Paradigm Shifts in Science to Create Better Healthcare

Writing an Introduction to Werner Heisenberg's Physics and Philosophy, Professor F. S. C. Northrop of Yale University made the following perspicacious observations.

  • "The instruments of modern science derive from its theory and require a comprehension of that theory for their correct use".
  • "This theory rests on philosophical as well as physical, assumptions".
  • "When comprehended, these philosophical assumptions generate a personal and social mentality and behavior quite different from, at points incompatible with, the family, caste and tribally centered mentality of native Asian, Middle Eastern or African people"
Science in today's world is primarily based on the initial progress in natural sciences (biology, chemistry, and physics) with a clear primacy of physics. The philosophy of physics, in some sense has become the defining foundation of the scientific mindset of not only natural sciences but also the social sciences.
Heisenberg posits that "The first language that emerges from the process of scientific clarification is in theoretical physics usually a mathematical language." While physical entities can be more appropriately described with mathematical language, there is a huge gap in this description when one considers biological systems, including human beings. In modern science, physical principles form the basis of biological descriptions, both at micro-level of molecular events and macro-levels of group behavior. Monumental scientific advances have been made with this model of the universal physical nature. However, this model has been inadequate to understand and explain particularly the biological systems beyond rudimentary structure-function relationships.
There may be multiple reasons for such an inadequacy -
  • Insufficient physical tools are currently available to examine and test all the theoretical models described mathematically. This idea is supported by incremental advancement in scientific ideas with incrementally sophisticated instruments. However, these advancements have been more in the material science, and not in biological sciences, as reflected in the health and environmental issues, which continue to evade solutions.
  • Physical principles themselves devised under certain assumptions of ideal conditions are not accurately reflective of the reality, and become inapplicable under extreme conditions of micro- and macro-world.
  • Reality cannot be described adequately by physical existence of the world. Thus, other paradigms may be needed to adequately describe the world.

As pointed out by Northrop (Heisenberg, 1956) theory of modern science has philosophical and physical assumptions. It is safe to assume that at the time the foundations of modern science were laid, the world was too isolated and philosophical net was cast too narrowly. In today's global society, there is richness of philosophical diversity, which can be effectively tapped into devising improved and integrative philosophical assumptions. At the same time, there is a need of more direct and practical connections between physical and philosophical assumptions to revise and reform a testable comprehensively integrative scientific model for examination and verification.
  • Bal Ram Singh, PhD, Institute of Advanced Sciences.
  • Jerry Solfvin, PhD, Institute of Advanced Sciences.
  • Raj Kumar, PhD, Institute of Advanced Sciences.
  • Lei Wang, PhD, Institute of Advanced Sciences.
  • Robert Schneider, MD, Maharishi University of Management.
  • Yashwant Pathak, PhD, University of South Florida.
  • Jay Glayser, MD, UMass Medical School.

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