evidence might be scant to non-existent. Science-minded folk often have higher bar for how much empirical evidence is required to justify something. The problem is that in almost all cases you NEVER have enough evidence to fully explain something. It is also very easy to fall into the trap of only finding evidence that supports what you believe.

2) Say 100+ years ago, the meaning of subjectivity and objectivity were reversed (great book by Dalston called Objectivity). Experts with subjective opinions (aka wise men) were the keepers of truth. Then came technology (photography, computers, etc) which effectively gave objectivity the podium. Stated another way, if you can measure something without human intervention, it must be closer to truth. A related point, if you have an explanation for something at a lower level of analysis (e.g. gene expression < genes < neurotransmitter levels < muscle tone < diet) then it should have greater explanatory power. While objective measures are fine, and reductionistic science is helpful at giving fuller explanation to conditions (albeit each level doesn't quite overlap with the next), they rarely (if ever) can put humpty dumpty together again. A further point is that intentional or unintentional human tinkering often colludes study results (e.g. the first study published on a new drug always has greater efficacy than all subsequent studies), making it never quite clear just what was "measured". Perhaps this logic can be illustrated as follows: You are fishing. You begin to reel in a huge fish, only to have it get away. To understand what kind of fish it was, you perform a written survey asking people around what they have caught recently. You also do a sampling of the lake (with fishing nets) to evaluate the current species present. Then you do a sonar sampling, followed by detailed assessment of water from areas where fish breed. This provides a full accounting of past/present/future populations in the lake, allowing you to get very close to understanding the likelihood of what type of fish/size you might have had on your line. You publish this result to much fanfare and all stated results are true, scientifically justified, and rigorous. But there was one problem. It was only a tire. Over-n-out.

About Rolfing

About Rolfing

Rolfing® is a system of bodywork based on structural integration, developed by Ida Rolf...

About Brad

About Brad

Based in Bellingham, Rolfing practitioner Brad Jones has an office conveniently located in downtown Bellingham ...

Success

Success

"Brad Jones is a healer! He goes above and beyond to help his clients achieve their health and performance goals.”