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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Some Reflections on ‘Science and Religion’ by Swami Ranganathananda (Part 2 of 3)

By Ezenwa Onwugbenu 

In recent centuries, dogma-based religions have been eclipsed by a more scientific worldview. However, the triumphant sciences have not strictly held fast to the spirit of free inquiry. Rather, in not-so-subtle ways, the sciences have put on the same inflexible modes of mind characteristic of the authoritarian creeds of old. I think we see this most clearly in the medical sciences. Let me illustrate this with two points.

First: Modern, science-based medicine operates on the peculiar idea that only synthetic compounds are to be used in drug therapy. This dictum ought to be considered a mere “article of faith” or “creed” because it has absolutely no scientific basis.

If you enter the word “turmeric” into the search engine on PubMed.gov, a biomedical research database, you will find thousands of research articles on this herb. A collative study of this literature reveals that certain compounds in turmeric, known as curcuminoids, have over 250 pharmacological actions and a therapeutic effect on over 900 diseases and absolutely zero side effects. Other common herbs like ginger, beetroot, and neem also yield a good amount of research evidence, in both animal and human studies.

Given this basis of clinical evidence, why are these compounds not used in drug therapy? They can be readily extracted and compounded into standardized dosages. They have no side effects and have scientifically proven therapeutic value. What is the scientific basis for this insistence on making synthetic versions of natural compounds? They are difficult to manufacture, not readily accessible to all, and have various harmful side-effects.

The vast library of medicinal compounds in Nature cannot be patented; they belong to a global commons and, as such, cannot be subjected to monopoly pricing. In this instance, scientific truth and societal welfare are the victims of a blatant pursuit of outsized profits.

Second: Scientific research can be understood as a practical application of the principle of causation. It is the job of a scientist to seek to identify the cause of phenomena, and to discover the interrelationships of cause and effect.

A little study of biochemistry reveals one truth: You are what you eat; poor food leads to poor health outcomes. As such, the cause of the global chronic disease epidemic is clear: the rise and spread of highly processed food diets. The epidemiological data reveal a clear causal connection between “junk food” and disease states like heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

A rational solution ought to include mass education in right nutrition. However, at present, doctors receive very little nutrition education in medical school. A 2004 survey of 126 US medical schools revealed that students received a grand total of 23.9 hours of nutrition instruction; and most students reported feeling "unprepared to counsel in nutrition." That is to say, doctors are not being trained to deal with the root cause of many health problems. Can completely ignoring the principle of causation be considered a scientific method?

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