Science by itself not the answer

Health professionals must avoid excessive pride in scientific and professional matters, and science alone cannot make decisions on policy matters, or in medicine, Prof Peter Gluckman says.

Prof Gluckman, a University of Otago medical graduate and medical researcher, was addressing about 270 graduates, mainly in medicine and medical laboratory science, at an Otago graduation ceremony at the weekend.

He was also awarded an honorary doctorate of science at the 1pm ceremony, which was the first of two Otago University ceremonies held at the Dunedin Town Hall on Saturday.

The processes of science were designed to develop ''relatively reliable knowledge about the natural, built and social worlds''.

The only other sources of knowledge were ultimately those of ''belief or dogma'' but science alone could not create policy decisions or in medicine or public health, he warned.

And science itself was ''never complete''.

An objective test might provide a diagnosis, but did not deal with many aspects of the relative benefits and risks of different approaches, or with ''the beliefs, bias and context of a patient or yourself''.

Values determined the importance of the ''inevitable inductive gaps in the evidence''.

''You will soon be no strangers to this dilemma - is one more test necessary? Too few and you have a risk of misdiagnosis, too many and health costs soar as defensive medicine becomes excessive.''

Health professionals needed to be honest with patients about '' what components are based on knowledge'' and what were ''values based''.

''Both as a health professional and as a graduate of this university, you have obligations to assist society, as well as healing the sick,'' he said.

And in another graduation address, at 4pm, Otago School of Dentistry dean Prof Gregory Seymour reminded graduates of their obligation, as the future of their profession, to ''see further'', and to extend the knowledge and clinical practice of their respective professions.

He told about 280 graduates, mainly in dentistry and physiotherapy, that it had been often stated that knowledge was doubling every two and a-half years.

Half of what was known would be ''obsolete'' in five years, but graduates had prepared themselves for ''a lifetime of learning''.

Otago University was ''one of the world's great universities'' and graduates could be confident they ''could not have received a better education anywhere else in the world''.

Graduates had received backing from their respective families, but society as a whole, and especially Dunedin, as a city, had also supported them and ''taken pride in your achievements''.

Society now expected more of health science graduates, but was also ''less tolerant of any unethical behaviour'', he said.

Hypothesis and all that

I agree with both grover and Hype. O. Thermia, for their well presented putting of the case. Altho' H did not intend to attribute Science to God, there is a 'God' science, devised by Thomas Aquinas. Perhaps most regard Science as experimentation and observation, toward an accurate but not absolutist finding. That is why Sociology is Science, not an Arts subject.

Oops, poor checking on my part

In my comment headed  Gluckman and "beliefs" that changeI intended to type Good instead of God in this sentence "God science is inconsistent, it does not hold to the same beliefs forever."

Gluckman and "beliefs" that change

"If science is incomplete and ever changing, it is no better than the beliefs and dogmas he claims it is aloof from" according to grover, missing the point of change altogether.  Science is indeed incomplete, otherwise there would be no point in keeping on researching.  Scientists, like other sensible people, change their minds when they learn more, learn that their earlier knowledge was in whole or in part incorrect.

Scientific knowledge progresses in steps, tiny shuffling steps and giant leaps.  Sometimes a step forward proves, after further information has been gathered, to be a step down a blind alley and Science has to change its mind.  God science is inconsistent, it does not hold to the same beliefs forever.  It is forever looking for the next piece of knowledge that may confirm, or may turn upside-down, the accepted "truth" (theory, knowledge).  Bang goes a certainty but that's OK, in science certainty is only till better information comes along.  

People who cannot accept that, who are not excited and energised by the search for deeper understanding, should stick to their comfortable unchanging beliefs and dogmas, never needing to strain their brains over whether their beliefs make sense today -  or ever did.  Let them wear their home-knitted cardies with pride, the ones bearing across the back the message "Ignorance Is Bliss".


Professor Gluckman is confused, judging by his reported comments: If science is incomplete and ever changing, it is no better than the beliefs and dogmas he claims it is aloof from.

What's more, science is based on beliefs itself: the belief  that the universe is orderly, the belief that the universe is actually there, the belief that scientific results are recorded in an honest manner and the belief that our senses do in fact show us a legitimate representation of the apparent world around us.

All of these beliefs are present only in the Christian religion as found in the Bible, hence, Gluckman's science is in fact a Christian system of values. You cannot deduce, aduce or induce any of these beliefs from the natural world itself, they are transcendent. Hence, as Gluckman irrationally (irrational in his own thinking) but correctly states, values are above data.