Sunday, 3 November 2013

On Big Pharma, Science and Healing

This week I picked up a business and careers newspaper for students and the topic Big Pharma on the cover caught my eye. I’m not sure what I expected seeing that the article would hardly reflect my mindset. Yet when I read it it was all about the issues the industry faces and how they can recover to protect their profits. The article was also quite blatant about the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is one of the biggest industries in the world. I’m not sure why I was surprised at the approach but I thought it was pretty shameless in the way in which the profit driven aspect was depicted as something positive and desirable. I couldn’t help feeling a bit indignant though, let me explain why.

I have long since learned to shut up about my beliefs about healing. I have had too many conversations which go more or less like this:

“Why do you work in marketing if you studied psychology?”

“I wanted to be a psychologist but after having studied it I don’t really believe that the traditional approach to psychology is helpful. Which led me to turn to alternative forms of healing.”

“Oh, what does that entail?”

“Well…” (I usually just get vague at this point in order to avoid any reference to shamanic techniques or energy healing. I’ll continue as if I did in fact express my healing interests.)

“That’s nice. I have heard of such and such a person who was exploited very much by someone parading as a psychic or a spiritualist. They were never quite the same after that.”

Or: “This person got into trouble because he was actually a physiotherapist but then he tried to do ‘energy healing’ on his patient, which didn’t work. One has to be very careful of these unscientific things.”

So I shut up for fear of being ridiculed or labelled as a hippie or unscientific. I know it’s a bit lame but after reading the Big Pharma article I think maybe I could be more shameless about my “beliefs” and appeal to people’s common sense a bit more.

Let’s start with science, which is supposed to be about knowledge and rationality. Somehow I’m not convinced. In the mind of the average person it has become synonymous with authority. If “science” says so then so it is and most people will consider that the end of the matter. In that case their responsibility to make their own assessment of the situation is relieved because someone who knows better has decided for them. It is also interesting to see that in the mind of the average person “unscientific” means it’s nonsense. To these people I would like to point out that deciding on the merit of something without bothering to look into it, all based on what “authority” has told you, makes no sense whatsoever.

Can we really trust authority if we look at who is in control? The greatest destruction in the history of mankind has been caused by those in power and those with knowledge. We complain and rage that it’s time for someone else to take over but we continue to entrust ourselves to authority. Maybe it’s time to ask ourselves what is in our best interest, and to consider that it might be in the interest of some people to have us believe that we cannot trust ourselves, much less other people, and that we therefore need the protection of someone in power.

Continuing on the topic of science: it’s supposed to be about the methodology and the reliability of the results. Yet I think that money plays an important role: only those who have enough to be endorsed by the right authorities can have the status. I’m not speaking against science and I will not deny that great breakthroughs have been made. Yet knowledge is only useful if it serves us. It is how we use knowledge that will determine whether we heal or harm. If science makes man god over creation, as so many seem to believe, then that is all the more reason for us to act responsibly. Although science can provide us with some of the answers to the whats and the hows, it can never answer the question “why” in the context of our lives. That is something that we have to answer for ourselves. We have to own up to the consequences of our actions following the answer. Not many are willing to do this, which is perhaps why we are so quick to look up to authority to tell us what we should believe and how we should live.

Returning to Big Pharma, I have decided not to judge too quickly. The only way that any business can make a lot of money is if they supply something that is in demand. If people want quick fixes to manage symptoms so they can continue their lives as “normal” then who am I to say that what pharmaceutical companies are doing is bad?


A final thought about science: as helpful as knowledge can be, it doesn’t help much knowing anything if we don’t live better as a result. I’ll venture to say that if we can learn to cooperate, love and live in peace then we’ll be a thousand times better off not knowing anything even if we think the earth is flat. Potential often lies not in what is known, because what is known has already been created. Potential is in the vast sea of unknown possibilities. How we act today will determine which possibility we bring into the reality of tomorrow.