I set out to read this book with an open mind. Actually, I was very happy to read it because since I battle certain so-called incurable illnesses and since my son is diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum I figured I would read a book to give me faith in the human body and spirit. And hey, it’d be a scientific book so that would be better!
But the book pretty quickly got on my last nerves. First there was the introduction where she pretty much disses anything (and anyone) who might be “unscientific.” It wasn’t even her idea about homeopathy, which really to me is pretty much the precursor of vaccines. They both deal with something being diluted and “like curing like,” after all? It was her insistence on how science validates the flaky stuff New Ager types have been saying. Yes, I thought to myself (although I’m not a New Ager), here we are dealing with someone who looks down on any kind of knowledge or tradition which isn’t rooted in the Western Scientific medical tradition. Nevertheless, I soldiered on. Cause I want to believe, and all that. After all, the book is written by a science journalist who was going to –in a small way—affirm some of the stuff flakes like me believe. She was, after all, on our side. Kinda.
So the first chapter: Marchant discusses the secretin trials and how it had seemed as if secretin would be a cure for autism because a young boy suddenly improved. But then in subsequent trials – between secretin and a saline solution—it was shown that people of both the secretin group and the saline group had some improvements. Hence, she hints, there is a placebo effect. (The first chapter is called “Faking it” by the way.)
While I do believe in the so-called “placebo effect,” I really had to groan at this particular scientific methodology of supporting the mind over matter placebo effect. Why? Because from the first chapter I began to see the narrow-mindedness of the scientific mind. I expected Marchant to discuss other trials that did not include the saline solution. Why? Because perhaps saline is not really a placebo. And in a science trial –or a book about a scientific trial--, shouldn’t a scientist or writer step back to see if an assumption is being made. But that is the point, the scientific mind doesn’t realize its assumptions. An example, there are countless studies and papers detailing the fact that people on the autism spectrum are often dehydrated, and often their mothers were dehydrated during their pregnancy. Shouldn’t a science writer be aware of this and include a chapter to help build her case? In addition, what happens to people who go to hospitals? They are usually put on a saline drip? There are scientific reasons for that. And in hospitals in Asia, going to the hospital to get hydrated is common. Doesn’t this science reporter know this? Shouldn’t a writer know how to build her case for science?
And that was just the FIRST three pages of the first chapter. This kind of thing goes on throughout the book! If one has eyes to see it, one can see clearly how scientific types don’t seem to understand their assumptions.
Once one accepts that the trials Marchant espouses often miss out on some aspect because the scientists and scientific journalists don’t even see, then reading the book becomes a kind of perverse search for What Is Missing. I swear! It was just plain infuriating.
And i did laugh when I read on page 212: "Carol feels that the doctors ignored factors such as her caffeine addiction and how anxious the tests were making her." Cosmic moment: Because I (Carole) had been spending the book thinking, "These scientists and their trials are ignoring factors." I love serendipity and weirdness like that.
I’m not saying this book is bad. It’s actually quite good in some places. The “Looking for God” chapter was quite good, for instance. It wasn’t as sneery as I expected it to be. But for those who already believe in the power of the mind this book is old news. Buy this book as yet another book to put beside all those other self-help health books that encourage and inspire you. Or buy it for someone who thinks he’s scientific who won’t see through ignored factors (the assumptions and unexplored holes) in these examples and trials. I suppose I should recommend this book. It’s flimsy, definitely (or perhaps it is only the scientific methodology of scientific trials that are flimsy) because it says nothing new. But it might be able to help those who are afflicted with stress-related illnesses, or illnesses rising from the feeling of being unloved.
Of course, religion has already told us all that.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23
Jesus did say:
But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. -- Matthew 15:18-19
I received this book for free in exchange for a fair and honest review.