Thursday, August 21, 2008

They don't know everything

When I first got my rabbits several years ago, everything I read said I shouldn't give them anything but rabbit food pellets. That greens would actually create blockage in their systems. This didn't make any sense to me. Whenever I've seen a rabbit out in the wild, it was munching on grass, looking as healthy as can be. So, instead of listening, I built my rabbits a cage with a wire bottom and sides so they could be right on the grass and eat as much as they want.


Then they said that I couldn't keep boy rabbits together, because they would fight. Maybe if I raised them together it would be OK but only if I got them castrated. I was skeptical and ended up putting five boy bunnies together in a 10 foot by 4 foot wire cage on pasture. You could tell they were happy. A year later, I added their dad and they all get along very well. The problem isn't putting bunnies together, I don't think, it's not giving them enough room.

The point isn't about rabbits though, it's about all the information that we get and how skeptical we should be about it. I've been doing a lot of research about cancer and it's so hard to believe what anybody says. The conventional medicine is so sure of itself, insisting that the patient can do little, and that radiation, chemo, and surgery are the only options. Even so, they offer little hope and miserable survival rates.

Dig a little, and there are plenty of people who say otherwise. There's the Budwig diet of cottage cheese and flaxseed oil, there's hyperthermia and insulin potentiation treatment, there's detoxing your body with raw foods. But what is real, what is true? It's so hard to tell.

And why should it be the same for every person? If one person can eat plate after plate of spaghetti and stay rail thin, while another eats salads and stays heavy, if one person loves chocolate but another loves lemon drops, doesn't that mean we all have different metabolisms and that there could well be different things that help different people?

They can no sooner test these alternative treatments than they can test alternative parenting techniques. There's no control group. There's no way to know if the thing you're doing is the thing that's having an effect.

There is a government agency dedicated to studying alternative treatments for cancer. But one of the studies they're following (or funding, I forget which), called for freeze-drying 20 different substances for which there is "anecdotal evidence" of anti-cancer properties and then administering these now standardized amounts to patients. It almost seems like they're looking for a way to prove that these things don't work.

Mostly, though, I got the impression that it was virtually impossible to create a rigorous, scientific test to gauge the efficacy of these anti-cancer substances. How could you standardize them without rendering them useless? How could you standardize your population?

And then I get back to my rabbits. I can see, with my own eyes, that what they said was wrong. Intact boy bunnies can live together, even if they haven't started out together. Bunnies who eat grass don't necessarily get blockage. My evidence is just anecdotal evidence. I did no blind studies. But it's no less true.

This gives me hope.

They don't know everything. Each of us must use our senses, our experience, and our knowledge to analyze the information we receive and make our own assessments, our own decisions. If it doesn't ring true, we must continue to search for better answers. And if it does, then we need to follow our instincts and our conclusions, despite the lack of "scientific evidence".


  1. This post reminded me of a line said in the movie "Jarhead" that goes something like "You must maintain a constant state of suspicious awareness!" It's sad but true.

    I wish I could live as carefree as I did as a teen and child, but now I have to maintain a fine balance between being totally paranoid and being suspiciously aware of things I'm interacting with, such as car mechanics who might gouge me on tires to deli meats that are currently being recalled across Canada due to a bacterial problem.

    I totally agree that each of us "must use our senses, our experience, and our knowledge to analyze the information we receive and make our own assessments, our own decisions." But I've found there are some obstacles in the way of being able to successfully do this.
    For example, it's your right to get a second opinion, even a third, from doctors in order to choose what's right for you. But doctors and nurses, at least in my experience, tend to get arms length in their dealings with you when this is brought up. Maybe they're afraid of legal possible ramifications? Maybe they're offended? Regardless of the reason, they often don't just suggest you do this. It's like they hope you don't discover you can get multiple opinions and decide to do so on your own.

    It's a similar awkwardness in school. There's a truth to teaching children to respect their elders and do as the teacher says, but too often these days a teacher is dead wrong, whether factually or morally. Instead of the student being supported in coming forward, they're stymied. Or if they do come forward, they’re held at arm’s length or segregated from then on.

    Wouldn't it be great if what you are saying was taught and enforced in school? It could be the pebble that starts the landslide towards a truly democratic society! It's always better to question things than to accept them as is. That way, I'd like to imagine, we'd have governments afraid of their people instead of vice-versa; we'd have better workplace health and safety practices instead of exporting the terrible and dangerous jobs to poor nations that don't have the same workplace health and safety laws in place. Just imagine, and in line with your previous post about "Little Brother", what a strategy to defeat complacency!

  2. I couldn't agree more. And you're right, they don't make it easy. I tend to veer away from conspiracy theories, and instead blame big, overwhelming systems that make it hard for any one person to take much responsibility, and easy for lots of people to think it's not their responsibility.

    I want to be one of those pebbles.

  3. I totally agree that it's "big, overwhelming systems that make it hard for any one person to take much responsibility, and easy for lots of people to think it's not their responsibility."

    I used to work in the Children's Services department of my provincial government as a strategic planner. My group would get the statistical data that shows the trends and current states of various situations children are involved in, such as poverty, family violence and drug endangerment. Many of these statistics were unfortunately not very good. But being a large government department you'd think response time would be decent. Instead, by the time funding, policies and teams were put together to deal with these situations, a couple of years have gone by.

    So in addition to big, overwhelming systems that seem to dull responsibility and accountability, you also have to deal with them being behemoths that are hard to steer in any direction simply because they are so big. At least that's the “inside” belief my colleagues and I shared when we got frustrated that the statistics, for example, weren't making positive changes happen sooner.

    The "outside" beliefs I have lend themselves to the "maintain a constant state of suspicious awareness" philosophy. To me, this philosophy means being able to question things that impact you, whether as a citizen or as a consumer, which is in line with your belief that we "must use our senses, our experience, and our knowledge to analyze the information we receive and make our own assessments, our own decisions." I was joking about the balance between this and being paranoid, but it can be taken that way because so many people are complacent in this regard - accepting political happenings as is, accepting the often outrageous prices for things made in abominable conditions elsewhere for pennies on the dollar, etc. To not be complacent and compliant, to question these kinds of things like so, is to make noise and be independent, and that isn't as comfortable for our society as we like to think.

    By the way, considering you said in your post "Little Brother" that you "love passing that hope on to my daughter when she asks me, "Why do they do that?" in response to the news of some corrupt government official." it seems you are already an impactful pebble! As a newly wed with no kids yet, it's motivating to see this!


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