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Musing #12 : Science
Exploration > Exploitation
First, Sunday Updates!
👋 Hey y'all! Just came back from a trip back to the South to finish a work project, and now getting ready for summer and a focus on writing and relaxing. Mobile, Alabama has been wonderful to me. Now back to the Bay Area once again.
✍️ I'm making a lot of progress with the novel outline and character development. I narrowed down the main characters to 4 and I have each one representing one of the themes I've been covering this month. More about that in August.
👇Excited to present you with Part 3/4 today with this personal rant about Science in the Magic , Art , Science and Religion July series.
🙏 Enjoy and I so appreciate it when you let me know what you think
Get this every Sunday.
#12:Science (9 min read)
I loved biology so much at high school, that I skipped class to study it on my own. I sat within the bright blue walls of my tiny bedroom, with just me and my big ass text book on my lap. No teacher can get between me and the cell membrane, the jelly cytoplasm inside of it, the genetic mystery of its nucleus, the protein-making Golgi apparatus or the -recently popular- mRna machinery.
Science was easy to trust back then. You take a kidney seed, bury it in soil, add water and sun, and sure enough, a little green tip would sprout every single time. Science was so dependable, just like maths. It didn't matter if you were adding four to six, or testing variegated leaves for photosynthesis with iodine, the answer was always 10 for the former and purple for the latter. Always.
I was fascinated by such control and precision. I loved mixing chemicals in test tubes to create colors and even pungent sulfur smells. I wanted to be a man of science, and being the millennial that I am, I also wanted to save the world. Becoming a doctor seemed like a good idea.
The first day of medical school was a nightmare. A public school with thousands of classmates, and professors that seemed tiny from the backend of the smelly lecture halls, and hiding behind their podiums and eye glasses. They were like cruel grinches of knowledge. Secret-keepers of science that will never be accessible to the rest of us mere mortals. Most of them weren't there to teach us, but to remind us of how insignificant we are.
I was prepared though. Just like with Biology, I molded my brain with medical knowledge in my tiny blue room. I consumed what I can, and I loved every bit of it. I made up anatomy mnemonics to remember the course of the brachial artery, tables of comparisons between Amoeba and Giardia Lamblia infections, and highlighted the shit out of my cardiology books. I aced medical school, and was offered a cardiothoracic surgery residency.
My Turning Point
This is supposed to be where the story ends happily every after, if it wasn't for the hefty psychological cost I was experiencing. I let go of competitive basketball (and exercise in general) , I smoked all sorts of things to cope with stress, I drank every weekend, and in my last years of college, had started using Adderall to stay focused. I lost myself in the name of science and patient care.
I experienced depression for the first time during my fifth year. It is crazy for me to be writing this sentence -knowing that you will read it- because back then I would have rather died than told anyone that I was depressed. I was winning all the points at school, but had lost the thirst for life. My libido was hammered, my friendships withered and my consumption of toxins increased.
Then the Egyptian revolution happened. An extremely brief, tender and heartfelt moment of hope existed for my generation. I volunteered to be on the frontlines, and helped a friend set up one of the first medical tents, which later evolved to become a field hospital in the basement of a church.
As the military targeted its own people with gas and rubber pellets, we did our best with the supplies we had to heal them. The field hospital ran like clockwork, unlike the public hospital I worked for. During those days, I found a new joy in practicing science and medicine without the confined boundaries of an institution. My knowledge was finally being put into practice to help people with no strings attached, and the millennial in me was thrilled with the impact.
Those days and weeks gave me the fuel I needed to seek help for my depression afterwards. I resorted to science, ofcourse, and I went to a psychiatrist. He spoke to me for 2.5 minutes, I regurgitated all the symptoms I knew he needed as inputs, in order to prescribe the wonder drug: Prozac as an output.
Two weeks on the pills and my brain felt numb. I wasn't sad anymore, but I wasn't happy either. I was nothing. At that point I realized two things:
1- I'd rather be sad than nothing, and that
2- There is no such thing as a wonder drug.
It helped lift a veil that my medical training had used to blind me with. It's the whole idea of clinical trials dictating that one drug fits all. I started to question things. What if science was not always a simple equation? What if 6 plus 4 can be equal to 9 sometimes (or for some people)? What if Prozac works but was not for me? I then read an article that had just come out, and it blew the lid off my faith in medicine completely.
