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The Medical Religion: Why educated people fall prey to myth and absolutism





“We know that they are lying, they know that they are lying, they even know that we know they are lying, we also know that they know we know they are lying too, they of course know that we certainly know they know we know they are lying as well, but they are still lying.  In our country the lie has become not just moral category, but the pillar industry of this country.”

-Alexander Solzhenitsyn


Do we really know that they are lying?  If so, why do we continue to unapologetically embrace their message and place our lives in their hands?  Why do we view doctors and their institutions—the CDC, American Diabetes Association, American Cardiology Society, to name a few—as incorruptible, wise, and well-meaning?  If they are lying to us, and we slurp up the lies with a blindness that shatters our intelligence and an ignorance that threatens our bodies, are we to blame, or are they?

 

Of course, Solzhenitsyn spoke of Soviet Russia, whose leaders proclaimed that the communist system they constructed for their own benefit elevated the state of humankind.  But in our biopolitical world, are we any different?  What unites Soviet Russia, Catholic Europe during the Middle Ages, Nazi Germany, and our current medically-driven society is a belief that in fact they are not lying, that what they preach to us is not only in our best interest but is necessary for our and society’s very survival, that the experts in whom we place our faith are more knowledgeable than are we and are telling us the truth.  How would we submit our bodies to doctors and medical leaders and assume their proclamations are scientifically valid and necessary unless we truly believed that they were telling the truth?

 

Those who have chosen to engage in the medical religion are no different than those who have submitted their minds and bodies to other religions and false ideologies; they seek simplistic answers to complex and frightening problems, they seek salvation, they have an unwavering belief in the sanctity of self-declared experts, they crave one-answer absolutism, they decry defiance or even discussion of what they insist must be true, and they are willing to harm themselves and others in their pursuit of that dogma.  It’s not as though these people are malicious or intellectually challenged; that they blindly follow a gospel they do not understand, and they submit their bodies to this gospel and often insist that others do the same; none of this is reflective of their intelligence.  It rather sates the needs of fearful people whose brains seek a facile means of feeling more secure.

 

The primary weapon of all religions is that of fear.  Those in power know how to frighten people, and they also can nimbly and seemingly beneficently wield that fear to their own purposes, equating science and sensibility with a strict adherence to their gospel, and labeling as ignorant and malfeasant anyone who challenges the singular truth that their religion professes.  Whereas science is a process of studying and refining hypotheses, medical religion is an absolute and unbending adherence to dictates that seemingly are anointed with scientific credibility by experts even if science has clearly discredited them.  Why are people unwilling to seek the truth and submit instead to such flagrant dogma?

 

Because, sadly, truth is messy.  And our political and medical leaders know this.  They feed us simple answers that compel us to carry out actions often opposed to our best interests and to the best interests of society but which reward those who are doing the preaching.  Medical truth is cluttered with nuance.  Medical truth rarely provides answers that lead us to a place of assurance and safety.  Medical truth demonstrates just now little our adherence to the medical dogma helps anyone.  As our health care budget has increased from a half a trillion dollars to four trillion, longevity has decreased, chronic disease and disability have increased, and people feel less well and more scared of illness.  As we submitted to the COVID priests and blindly accepted the necessity of wearing masks, vaccinating incessantly, isolating/turning off our lives, and exposing ourselves to never-ending fearmongering, life expectancy dropped by four years even as it rose in nations who did just the opposite of what our COVID priests claimed to be necessary.  And yet, even today, people of intelligence wear masks despite clear scientific repudiation of their efficacy, they still believe in the CDC’s unbiased authority despite the fact that that this organization is fed and led by the pharmaceutical industry who profit from the proliferation of fear and the endorsement of medical lies to combat that fear, they still trust their doctor and the doctors who preach to us on TV despite the fact that these doctors do not base anything they state on clean medical science and have been nearly always wrong.  Why have we embraced and enabled a medical religion?

 

As we have discussed, and as has been demonstrated by the most trustworthy and non-biased medical literature, we do have facts in health care that discredit our current faith-based medical dogmatism.  We know beyond the shadow of a doubt that masks cannot and have not protected us from a viral respiratory infection that passes through them like flies through a chain-linked fence; to deny this reality is to deny science itself.  To believe that measuring and fixing cholesterol, opening heart arteries with stents in people feeling well, aggressively treating diabetes and high blood pressure, screening for cancer in the elderly and some cancers (like prostate) in anyone, performing stress tests on people without symptoms, screening for and treating low bone density, and hundreds of other medical “truths” is to similarly discredit what science has taught us  It is clear why the purveyors of medical dogma want us to believe their diatribes and to submit our bodies to their potions and treatments without asking any questions. To them it generates power and profit; the messy truth would push most people away from tests and drugs and procedures and doctors.

 

Israeli psychologists Tversky and Kahneman have taught us how our minds are vulnerable to cognitive biases that push us to believe fictions that seem plausible and which are simplistic methods of seemingly offering us control over vicissitudes and uncertainties we fear.  If TV shows us images of COVID deaths, if prominent doctors and leaders tell us that to avoid such death we simply must wear masks and isolate (and maintain a 6-foot separation and close schools and wash our hands for 20 seconds) and vaccinate every few months with an experimental unproven potion for us and others to be safe, then it’s an easy path to salvation to believe them.  The messy truth of COVID and so many other medical illnesses is that simplistic measures can’t and don’t work, as science has shown us, and in fact they have led to increased death and suffering.  I have explained this to intelligent and well-meaning people, I have shown them the data, but they seek to refute my facts because reality flies in the face of the comforting and simple medical faith in which they have placed their trust.  I offer confusion, uncertainly, and nuance.  The medical priests offer salvation by telling us that we only need to wear a mask and perform certain rituals and place our lives and the lives of all those in our nation in the hands of those priests.

