Something happened to Science

July, 15, 2019 | 23 Comments


  1. Even the most educated, most brilliant, of persons, have blind-spots with far reaching doom for the masses…?

    It does seem inconceivable that in the history of man-kind and it’s well-being, that super-duper brainy/educated people completely lose the plot when faced with science and morals –

    The whole gamut of people who should have interesting ideas and much to say on the topics of what is best for the people –

    What is best for the people does not come from educated experts in our chosen subjects, is it fair to say, that the most outspoken and the most generally heard are those leading the way with their contentious ideologies which make people wriggle and squirm, often in embarrassment, but, mostly at their sheer ignorance

    I don’t know what is worse, the general malaise about true science and data, or, the over-riding pontifications of those at their peak obscuring the vista

    Does death, sound offensive; is it too profound a concept that makes leaders shy away and prefer not to talk about it – are the providers of our science, too innocent, too optimistic, too romantic, and, therefore, remain forever closed to things that a huge population are actually quite willing to discuss …

    If there’s a mountain to climb, we climb it, whilst the whole ‘romantic’ brigade stumble and tripp in the foothills.

    • Annie

      I think you are missing what worries me. We had loads of experts going on about things and doing great harm – but they’ve largely gone silent. With all the babble around the place it doesn’t sound like silence, but it is. The greater the babble, the white noise, the less the signal. I’ll push it a little further – even the “discourse” on Mad in America is little different to the “discourse” put out by Medical Colleges in Britain or Medical Associations in America. There is an equal lack of judgement on either side – a lack of reaching beyond the discourse. This may become clearer if there is ever a part 2 to this post


  2. What are we afraid of? Ourselves? Lessons from the past are never totally learned, they happen over and over again while the same thing is uttered, ‘never again’ – until it serves to do it again. Thousands of people were experimented on by Nazis but eugenics wasn’t invented by them, and for some reason Jews are being targeted again in UK while some politicians seem to have been let off by use of yet another ‘rule book’. Decent behaviour relies on the rule book.
    There are populations in many countries which are overtly ruled by dictators where some citizens (and perhaps more don’t) claim to be better off as a low level of ‘happiness’ is gained from being free of utter poverty – of being ‘cared for’ by the great leader , in exchange for giving up freedom of thought or power or sharing decisions over policies. As well as a pretence of being benign they rule by having minor officials use a rule book ;creating fear and a pretence at child like dependancy . . In ‘democracies’ there is a different more covert way of ruling over citizens including by offering ‘happiness’ and security, physical and psychological. There are now international tables to define the population’s ‘happiness; scores, Denark tops. The latest piece of ‘advice’ from the govrnemnt is to tell us how many hours sleep we ‘should’ have…
    The West is outraged about the ‘re-education’ programmes groups are being subjected to in China. But there is very little criticism of the mindless nonsense of mindfullness being spread around schools starting with very young children. Parents are obliged to take a note if they want exemptions from this brainwashing being promoted with massive amounts of government and private funding. Fear is a factor – who wants their children to take the brunt of standing out – just as it was for those who had to take a note to exempt them from saying ‘prayers’ in school. The training is spread in a domino effect – trainers train trainers train trainers…Some schools of Therapy declare that narratives are co-constructs which underpin a successful ‘treatment’ they are no longer the sole experience which belongs to the ‘client’. A life is invented which is shaped together with a therapist – pompously claimed to be both science and art. One of Kafka’s books ‘Metamorphosis’ is the book of the week on R4 this week by the way. (replays on R4Sounds). the most haunting for me is one where the character is imprisoned without understanding what is going on. I don’t agree that we all ‘sign up to being managed’ though, I know it it would make no difference if I for example, shut up, trying to escape from the cage altogether seems pretty impossible for most of us living ordinary lives dependant on bureaucracies which can deny sickness benefits to suffering people or leave people dying on streets or make older people doing tough jobs work longer , whether pure science or social science what’s the point of it if it .

