Scientific Reasoning: Remedy to Pain or Recipe for Panic?

I haven’t use the Dictaphone on my iPad for two years.  I wouldn’t be using it now except that I can’t type with two hands.  My right arm is about to fall off, and I don’t want to overdose on Tylenol, which has seen me through much of this week. I decided that the ordeal that I’m going through might be instructive in a more general way.  I hope so… at any rate, it’s all I can think about for the moment.

I could adopt the attitude of a certain neurologist that I visited one time (and only one): that is, assume that any pain in my body is my prostate cancer metastasizing again.  The arm seems to have somewhat migratory pain from the top of the shoulder down into the wrist.  Migratory pain: that’s sort of heads up.  And then… well, 2+2 = 4, doesn’t it?  Patient had prostate cancer earlier this summer; now patient has migratory arm pain; ergo, must be the cancer coming back again in a new spot.

That’s the kind of analysis that a cancer patient would embrace naturally enough.  I suppose all of us (or those of us with certain unwholesome personality traits, anyway) immediately lunge to the worst possible scenario.  Something well worth remembering about science, however, is that it yields no absolute truth.  If one is trying to diagnose a pain in the body or any other empirical problem, one looks for evidence to support this or that particular theory over its rivals.  In my case, the “cancer” theory doesn’t have a whole lot of evidence behind it.  It’s about as nuanced as the 2+2 = 4 formula: you had cancer before, you have a pain now, the pain must be cancer.

But I can also, with reflection, link the pain to specific “trigger” events having to do with excessive exercise.  As a kind of would-be hitting instructor in baseball—an excavator of techniques long forgotten by the game—who operates a site at, I construct hypothetical versions of century-old swings all the time.  One in particular had me jamming my right elbow quite a bit in the follow-through.  Not that I’ve ever played golf… but I believe golfers rather famously have the same problem.  The severe compression of elbow and shoulder joints seems to have pinched a nerve, or perhaps strained ligament.  When I was too foolish to leave the arm alone completely for several days, the pain quite predictably kept returning.  It would get better for a while… but then I would assume that “a little bit better” meant “recovered”.  Incredibly (I myself am amazed at my stupidity), I repeated the same miscalculation several times.  At last a nagging discomfort became persistent aching of a magnitude greater than anything I’ve experienced for years.

So what should I conclude about over-exercise?  I used to work out quite vigorously and, as one might say, religiously.  Am I just getting old?  Am I looking at incipient arthritis?  Is there any relationship to my cancer adventure at all?  I think the answer to the last of these posers is probably “yes”… but not the facile kind of “yes” that my neurologist wanted to promote.  Rather, I suspect that, because I’m taking so many hormone-suppressants to deny prostate cancer its natural fuel, I am also denying my muscles and joints the fuel they need to recover from routine stress.  If this is so, then perhaps I can find supplements that provide muscle support without hormones and move a long way toward solving my problem.

This is in fact the step that I am currently taking.  (Sincerest thanks to Mr. Sanchez for suggesting Garden of Life FYI Restore Muscle—a 100 percent vegan option).  But, of course, I’m proceeding without having proved my hypothesis: I’ve only rendered it the more likely of two proposals (which is, I would add, precisely the nature of scientific “proof” in practical application).  Could I have overlooked other possibilities in my desire to embrace a less malign one?

I know from my first round with cancer that metastatic cells do tend to move in upon bones when incidental tears and stresses occur to muscle.  What about my present condition would cancel that scenario?

Actually, I have a second pain of note—and it’s in my hip, because my right arm had grown so sore that I decided to throw left-handed in another baseball video.  In doing so (another very predictable result, in hindsight), I strained the inside of my right thigh.  Again, that source of pain is fully explicable as the product of repeated (and bloody foolish) aggravation.  One special point of interest here, though, is that the hip has at last almost entirely recovered.  I’ve gone back-and-forth with both injuries, but the hip is the one I’ve treated better.  Recovery is almost complete.

That’s a positive sign.  The arm has likewise shown improvement over periods when I nurse it along.  That doesn’t sound like cancer.

I might further note that my heel spurs have been acting up even though I have done no jogging or extreme walking lately.  The only explanation for that pain, inasmuch as there are no distressed muscle or bone complexes nearby, would once again be that even minimal exercise is not being handled very well—by any part of my body.  Tissue is simply not rebuilding itself overnight the way it used to do.

