Haha! No problem. In my opinion it all depends on what you want to study. Here the point is not to understand anything, just to find out to the best of our ability if a molecule does have an effect or not. In order to understand something, like why people have depression or why such medication has or doesn't have an effect we need other methods.
But the point of the scientific method is only to verify things to a reasonable extent. It just means "to verify" and discuss the best way to do it, which is what we all do when we want to find If something is true. If there is a certain bias that is possible, we want to find a way to limit it so that the result is not just caused by that bias. Biases are often not easy to understand, and so are the methods that are used to go around them. So for a lot of people these methods might seem detached from reality, obscure and dogmatic and people prefer simplicity. I don't know about you but in my experience that's what a lot of people mean when they say there are other ways than science. But inherently, science is just about verifying. But for me complexity isn't a problem unless complexity is unnecessary. If I asked an architect to build a house it wouldn't be wise to tell him that his math is too complex so I can probably do a better job without using maths.
But what other way are you thinking about that would work better than using that method, using a placebo control? Is it really the method that you disagree with or is it just that you distrust the people who did the study? Because the two are different.
Excellent questions, and I appreciate you bringing them up. You’ve probably noticed in a lot of my posts I often express a strong skepticism about science. But it isn’t so much the biases and personal judgments of scientists that I have a problem with (though I do believe that we too often fail to acknowledge them), and it’s certainly not a fear of complex math and statistics that frustrates me (math used to be my favorite academic subject growing up, and I was pretty good at it too). It’s also not the scientific method per se that I take issue with. My biggest complaint about modern man is that we have adopted the proposition that science equals truth, and so we tend to either only accept scientific knowledge, or at least we elevate those knowledges that are scientific above all other forms of understanding.
Because science is not only about observation, experimentation, and performing complex mathematical calculations, it is also a language, that is, a form of discourse. Scientists, like the rest of us, interpret their observations through the medium of language, and I’ve noticed that scientists seem to be either unaware or minimize the significance of the role that language plays in their work. The discourse of science is what philosophers often refer to as “positivism.” Science understands all manner of things in terms of materialist entities, mechanistic forces, cause-and-effect deterministic relationships. This manner of talking about things appears to be the best way to understand much of the natural world, e.g., the structure and motion of the planets. But it is my belief that our attempts to understand humans and their behavior through that discourse has been an utter disaster: epistemologically, morally, and spiritually.
So the issue that I take with the placebo-controlled trial has nothing to do with the fact that the math is too complicated for my poor brain to handle, even though it is. But einstein’s equations on relativity are also over my head, but I do accept that that is a valid and meaningful way to describe and understand his observations. My issue with psychiatry has to do with how we are constructing these problems, like depression. If we construct depression as a disease “just like diabetes,” then we will talk about its manifestations in terms of “signs and symptoms,” it’s etiology in terms of “pathogenesis,” and whatever makes it go away as “treatment. But that is not the best way to understand depression, in my view. Depression is the label that we attach to the affective experience we have as the result of a loss or lacking of something of value to us. Yes, that experience is often accompanied by uncomfortable sensations, changes in perception, appetite or sleep changes, but that’s just because depression, like all our mood states, is simultaneously a thought-and-feeling. All any medication can do directly for that experience is either numb a person to the “feeling” aspect, or just damage them so they are simply unaware of what they were even depressed about in the first place.
This is how I understand human beings to work. We have our structures, which are determined through a combination of our genetics and environmental factors. That structure then determines how we experience ourselves at a very basic level. Then, we use language, whether it be a primitive language like infants and toddlers and other animals use, or whether it be a complex highly symbolic language like those of modern adult humans, to interpret our experiences of ourselves and the world around us. Finally, we act in the world in pursuit of whatever valuable or meaningful goals we might have. The concept of “physical illness” deals with those first two domains, whereas the concept of “mental illnees” deals with the latter two. But when we fail to understand this, and we try to understand language and behavior in terms of materialist structures, we end up with less than ideal results, and often we just make problems worse.
This is the central issue I’ve been grappling with from my own experience, and I know many on this site ask themselves the same question: is my experience DPDR the consequence of some organic problem that then influences my thinking to become more abstract, anxious, and existential? Or am I engaging in abstract, anxious, existential rumination which is creating this wall between me and the external world around me? With modern science’s insistence of a monistic view of man, I feel frustrated that I’m unlikely ever to get a coherent answer to that question.
I see a huge problem with the way our society looks at science. Here in the US now with the issue of abortion on everyone’s mind, I’ve often heard people claim that “abortion is murder; science proves it.” Other people have argued that science proves the opposite. But science has not and cannot “prove” either position, because murder is not a scientific concept, it is a moral and legal concept. Whether or not abortion is murder is not a question for scientists to answer, we use a different kind of discourse to make those determinations.
In response to our conflict with Critical Race Theory being a model for public education, I’ve heard many people say “well, if CRT is not truth, then why hasn’t science disproved it?” Umm…because CRT is not science, it is a completely different epistemological system that interprets and understands it’s subject matter very differently than science does. Whether or not it is a good system that we wish to use in public education is a different question (which I’m not going to get into here), but the answer depends not on what science says about it, but it depends on what goals we want to try to achieve with our education system.
When modern people are asked “what is beauty,” the most common response I get is that “beauty is symmetry.” Why is beauty symmetry? Because symmetry is the only aspect of what we generally consider to be beautiful for which science has come up with an answer. And while I think science’s explanation is moderately convincing, I strongly disagree that “beauty is symmetry.” Many people find asymmetry to be beautiful, especially in people. Because people with asymmetrical features stand out from the rest of the cookie-cutter crowd, they might be viewed very arresting, interesting, special, and therefore beautiful. Beauty is not a part of the discourse of science either, it is a question of aesthetics.
In summary, the way that I come to knowledge and understanding is not based on the latest scientific study, or what scientists have to say. My understand depends on whichever explanation can consistently, accurately, and meaningfully serve as a representation of empirical reality, or whatever it’s subject matter happens to be, and also whichever one works the best when we use it. Often, that is positivist science. But much of the time it is not. If there needs to be a lot of complex math involved in order to demonstrate that some drug “works” better than a placebo, then I assume that drug is probably mostly a placebo. When it comes to pain management, marijuana can be very helpful in reducing a person’s experience of pain. But I didn’t need any placebo-controlled study to know that. I know that marijuana is a dissociative, somewhat distancing him from his experience of his own body, thereby resulting in a reduction in pain. But because we are uncomfortable with making people high for medicine, we have tried to extract the “high producing” properties from the “pain reducing” properties in developing CBD oil and the like. But I find all that to be rather silly. Marijuana relieves pain mostly because it makes a person high.