  3. David

    I perhaps wonder whether what what see is basic errors repeated in different permutations over millennia. We have belief systems and we have belief systems manage by bureaucracies deciding what revealed truth is – and we have vested interests: the French state before revolution a morass of privileges, franchises etc sucking dry ordinary citizens all of which looks much like the present in different dress. We have dangerous revolution in mass communications (once the printing press), now the internet. We have the persistent culls of humanity by potentates (who may be marked more by low cunning than intellect), we have the three wise monkeys from mediaeval Japan, we have the Emperor’s new clothes from nineteenth century Denmark, we have the eternal verities of Dickens’s Circumlocution Office, and of course we have ‘vorsprung mit Technik’. And perhaps it just churns round and round. I guess what might be disturbing about Porter is that a man of intellect could see Prozac as anything other than the latest craze, like hoolahoops and yo-yos when we were children, but more dangerous. It think the deference to bureaucracies (particularly by politicians) in the last three decades has become very dangerous: they hide behind expertise all the time and the expertise is largely junk just because they never bother to challenge it. The bitter lesson of history is that we never seem to learn anything from it for more than 5 minutes…

    • John

      Clearly on the one hand human nature doesn’t change and everything repeats. The Thirty Years War just before Charles got his head chopped off doesn’t say much for the moral order in place before 1649 but just as the Atom Bomb changed everything, and perhaps there is some medical equivalent like the Human Genome Project, so also the Holocaust as a manifestation of the capabilities of bureaucracy – management – changed everything. Its now possible for us to be controlled in a way never before possible. We have also hit inflection points with Life Expectancy falling and perhaps rates of developmental disorders mushrooming that seem to me to have changed the dynamic. More next week


      • No, of course, we are into some appalling new permutation…and one thing we are left wondering is how random, how deliberate – a frightening mixture of both?

        • This echoes the Holocaust dilemma – how much was it deliberate malevolence and how much efficient bureaucracy.


  4. I found “Something Happened – to Science and to Us” easier to follow than this piece, which is certainly thought provoking. If I could tie the two articles together, I would say that there is another tension in modern science and medicine, especially when it comes to topics like diet, GMOs, heart disease, and vaccines. On the one hand, doctors and scientists have certainly become technocrats, but on the other hand, of the commercialization of their fields, they are motivated to appeal to authority and hierarchy to push their claims. Some aspects of science and medicine have become very cult-like, with questioning their claims or making statements outside the standard dogma, even by scientists and doctors, amounting to heresy and accusations like “you don’t understand science” or “you’ll kill millions of people!” When you start hearing things like, “The science is settled,” they you know it’s no longer based on science but has become akin to religious dogma. Another doctor who is dealing with these issues, albeit in a straight-forward and sometimes humorous way, is Dr. Malcom Kendrick, a Scottish doctor who has been convincingly arguing for years that cholesterol does not cause heart disease. He recently dipped his toe into the vaccine debate (I’m not sure why he decided to paint that target on his chest) and makes similar statements about science that becomes cult-like. I highly recommend his blog as a supplement to Dr. Healy’s blog.

    • I’m happy to endorse the claim that Malcolm K is more humorous and more readily understandable than I am and that his arguments about cholesterol and lots of other things are pretty sound and his blog worth reading. Like Keith and I suspect many others, I have wondered why he has painted a target on his back, saying what he has recently said about vaccines.


      • Malcolm Kendrick’s blog article on vaccines is accessible via this link: ‘My feelings about the vaccine debate’:

        Also consider this article by Australian doctor Aniello Iannuzzi, i.e. ‘Vaccine vicars and the immunological faith’:

        Iannuzzi’s article isn’t ground-breaking, but at least he touches on how complex vaccination schedules are becoming, saying “The ‘Church of Vaccination’ is not what it used to be. While I remain strong in faith, it would not take much more red tape or complexity for me to defrock and leave the others to administer the good oils”.

