Saturday, July 21, 2007

Is the Double Blind Blind?

From wikipedia comes this definition of the double blind method:

"The double blind method is an important part of the scientific method, used to prevent research outcomes from being 'influenced' by either the placebo effect or the observer bias."

I've spent most of my life analyzing and attempting to understand what makes people tick, including myself. I've read studies, done research, made observations, sought out "experts" and here I am with more questions than answers. There seem to be so many factors that go into the human experience, into why people behave as they do, make the choices they make, see things as they see them. All of which seem very difficult to double blind. I find it increasingly difficult to believe that the double blind process is all that effective. While it may currently be the best tool we have for studying mankind, I think we give it far too much credit.

As I wrote yesterday, there has been discovered a link between the strep bacteria and childhood OCD. Now, we can only account for that possibility because we know that strep exists. It's been discovered and so scientists can add it in as a variable when they're testing for possible OCD drug treatments.

My question is, how many variables do we still not even know about? How can scientists account for variables that the human mind has not even yet discovered or even conceived of? Right now, there could be a microscopic parasite that can cross the blood-brain barrier and it's slowly eating away at all of our brains. How would you account for that if you were doing a drug study? How can you account for something you're not even aware of? Does the observer not automatically become biased by virtue of what he doesn't yet know?

And how can the observer ever truly know that which he knows? Isn't it just a big loop? Sigh. This loop is slowly becoming a noose.

tall penguin


Rahul said...

What you're describing is referred to in philosophical academic circles as "the inconceived concept". (Not to be misrep'ed as "the inconceivable concept").

That which has not yet been discovered, named, catalogued, invented, etc., but may full well exist and be affecting and affected in our experiences. I think that if you add possible known variables which affect the situation both directly and indirectly, to all possible not known and not YET known variables, you end up with an open system the size of the universe. A true representation of what is, but difficult to affect immediately, knowingly. As in, how do I prescribe cough medicine for the one who has a cough, if I have to take into account everything in the universe, that ever was, is or has the potential to be, as well as that which does not have the potential to be, but can be imagined but not communicated, just in order to diagnose the cough?

Thus was born the closed systems of math, logic, and the world of science, via the philosophy of meta-physics: explaining the world using the scientific method. Hypothesis, experiment, observation, conclusion, using logic in a closed system. The variables in a closed system add up to the total system. So on one hand it makes things quicker and easier, it makes the world know-able. It even categorizes paradox into the pile of things that don't make sense. Good or bad, I won't comment. It is what it is, a language, a system. My issue is that it does not account for the cool variables that make big differences in my life, like love and faith. /rd

tall penguin said...

Hmmm...yes the variables really do go on forever now don't they. Which makes me take everything these days with a grain of salt. Math, science and medicine included.