Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pulling it together: from the EPR paradox to The China Study – a holistic approach.

I had been a failed PhD candidate a little over ten years ago. My focus was the philosophy of science, logic and language. My proposed theory was to examine the EPR paradox (one that kept Einstein busy for the later part of his life) from a linguistic incompleteness point of view.

I had many challenges to that proposal. The one that drove me crazy and sent me to enlist in the Army was the notion that I was arguing a pointless point: one that does not advance any significant progress to the body of human knowledge, but a mere acknowledgment of our limitations to understand nature.

(For a more comprehensive scope of this topic, you will need to review Godel’s Incompleteness Therom, Theory of Thermo Dynamics, Chaos Theory, Theory of Counterfactuals, Set Theory, Fuzzy Math, Artificial Intelligence, Pattern Theory, etc. Please don’t because you will be lost as I was . . ..)

Another problem I had was a methodology debate. I can recall an argument I had with a professor about pulling all of these different fields of investigations together to unified the missing parts to understand why there isn’t a grand Unifying Theory in Physics. My professor had told me to focus on just one part, isolate the problems and address that topic. I knew then that it was counter-intuitive, but I did not know why. To my professor, it was about getting results that will get grants and funding, but to me it was about UNDERSTANDING things.

Holistic thinking: food, sustainability, and society.

The China Study made my frustrations apparent.

Dr. Campbell wrote in one of his chapters that he had been criticized for his “shotgun approach.” I too have been criticized with the exact term: “shotgun approach.” Academia did not take me seriously and thought I was wasting time. I knew they were wrong!

Dr. Campbell wrote in his book:

“I had put forth the idea of investigating how lots of dietary factors, some known but many unknown, work together to cause disease. Thus we had to measure lots of factors, regardless of whether or not they were justified by prior research.”

His colleague had thought that what Dr. Campbell intended to do was a waste of time just as my professor had thought ten years ago. These are scientists who thought

“[S]cience is best done when investigating single – mostly known – factors in isolation.”

These are "Doctors" who thought

“An array of largely unspecified factors doesn’t show anything . . . [that] it’s okay to measure the specific effect of, say, selenium on breast cancer, but it’s not okay to measure multiple nutritional conditions in the same study, in the hope of identifying important dietary patterns.”

But I tend to agree with Dr. Campbell that it is necessary to examine 

“the broader picture, [to] investigate the incredible complexities and subtleties of nature itself . . .. Everything in food works together to create health or disease. The more we think that a single chemical characterizes a whole food, the more we stray into idiocy . . .. [T]his way of thinking has generated a lot of poor science.”

A lot of “poor science” and a lot of bad food trends. An un-sustainable CRISIS. 

That is why I advocate for a holistic approach to Sustainability, Environment, Society, Food, etc. I may be taking an shotgun approach, but I sincerely believe this is the only way we can adjust for decades of poor science and help us back on course to a sustainable future.

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