        What staggers me is that the medical profession has generally stood by while vaccination schedules have blown out of sight, just look at all the vaccine products and revaccinations on the Australian schedule for instance, which is impacted by the coercive ‘No Jab, No Pay’ law:

        Citizens such as me, who are questioning the ever-increasing vaccination schedules, are reflexively labelled ‘anti-vax’, and are under constant threat of censorship.

        A recent BMJ article headed ‘Social media: suicide promotion and anti-vaccine content must be banned, says BMA’, reports that delegates at the recent British Medical Association annual meeting had backed a call for government standards to force social media companies to “prevent the dispersal of false or misleading information on the effects of vaccinations.”

        Who decides what is “false or misleading information on the effects of vaccinations”? From where I’m standing, there’s some very questionable information on vaccination emanating from ‘the authorities’ and they must be accountable, but this is very difficult to achieve in the current hostile and intimidating climate.

        In my opinion, we are in the midst of a major global over-vaccination scandal, it’s way past time for an independent and objective examination of vaccination schedules, and exposure and consideration of the conflicts of interest which have influenced these bloated schedules.

        • Thanks very much for the links Elizabeth. Apart from the information about vaccines in general which is useful two things jump out – seems there is much vitriol and bullying goes on in against anybody who questions vaccines. The site is closed to the public – doctors do seem to like setting up these exclusive societies… so debate is closed down amongs themselves as well , unless they have the gumption to speak publicly anyway.
          Why don’t those who are speaking out individually get together – in the open not behind closed doors. There must be so many all saying the same thing by now?
          And I just wonder how an ‘independant and objective examination of vaccine schedules…’ could be set up as is desperately needed as you say.. Who would decide the examiners and their ability to do the job objectively – both in relation to their credentials in the science and being able to deal with the vitriol they would attract? I hate to think what the future outcome of this overload will be for children

          • Suzanne and Elizabeth

            These are all good points. Too good not to have. But I don’t want the post to centre on vaccines. It asks what happened that has produced the situation we now have with adverse effects. Why 30 years ago or so, did we switch from recognising adverse effects within a 1-2 years of a drug being on the market to having difficulties recognising them 20-30 years afterwards.


          • David, you say your post “asks what happened that has produced the situation we now have with adverse effects. Why 30 years ago or so, did we switch from recognising adverse effects within a 1-2 years of a drug being on the market to having difficulties recognising them 20-30 years afterwards.”

            You answer this question yourself in your post: “The science now, at least in medicine, is totally managed. The new dispensation wants technicians not visionaries. And as for ethics, and morality, it seems a managed scientist like Peter Kramer has no difficulty with the entire literature being ghostwritten and all data being sequestrated and everything possible being done to sell the product – even as the bodies go up in smoke.”

            ‘Science’ has been hijacked by business, and the focus is on selling the product and protecting profit, they don’t want to acknowledge adverse effects that threaten the bottom line and future markets…and they have no qualms as “the bodies go up in smoke”.

          • David, in your post in relation to science you say: “The pace of advance picked up relentlessly from the 1940s. The atom bomb turned the world upside down. We crossed a threshold and now we for the first time posed a greater threat to Nature than Nature posed to us.This was at least as obvious in medicine, as in any other branch of life, which from the discovery of DNA to the Human Genome Project seemed to be handing us the means to remake ourselves. We could make the New Man, and be better-than-well. But could science, even as epic as this, be the source of our problems?”

            So do we pose a greater threat to Nature than Nature poses to us?

            Something spectacular that occurred in the 20th century is global population growth, see for example the graph in this Quora post, Growth of World Population and the History of Technology:

            It’s interesting to consider the impact of science and technology on global population growth and what it means for global sustainability, now and going forward.

