Science Doesn’t Always Know Best

In the 1600s, little was known about how the human body worked or reproduced. They DID know that sperm and egg met together and somehow a human being was produced from that.

Some people hypothesized that there were super teeny tiny little human bodies in the heads of each sperm that eventually just got bigger and became babies. These super teeny tiny little humans were called homunculus. Not a bad theory if you have no idea what’s going on at the cellular level. This theory was called “preformation”.

Then something interesting happened. When some of the early microscopists studying this subject (who just happened to be “preformationists”) looked at the sex cells under the microscope for the first time, you know what they reported seeing?

Yup. Teeny tiny little humans…to confirm their theory. But are there teeny tiny little humans inside of sperm or egg? Of course not.

Did scientists see what they WANTED to see to support a theory? You betcha. And that hasn’t changed some 400 years later.

Another story — penicillin was discovered in 1928 but wasn’t widely used until right after World War II. It was made synthetically in the late 50s. And boy, has it done some great stuff. With penicillin in our arsenal, humans stopped dying from strep, staph infections, pneumonia and other bacterial infections.

It was the miracle drug and was made in a lab by people in lab coats. Awesome. I have benefitted from penicillin. My kids are safer with it in the world.

But just because penicillin, which is made in a lab by people with lab coats, is an incredibly powerful thing that has changed the world and solved problems — doesn’t mean that EVERYTHING MADE IN A LAB BY PEOPLE IN LAB COATS is going to solve all of our problems.

Unfortunately, that’s where the conventional wisdom went after penicillin. You have a problem? Great, ole Lab Coat here will find something to fix it. (I am not saying anything negative about anyone who wears a lab coat for a living — just the idea that all the world’s problems can be fixed by chemical means).

Along came margarine and hydrogenated oils and GMOs and processed foods and food coloring and preservatives and pharmaceuticals. And it’s pretty easy to see what’s happened to our health.

Not getting enough exercise? No worries. We can fix that. Don’t want to eat healthy foods? We have a fix for that, too. Can’t sleep at night? Here, take this. Joint pain? Try two of these on an empty stomach and call me in the morning.

We’ve got it all wrong.

We have eradicated infectious diseases but have replaced those diseases with ones of degeneration and sickness. In an epoch that should be known as the time all humans were at their absolute healthiest — we are at our sickest.

Here’s a newsflash: science and chemicals can’t fix everything. Science hasn’t figured it all out. But guess what? We don’t need to understand something to have it work for us.

I guarantee you many babies have been produced by men and women who had absolutely no idea as to how pregnancy works at the cellular level. They just did what their instincts told them to do and viola! A baby!

Some things are unexplainable. There are medical miracles. The human body is an amazing thing that adapts to its surroundings and strives to live. Sometimes fallopian tubes that are surgically cut grow new vessels and find their way back to each other to continue the life process (ever had a friend get their tubes tied and then get pregnant?)

Some animals can regrow fully developed body parts. The placebo effect is still largely mysterious.

So let’s wrap back around and learn something from those two stories:

A) don’t believe everything you read in the latest “scientific studies” because science is prone to see what it wants to see…and science has gotten away from what science really is: change in light of new discoveries and data. It’s kind of gotten stuck on some stuff thanks to politics and money and public opinion and the media.

B) are you going to do things and eat things that have been around for 60 years or are you going to do things and eat things that have been around for the entirety of human existence?

If I was going to be stranded on a desert island and could have one thing with me, I’m going to choose the wheel over an iPhone, the knife over a spiralizer, a bow and arrow over a microphone. See where I’m going with this?

Here’s a quiz: What practice has been around the longest and is more robust?

Walking or Elliptical trainers?

Herbs or Pills?

Animal fat or Margarine?

Going to bed when the sun goes down or staying up until 2 AM watching TV?

Science has done GREAT THINGS! My son is alive today because of breakthroughs in science and medicine. But lets keep the penicillin and reattachment surgeries in the “anomaly” category but in our normal, everyday lives keep doing things that humans have done ever since humans have been around.

We’ll all be better off for it.

To follow more of Mark’s amazing work, visit his blog, Simply Human Lifestyle, listen to his Podcastand be sure to follow him on Facebook!


  1. Doug says

    I think you said ‘Science’ when you meant ‘Medical Industrial Complex.’

    As a scientist, it is infuriating when people try to reduce Science to work that gets done in lab by people wearing lab coats. Science is a broad endeavor, one that can be simply defined as an attempt to understand the natural world. Medicine and Nutrition both fall under the umbrella of Science. So understanding optimal nutrition is no less science than creating new drugs in a lab.

    To vilify the practice of profit hungry drug corporations under the label of Science is dishonest. And statements like “don’t believe everything you read in the latest “scientific studies” because science is prone to see what it wants to see” are just careless. Sure some individual scientists may bias their results, but these instances are weeded out by the rigorous nature of the scientific process which relies on repeatability, falsifiability, and peer review. Sure in the history of Science, certain scientists have ‘seen what they wanted,’ as per your anecdote, but these things also get corrected by the process. These is plenty of science that supports the claims you are making, as well as the health benefits of a paleo type diet. I just don’t see the need to paint scientists as pushers of ellipticals, pills, and margarine.

    • says

      You are ABSOLUTELY right and I agree with you completely. I definitely didn’t mean to lump bad science and good science together — which is what i did! We would be way worse off without tons and tons of GOOD science! Thanks for pointing that out. I should have made that more clear. Definitely should NOT have said that all scientists only see what they want to see. That is absolutely false. Thanks for reading and for your comments.

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