April 16, 2003

Don't Ask Dr. Science

At the hospital where I worked, I used to be referred to in benign mock derisive way as Dr. Science ("He knows more than you do!" from DucksBreath Theatre fame. Seems he no longer has a presence on the web, sorry to say).

Okay Fred... what's this weed/flower/bug? It was me ... the local Dr. Science that they called when they found a snake down by the emergency room entrance, for instance. (I promptly picked it up and carried it around terrorizing the first floor for a while, gaining instance status, especially with certain staff from primitive Baptist sects). If I didn't have an answer for somebody's what-why question, I'd get creative and make something up, peppered liberally with real or real-sounding latinized terminology.

I bring this up because in this instance, Dr. Science is stumped. I repeatedly observe something in my own experience from direct perception, and I cannot find anyone who offers a 'scientific' explanation for why it works like this. I'm even hesitant to say anything about it to you, since many think it's just 'alternative medicine' hocus pokus, or the gazebo effect.

Still, it's impossible for me to dismiss. Being in the pain business (preventing and treating, not causing...okay?) for some years, when any patient-selected measures worked to effect any part of the complex mind-body pain process and were not harmful, we generally supported it at the Pain Center. So: I have pain. Me, personally. I apply this pain-abatement measure. The pain diminishes or goes away. What am I to think? Others report similar experiences... not universally, but enough to raise eyebrows and warrant controlled tests in major medical centers. Some of these studies have produced 'statistically significant treatment effects', but since there is no biophysical explanation for the results, we doubt that it could 'really' work. (Reminds me a bit of the status of acupuncture in the late 70s before Nixon brought it back, in a sense, from his China visits.)

Since I'm among friends and not speaking as a medical professional, I'll tell my little tale, and you make of it what you will. Your mileage may vary, offer not good in some states, you must be 18 or older to participate, and a fool and his money are soon parted. More about this, later.

Posted by fred1st at April 16, 2003 05:43 AM | TrackBack

OK, consider my curiosity thoroughly tweaked. I will just sit patiently over here in my little corner of the blogosphere, waiting for the next installment...

Posted by: ronbailey at April 16, 2003 06:10 AM

searching on "ian shoales" found some links that look current: Dr. Science

but kind of sad to see Salon list him this way:
Salon Magazine | Discontinued Features: Ian Shoales

Posted by: Anita Rowland at April 16, 2003 11:02 AM

i love the ducksbreath theatre. i even have one of the dr. science masters degrees from when i ordered some stuff from them many moons ago!

Posted by: bud at April 16, 2003 11:15 AM

From real life to movies to literature, the innocent-looking gazebo has long been notorious for harboring various odd behaviors and promoting all sorts of non-logic. Beware the deceptive, manipulative gazebo i say! But i digress.

Posted by: Anne at April 16, 2003 05:36 PM

Bud, you too? Mine is hanging on my office wall; it's amazing how many times people have been fooled..."I didn't realize you had an M.Sc.!"

Posted by: Jane at April 18, 2003 11:29 AM

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