  5. In recent history ,Tony Blair was labour prime minister from 1997 to 2007 when one of the biggest reforms of the NHS since 1945 was introduced – specifically described as Managerial Reforms. Many doctors were outraged about the top down management of their work which took away individual decision making as cost became the primary consideration in what was by then termed ‘the market’ The nineties were described as the ‘naughties’ when parts of London was awash with money and youngsters working in the stock exchange behaved like making vast amounts of money was a joke.. Values, morality went out of the window during this decade.The Blair campaign was run like a rock concert ‘things can only get better’ played endlessly. Blair changed the NHS for ever from a real socialist endeavour to one based on bureacracy and money. He is also a committed Catholic. It would seem as though socialism and religion had lost their soul to money and the determination to change society from fuddy duddy to sparkly new models by a new generation of bright young things , maybe importantly with with what many saw as a charismatic leader running the show. Could the Blair legacy be partly accountable for neglecting drug harms? Maybe being managed to the nth degree becomes a habit difficult to break. Everything else was managed but not the pharmaceutical industry or was it part of the ‘market’ as well?.

    • While I think you are right about management and the NHS, this has nothing to do with Blair or Clinton. Corbyn and Sanders would have produced the same outcome, as do Macron and Trump. In the 1960s we could recognise changes in hair and DVTs on oral contraceptives or tardive dyskinesia on antipsychotics within months of these drugs being launched, now across the board with drugs it can take 20-30 years to make a link. Why and what to do about it?


      • Is it “making the link” that has changed or is it, quite simply, that “the desire to acknowledge the link” has been lost? Is it true that doctors are safer NOT noticing the suffering? If so, in what ways are they safer? Is it purely a clamp down from the top which leaves us, the patients with such a small voice which the ‘top layer’ feel they can ignore?
        To my mind, every level has a responsibility to speak out about the problems that they encounter – that includes us, the patients, as well as doctors at every level and all the way up to, and including, the pharma companies. Each level should be reliant on the others to form a strong chain. So where have we gone wrong? We have become a nation where individuals care more about their own interests than about what is best for the community/crowd/humanity. The more we have, the more selfish we become and the less we are willing to share and take responsibility for our actions. Greed has a lot to answer for this in so many ways.
        How to change things? I guess if we knew the answer to that one we’d be ready and willing to change the world! The easiest way to bring a community together is through a ‘disaster’ of some sort. We now have a ‘disaster’ in medicine, but due to those who hold varying thoughts being unwilling to come together, we are very far from having a ‘medical community’ working as one.

        • Mary

          PSYCHOPHARMACOLOGISTS – 4 Sep 1998

          by David Healy (Author)


          This is a collection of interviews with 25 leading figures in the field of psychopharmacology – mind altering drugs. The interviews cover the history and development of the major drugs in the field as well as their marketing usefulness.


          A solid oral history of a peculiar profession.


          The ideal companion piece to this work will be published about 25 or 30 years in the future, and will be based on interviews with researchers who were raised in the mileux created by the founding fathers but who have suddenly acquired incredibly more powerful experimental tools and equipment. However, when that work is published circa 2025, don’t be surprised if mental illness is still not fully understood.

          • I guess it’s been true all along – some believe and others don’t, whether it be of religious, scientific or any other beliefs. Those who believe can either believe without question or believe “because it bodes better for them than not believing”. Unseen things can be questioned but neither proved nor disproved. Science is meant to be definitive but, it seems, the ‘truths’, here too, now depend on the observer’s point of view.
            Where do we stand in all of this mess – are we ‘believers’ in the science of “what does good can also be bad”? or “what does good for many is good full stop”?…….. or are we in yet another category of “I know because I’ve been there and my belief in ‘adverse reactions’ etc. is unshakeable”.
            It is my belief that unless we can accept that very many people do not, yet, fully believe that doctors can be wrong; unless we are willing to accept how difficult it is for those who have not witnessed the possible deceits in medicine to accept that what we have witnessed is not a rare occurrence but happening worldwide; unless we are willing to discuss openly with the wider community that all is not as well as it should be in the world of psychiatry ( just as in many other ‘worlds’) then we are not going to move very far forwards.
            As B. Franklin said (about a different, but equally important, issue) – “Justice will not be served until those who are UNAFFECTED are as OUTRAGED as those who ARE”.