The article was about cholesterol. Turns out, all these pages I memorized in my blue room about how cholesterol was the culprit behind heart disease, how eggs were killing us, and how Statins were to be used aggressively with all patients, was all far from good science!
How could this be? At first I dispelled this article as heresy and misinformation. Then I started reading more studies, and realized that cholesterol, had way less to do with atherosclerosis than did sugar. My world spun at that moment. Turns out that this one guy that made cholesterol the villain, had so much power and influence over the medical community that he was able to block the true story: Atherosclerotic plaques formed around sugar, not cholesterol!
Huh?! So how can that be? Why would a global medical society let that happen for decades? Well, it is for the same reason that Magicians are privy to abusing people, religions coerce societies, and artists remain starved: Control.
I refuse the status quo
When pharma companies are trying to sell a miracle drug that lowers your cholesterol, when a sugar industry has political lobbies under their grip, when hospitals are incentivized to fill up beds, and when doctors are given a Statin quota to prescribe, then our science will be faulty. Always.
Instead of controlled experiments, we now have experiments of control. I refuse to accept the status quo, and I equally refuse to discount science as an evil force. Science is the most amazing fucking thing in the universe. If more of us adapt science as a way of living, if we create hypothesis and test them, and if we allow for more exploration than suppression, then science will return to its miraculous ways.
Science should open, not close. Science should help us advance, not regress. Science should help us collaborate , not compete. Science should help us heal, not consume
And lastly, science should be for exploration, not control.
When the magician holds a powerful magic wand, the impact of his spell is because of his intention, not because of the wand's power. So trying to break the wand (or making science the villain) will only accelerate our demise. Science is one of the few things that we have going on for us right now, let's use it to solve big problems. It seems however that we create problems around it that don't even exist.
I debated with myself whether I should mention this, but here we go, the vaccines. Those little miracles that broke us in half, are the same. They are not evil, and I do not believe them to be harmful even though more and more evidence is coming that some of them are for some people.
The fact that they exist is one thing, but the fact that we are pushing them to divide people is another. I see the vaccine as a Tesla, a great innovation that is not accessible to everyone and has its limitations. You should have the freedom to buy it if you can, or continue driving your gas guzzler if you like.
I think that the conversation around vaccines is not helpful. It is merely a manifestation of how the forces in power rule the world, and we maybe we should question them rather than question science. It's all divide and conquer tactics and it sucks. It sucks us in.
Instead of letting each other break down families, how about we question authority a little bit? Question the articles, question the books, question the news and definitely, question your pre-existing assumptions. Most of us are consuming pure mumbo jumbo bullshit - and we're loving it. We can't wait to tell our friends about it.
Fun is the Future of Science
We can't stop there. Beyond questioning we need to test new hypothesis, document our findings, share them with friends, and most importantly, be open to peer reviews.
In a decentralized world, we will have to gather in communities, and figure out how to use science all over again. Science that is meant to work for us, not against us. Perhaps then, we will honor the scientists once more rather than make devils out of them.
As you can tell, the artist in me is young and naive, where as the scientist is an old grumpy man who wishes the world was as simple and straightforward as it seemed in his biology class. Perhaps if we elect leaders that help science be approached with the same fun as we did as little kids, then the world would not be doubting its ability to stop a pandemic, or the intentions behind a vaccine.
Even though I have given up clinical practice over 10 years ago, I have not given up on science. I am more determined than ever to leverage it, outside of the forces that be, and have it generate its golden forcefield of light to shine through the hearts of every doctor, nurse, patient, executive and policy maker.
I am no longer a clinical scientist, but a data scientist who seeks to create graphs and charts that inspire action rather than lie about a political issue, or convince you with some bullshit on facebook because it has a #dataviz on it.
I will not let books tell me what to believe, I will not stay in my blue room and consume information blindly, instead I will champion science to be a constant edgy battlefield that will lift the dust and penetrate the pus that has festered in our stagnant bureacracies.
I will continue to write, and aim to inspire you scientists to balance your life with a little bit of wonder and magic. Because in the end, we are all beings that have the power to manipulate the world, and the more we do that, the more we will understand ourselves.
What information have you consumed and not tested this week?
See you next Sunday with the final post of this Magic, Art , Science and Religion series.