As science progresses at an ever-increasing pace, many people find themselves unable to keep up with developments, and prefer seeking shelter in belief. Belief systems provide a framework of simplified rules that allow most of us to make rapid, and often effortless decisions by sifting out the mass of data and focusing in on a few core principles. It is important to note that I do not seek to make a point about spiritual and religious belief systems as a means to achieve inner peace and serve as a code of conduct, but rather to bring attention to the fact that even when we have these beliefs, we must find a way to blend them with science in order to remain open to vast wealth of knowledge about how the world works and how we can stay healthy enough to remain sufficiently prosperous and long-lived to take that spirituality to maximum effect.
Sometimes, these belief systems are based off of conventions that had at one time been believed to be correct by science, but have since been disproved. This is a central tenet of the scientific process. Once new evidence of fact become available, it is essential to question and re-examine a theory in order to build more accurate models. As with all things human, personality and ego do at times become barriers to be overcome in the scientific community as well. The classical laws of physics are a perfect example of a process which had at one time been believed to represent the way everything functioned, but with time, new observations suggested the need for a new field known as quantum physics to account for behaviour which could otherwise not be explained. Because quantum physics are so complex and hard to understand, most of us remain fixed on the idea that physics involve an apple falling on some bloke’s head.
At other times, these rules are the result of anecdotal observations or myths that have been handed down from one person to another without ever having had a solid foundation in reality. Old wives’ tales contain a bounty of such examples of unsubstantiated beliefs used to explain the way the world works. In some cases, there are correlations between these observations and actual fact. Witchcraft obtains results through the placebo effect, not by chasing spirits. Tribal healers have indeed found some roots and herbs that are beneficial through countless iterations of trial and error, but have no doubt also found a trove of treatments which do nothing at all, or can even harm their patients.
The Armchair Scientist has a nice article that reviews the difference between science vs. pseudoscience, and makes the point far more eloquently than I ever can. There’s also a great video at the bottom that is bound to get a giggle or two out of you. Since laughter is scientifically proven to be good for your health, you’ve got no excuse not to read it.