Medical Practice, Biological Science, and the Power of a “Differential Diagnosis”
|September 21, 2012||Posted by StephenB under Intelligent Design|
Because science is a search for causes, its practitioners are ethically bound to keep an open mind about the nature of those causes. The whole point of investigating any given phenomenon is to find a reasonable answer to the question, “why is this happening?” or “why did it happen?” In that spirit, the researcher develops a rigorous methodology that will address a narrowly-focused problem and facilitate the process of finding the most plausible solution, regardless of whose interests might be served. This is just as true for the practice of medicine as it is for the study of life’s origins.
If, for example, a physician is about to decide on the appropriate therapy for his patient, he will, if he is competent, perform what is known as a differential diagnosis. The strategy is to identify at least two possible causes of a given medical problem, weigh the evidence for each against the other, and choose the one which best explains the data. In other words, the diagnosis determines the therapeutic response. When this process is reversed, that is, when available therapies or technologies determine the diagnosis, personal agendas override the scientific method. If any form of institutional bias prompts the physician to ignore a potential cause, the practice of medicine has been fatally compromised.
Consider the fashionable problem of carpal tunnel syndrome. Medical professionals understand that this condition is the result of dysfunction in the median nerve at the wrist. The appropriate question from a diagnostic standpoint is, therefore, “what is troubling this nerve?” According to conventional wisdom, the nerve is compressed as it passes under a ligament at the wrist, which would indicate a physical or structural problem. Not so fast. Dr. John Sarno, professor of rehabilitative medicine, insists that CTS is a mind/body (psychosomatic) problem caused by stress. Negative emotions in the unconscious mind produce the symptoms to distract the sufferer from one or more intolerable psychological conflicts. If CTS was truly a structural problem, Sarno reasonably asks, “Why is it that millions of men and women who pounded typewriters since the beginning of the twentieth century never developed it?” Or again, if the body is producing the symptoms, why have countless sufferers been cured of the malady by recognizing the mind as its source and acting on that information through a step-by-step process of self-analysis?
Most physicians, by virtue of their training as “body mechanics,” are not professionally equipped to perform a differential diagnosis for this kind of condition. They either do not understand or refuse to accept the reality: The mind can be, and often is, the source of a physical symptom. To press the point even further, disharmonious domestic relationships or competitive professional environments are often responsible for a cluster of symptoms known as “fibromyalgia.” Sadly, mind/body disorders are seldom treated properly because the medical establishment no longer takes mind/body medicine seriously, assuming that all problems are structural problems. As a result, they don’t ask the critical question: Structural pain or psychosomatic pain? In many cases, patients are doing physical therapy for a perceived mechanical problem when the time would be more profitably spent dealing with their emotional conflicts.
Just as millions must endure unnecessary physical suffering because scientists do not always apply a differential diagnosis in the medical arena, millions more must endure mental suffering because Darwinist ideologues, and their Christian Darwinist lapdogs, refuse to conduct a differential diagnosis in the biological realm. The problem is how to best explain the origin and variety of life on our planet? The question for the differential diagnosis is clear: Undirected Natural Processes or Directed Intelligent Design? While ID scientists consider the strength for both arguments and draw an inference to design, anti-ID partisans resort to methodological naturalism, an arbitrary rule of science that bans design arguments from the arena of competitive ideas. It is very easy to win a contest when you are the only competitor. Similarly, it is very easy to diagnose a cause when only one cause is eligible for consideration.
But this reluctance to keep an open mind about alternative possibilities strikes at the very foundation of the scientific enterprise. To investigate nature rightly is to sit humbly at her feet so that she can reveal her secrets—recognizing that she is the teacher and we are the students–delegating to her the task of scrutinizing our intellectual convictions so that they may be tested, sifted, or fine-tuned—-asking about the truth rather than indulging in the illusion that we have already attained it.
“Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo. And in doing so, you must leave your subjective preoccupation with yourself. Otherwise you impose yourself on the object and do not learn.— Matsuo Basho
ID scientists engage Darwinists and TEs with a similar challenge: Go to the DNA molecule if you want to learn about the DNA molecule. Observe its behavior and ask yourself, “Why is this happening?” Test your atheistic doubts or your religious presumptions against the facts in evidence. Study those facts, submit to the data, and conduct a differential diagnosis. Build your theories on the evidence. Don’t try to squeeze, pound, jam, or hammer out the evidence into your rigid theoretical mold and cry out in futility, “fit, damn you, fit.”
Clearly, institutional bias can cloud judgment in any area or specialty. Like the structuralist physicians who ignore scientific evidence that points to the mind as a cause for physical symptoms, materialist Darwinists (and Christian Darwinists) ignore scientific evidence that points to the mind as a cause for biological design. In both cases, the analyst subordinates truth to convention, which is the hallmark of anti-intellectual partisanship.
Still, there is a difference. To ignore evidence is irresponsible, but to forbid its expression is evil. In the latter case, anti-ID zealots have, by virtue of their exclusionary rule, decided that nature should not be allowed to reveal all her secrets. Methodological naturalism, the surrogate enforcer of intellectual tyranny, declares that nature’s testimony, because of its possible religious implications, is inadmissible and may not be heard. As Basho might put it, devotees of evolutionary biology are imposing themselves and their subjective preoccuptations on the object. Insofar as they arrogantly and presumptuously assume the role of teacher and reduce nature to the role of student, they render themselves and everyone under their influence, uneducable.
The problem of institutional bias is an old one, but it has become manifest once again. According to the National Academy of Science, the Kansas Board of Education, and a number of other institutions, the job of science “is to provide plausible natural explanations for natural phenomena.” Even a Pennsylvania judge weighed in on the matter, issuing the mindless verdict that non-natural explanations are impermissible for science. For the secular minded, there will be no differential diagnosis because the differential component has been taken off the table.
At this point, nature objects to this reversal of roles and reasserts her rightful place as a teacher. The “stones cry out” by asking a few questions: What are we to make of the fact that these same rule makers who limit science to the study of “natural causes” have no problem with Big bang cosmology, which also has religious implications and also hints at a non-natural cause? Why is the differential diagnosis acceptable in the cosmological sphere and unacceptable in the biological sphere? If cosmological fine-tuning is acceptable as a scientific concept, why is biological fine-tuning not acceptable as a scientific concept?
Indeed, if one is to rule out a differential diagnosis on the grounds that science is limited to “natural causes,” he should at least be able to explain this exclusion in a rational way. How do we define nature and what is a natural cause? Darwinists (and the TEs that follow them) say, apparently without embarrassment, that a natural cause is one that occurs or can be found “in nature.” In that case, how do we distinguish bombs from earthquakes—or burglars from tornados–or the humanly-produced artifacts found in ancient Pompei from the unhuman volcano that buried them? If all these causes are of the same kind, then there is no way to discern one from the other. On the other hand, if we finally confess the difference between the intelligent causes and natural causes indicated, how can we call then “natural” as if they were all of the same kind? The intellectual dictators who crafted this cuckoo formula have no answers. How can they presume to enforce a standard that they can’t even define?
It is an interesting social phenomenon that Darwinists and most TEs suffer from what C.S. Lewis once called “the horror and neglect of the obvious.” In fact, biological design really is obvious, which explains why evolutionary biologists feel the need to remind themselves to forget it. This is a violation of the scientific method and the legitimate exercise of reason. One cannot search for a cause and, at the same time, disdain the object of the search. To sincerely ask about the “why” from a scientific perspective is to honestly weigh the alternative explanations to find the most plausible solution, regardless of whose interests might be served.