 

This is not science, which seeks to promote discourse, complex assessments of complex issues, and robust randomized studies.  Science would ask hard questions: who is gaining from our submission to the COVID liturgy, why are people dying and becoming sick even when they are compliant, why are nations that have defied every bit of the liturgy doing better than we are, what is the hard science that has told us to carry out these rituals and who paid for and orchestrated those studies?  The answers to these questions would dispute everything we have been told to do by the medical priests.  And this makes us uncomfortable and frightened.

 

In his book Behave, Robert Sapolsky shows us how religious absolutism helps quell the fear and chaos of our brains.  The amygdala is the center of our brain’s fear response, and it often can control the frontal cortex which is the center of our reasoning.  When the cortex is hit by jolts of fear and confusion by the amygdala, our dopamine levels decrease, and we feel vulnerable and uncomfortable.  When, instead, the cortex sooths the amygdala with simple truths, with a nice warm bath of religious absolutism that allays our fear, then our dopamine levels increase, and we feel good.  When you wear a mask, you have become part of the solution by acknowledging the simplistic science that trusted experts endorse.  When others don’t wear masks, they are anti-science and a threat to the absolutist convictions necessary for our sense of inner safety.  They have become the other.  As Sapolsky demonstrates, it is important for believers to always identify an other, an outlier, a heretic, to further validate the dogma that sooths their angst.

 

When someone dares tell us that masks don’t work, that cholesterol is not a risk factor and not worth measuring, that dropping pressures and sugars too low are more dangerous than having them high, that finding and fixing blockages in the heart hurts more people than it helps, that blood thinners in afib are more likely in many cases to give you a stroke than to prevent one, we push back.  They may show us articles and facts, but without knowing much or being willing to discuss or explore these issues, we simply dismiss them as misinformation.  Anything that challenges the peace that our medical religion has infused in us, anything that opens the pandora’s box that our own wellness and mortality are beyond the reach of simplistic solutions, anything that is too nuanced or confusing, is immediately a threat to our security.  Hence, since even intelligent people are driven by fear, by a faith in experts, by a desire for simple fixes to complex problems, they are unwilling to truly view the world through a genuinely scientific lens, to learn from the past, to critically assess the neat package they are being fed. Why did COVID kill people? Because heretics refused to wear masks, get vaccinated, isolate themselves!  Because certain governors and world leaders pushed back against the scientific wisdom of our experts and engaged in foolhardy acts, like allowing kids to go to school or elders to live their lives, which put everyone at risk.  So simple!  The fact that none of that has any scientific validity, and in fact has been utterly decimated by science and experience, does not deter those who seek to ally their fear with rituals, obedience, and finger-pointing and to label what they believe science.

 

Why else would a history professor who teaches about the medical foibles of the past—when science and its experts declared white people superior and preached the virtues of leaches and patent medicines—not place the same critical lens on the science of the present, why would he or she wear a mask and push mandatory vaccination when he or she refuses to understand the complexity of the medical issue at hand or how such acts are truly a threat to science, to truth, to democracy?  Why would a physicist who seeks to understand the complexity of the universe similarly be beholden to masks and cholesterol treatments and to the fiction of pre-diabetes when he or she should—maybe more than anyone else—seek to question dogma and demand proof?  Why do none of these people practice what they preach?  It is because, they are human.  They will all agree that the science of the past was sloppy and injurious; they even have the audacity to label it as pseudoscience, refusing to understand why people in that day and age accepted it.  At the same time, they believe that their science, the science that they do not bother to understand but which they blindly accept and adhere to, is pure and good.  With our faith and absolutist convictions we have become everything that we proclaim to despise and ridicule.  We will have turned our eyes away from truth and from the damage that our blind adherence inflicts upon society and its victims.  We will have become the very people that the next generation will mock and decry.  We are the other.

 

It is sad that the human race, however educated and allegedly intelligent, is so vulnerable to the medial religion.  As a doctor who must fight it every minute of every day, it is exhausting and painful that faith trumps truth almost always.  My facts, my experience, my own authority cannot combat a faith-based panacea to fear, it cannot erase the need of people to embrace an absolutism and security that only religion can provide. There can be no science in the fog of medical religion.  We saw this most clearly during COVID, when such a large sector of our population and our intellectual elite were willing to engage in absurd rituals, to shut off our democracy, and to force so many to suffer and die, all because they refused to question the liturgy that made them feel more secure.

 

The author of a recent book that studies racial science in the early nineteenth century—Rachel Walker who wrote Beauty and the Brain—tosses a cautionary note to those who believe that the faith-based science of the past was disreputable pseudo-science while the science of today is validated by integrity and truth.  She writes that to write off the debunked racial science of the 1700’s “as pseudoscience might make us feel good because it assures us that we are somehow better and more enlightened than people in the past.  In the end, though, the word pseudoscience merely allows scholars to condemn problematic discourses of bygone eras while maintaining an uncritical veneration of science itself.”

 

When science becomes religion, it is among the most dangerous forces in all of history.


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