Finally I should point out that my shoulder has been hurting me more right after I have a typing session, usually in the morning.  (Hence my dictating to this annoying little iPad.)  That seems pretty conclusive to me.  Lots and lots of tiny muscle groups are used in typing: we all know about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  The recurring pain after an episode of typing very probably points to muscle damage.  What I need to do is a) take my new pills to allow my muscles and joints to recover in the absence of hormones, b) stop exercising with the ferocity that I used to bring to the endeavor, and c) find new exercises that keep me fit but do not put severe strain on my muscles.

This, I submit, is how scientific reasoning works.  You form an hypothesis, you create tests for it, you look for evidence that supports or refutes it, and—in the happy case of discovering supportive evidence—you continue looking for more support… or contradiction.  You consider evidence that is conspicuous by its absence.  What does the theory fail to explain that you want to account for?  Any theory can have a certain amount of support and yet be incorrect if the examiner proceeds no farther.

Too often today, unfortunately, our self-styled scientists exchange professional high-fives after they account for a rather restricted body of evidence, and they go no farther.  Heaven forbid that anybody should turn over another stone!  In fact, people who try to do so in certain celebrated cases lately have been publicly denounced, reviled, blackballed, and refused a place in the public exchange of ideas.  I don’t recognize this as science, yet it’s the body of thought that my ex-minister refers to as the “best science” in a recent circular emailed to the congregation.  The “best science”, according to her, insists that mask-wearing is our surest means of protection against CV-19.  The implication, I guess, is that inferior science reaches a different conclusion; for how else can you rate this science if not by its conclusions?  Do our “best scientists”, then, have any concern about the overwhelming evidence correlating mask mandates and lockdowns with the spread of the virus?  

Apparently not. It is the “best scientists”, rather, who have refused to allow such information into the public forum.  They offer no refutation of the graphs at rational or similar websites; theirs is the tyranny, indeed, that has prevented the formal publication of a major Danish study on mask efficacy for over two months.  Expected to reach the public eye in August, this research has so far been rejected by The Lancet and JAMA due to the political incorrectness of its outcomes. One contributor answered a query about the paper’s status in these words, more or less: “It will appear as soon as we find a journal brave enough to publish it” (source: Daniel Horowitz, Conservative Review, Episode 743).

One earns an instant ban from Twitter if one seeks to publicize any such inconvenient truth. The “best science” appears to be associated with the position of shutting people off when they question conclusions on the basis of an abundance of contradictory evidence.  I’m glad the evidence in my own case doesn’t indicate that my cancer is spreading.  I have recent lab results, as well, that wave no red flags, and I have the responsiveness of my body to gentle treatment when I decide to use a little common sense in my exercise routine.  I’m not coddling myself.  I’m not allowing myself to believe something that has little support.  I’m choosing the conclusion for now that appears to have more evidence behind it.  I am not panicking, though I easily could; I am looking at what facts are available to me.  I’m also looking for further facts that seem unavailable but may be hiding from me in the shadows.  Meanwhile, I’m taking action on the basis of the most probable explanation.

This is what science is supposed to do.  It’s not good, bad, worse, or better.  It is certainly not “the best”.  It’s simply a struggle for us to make sense of physical reality, the roots of which extend well beyond our possible understanding.

As a person of (I hope) moderate education and intelligence, I deeply resent the attempt of the “best scientists”—as they clearly suppose themselves to be—to shut me up, to keep me from asking questions, to keep me from sharing theories with others, to make me fall in the line and march in one direction.  This trend in our troubled society is the very antithesis of science.  It will prove to be the death of science is if we allow it to thrive.  It is an intellectual—yes, and a moral—cancer that has likely already metastasized and may yet precipitate our us.

Author: nilnoviblog

I hold a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature (Latin/Greek) but have not navigated academe very successfully for the past thirty years. This is owed partly to my non-PC place of origin (Texas), but probably more to my conviction--along with the ancients--that human nature is immutable, and my further conviction--along with Stoics and true Christians-- that we have a natural calling to surmount our nature. Or maybe I just don't play office politics well. I'm much looking forward to impending retirement, when I can tend to my orchards and perhaps market the secrets of Dead Ball hitting that I've excavated. No, there's nothing new (nil novi) under the sun... but what a huge amount has been forgotten, in baseball and elsewhere!

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