      • Pharmacists who are being employed in surgeries might be able to give valuable input in time if they arre not undermined further.

        In Pulse Med Mag ‘ July 15th 2019 article by Lea Legraien ‘GPs Ignore Pharmacists Advice – ‘because it is unlikely to benefit patients’. One GP said ‘GPs tend to ignore recommendations because they were more technical (!) and unlikely to lead to patients’ benefit, such as switching on patients’ statins’.-

        Ref – 3D Study Society for Academic Primary Care’
        Fewer than half pharmacists’ recommendations are acted on. How can we know whether this is turf wars or a true reason for elbowing pharmacists out of assisting with prescriptions by using their specialist knowledge There is supposed to be collaborative working but this looks like it could be another situation of protecting the hierarchy in surgeries . Specialist nurses have also been undermined and seen as subordinate by some GPs.

    • Susanne

      I don’t know what there is in Blair being a committed Catholic. In June 2007 I recall as a tourist attending a Catholic service at St Albans Abbey – which had been ecumenically loaned to them for the afternoon. The priests were seething at the new adoption rules that Blair’s government had just instituted. If my memory is correct he resigned as PM days later and I think simultaneously announced his intention of joining the Catholic Church. I think what Blair was really committed to was screwing everybody. And no doubt he was reading his opportunities with especial deviousness.

      I also recall a PM’s question when he was given the planted question how much the government was spending on statins – he gave a figure I think of £800m, but said he hoped it would soon be even more.

  6. So what makes it possible for , say one person to realise and state unequivocally what they are seeing is real and another to deny it is there? Some obviously simply don’t see it – they have a block against seeing it. It’s not always just being perverse or afraid to go against the grain.. What sensitizes some doctors to believe what they see is serious effects of drugs and others even parents to deny it can be true What makes them so different?.It can’t just be evidence as they have the same evidence, can it be psychological some kind of group think?
    Decades ago it was common knowledge that some drugs caused horrible side effects , they were so obvious. But David has pointed out that it is not that the drugs are more complicated these days, something else is happening, a medical-pharmacalogical silent spring controlled by drugs companies.(if I have it right). Wev’e yet to reach the stage where the perception is changed from can’t believe so can’t see because in medicine something so terrible is happening – but can be hidden behind the undeniable good things.maybe there has to be a critical mass even a disaster (even more obvious ) – I guess ,’they’ have learned the lessons from history, management plus opportunity have never been so possible when our data is so accessible to drug companies and whole populations can be used as research fodder to invent yet more stuff to pump into us I.m sure the money going into pharmaceuticals would be shifted pretty quickly if another war was likely. They are the peacetime equivalent to armanents factories anyway.

    • Allowing that David did not want this to be focussed on vaccines I do note two significant moments: the creation under President Obama (O’Pharma) of the Global Health Security Agenda (2014-6) and the identification by the WHO at the beginning of this year of the “Vaccine hesitant” as a threat to global health – with measles being apparently the new WMD. These are obviously strategic initiatives: indeed we are even being told that these are strategic initiatives. At the same time we are coming to the point with the systematic vaccination of pregnant women where infants will become pharmaceutical wrecks even before they are born.

      We are witnessing the creation of the chronically sick before birth, and this is worth financially much more than just the vaccine sector (presently about 60 billion dollars a year?) to pharma.

      I remember seeing many years ago (black and white TV) a documentary about the Victorian obsession with trying to invent perpetual motion machines, but the problem of course was that more elaborate and ingenious they became the greater the level of friction and the more unwieldy. A free spinning wheel would have been about the best. And this I guess is the position with the dream of pharmaceutical health: the more we add on the worse it gets.

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