Posted in Psychology, Writing

If it Quacks Like a Duck, and Looks Like a Duck, its a Placebo.

Our society tries to seek out natural treatments and alternative medicines because we think of them as safer and just as effective (if not more effective) than the manufactured versions, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many of them don’t work at all. And even worse, some of them can cause illness, serious side effects, or even death. This is the myth, and the associated problems, Bill Nye takes on in his show “Bill Nye Saves the World.” The first episode entitled “Tune your Quack-o-meter”, examines natural cures, alternative medicine, and the placebo effect.

Purveyors of natural treatments often twist science in puzzling ways to make their ideas sound effective and magical. One magical medicine man featured in the episode claimed sound can heal cancer and other diseases. He claimed that, if you could match the specific vibration of the affected cells, sound could be more effective than modern medicines. Another healer claimed crystals, chakras, and chants could do the same. Unfortunately, these things do nothing except make hundreds of dollars disappear — money that could, and likely should, be used for medicine that has been tested and scientifically proven.

Alternative medicines are untested and unregulated. There is no empirical proof, but people still use them despite being dangerous and ineffective. Alternative medicine is “any of a range of medical therapies that are not regarded as orthodox by the medical profession, such as herbalism, homeopathy, and acupuncture.”

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Bill Nye Saves the world Season 1, episode 2. checklist for false alternative medicine in determining its authenticity

I believe that these “natural healing” methods lead to bigger issues. People are scammed out of hundreds of dollars. They lose valuable time that be used on scientifically-proven medications. They can interfere with medications they are taking, come with confounding side effects, and even lead to death. Even then, people claim they still work. This is due to the illusory placebo effect.

The placebo effect is the belief that a medicine or treatment works despite having no active ingredients. Natural and therapeutic tools  like dollar store crystals and sound are what I would label as an illusory placebo effect. This is where someone believes there has been an improvement due to the treatment when, in fact,  there hasn’t been any improvement whatsoever. This is enhanced when marketing agencies use terms like “a new study claims… ” or “scientists say…”. Here, the claims are subjective, biased, or completely false.

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Bill Nye Saves the world Season 1, episode 2. Explaining the Placebo Effect. 

With that being said, I believe there is a difference between a treatment and a tool. A tool in medicine or well-being is something that can assist alongside proper treatment. For example, crystals, sound vibrations, or different forms of therapy can help by making someone feel better and given them peace of mind, but they should never be labeled as a treatment. It is irresponsible and harmful to those needing treatment, their families, and the general public. This is no different than Peter Pan saying fairies only exist when people believe in them. Am I comparing these natural remedies to mythical creatures? Yes, yes I am.

“Although some might think this show is a waste of Netflix space, Bill Nye Saves the World” adds science and reasoning to controversial topics and brings them into the public eye. Alternative or natural treatments should not be seen as cures or even as a substitute for pharmaceutical medication or treatment. I do believe that, just like any other form of therapy, they can be used along side doctor recommended medicine.

Bill Nye saves the world series, although some might question the target audience or that say that this show is a waste of Netflix space, this show brings science and reason of controversial topics like homeopathic medicines into the public eye. Alternative or natural treatments should not be seen as cures or even as a substitute for pharmaceutical medication or treatment. I do believe that just like any other form of therapy like crystals, yoga, and sound therapy are tools in treatment along side doctor recommended medicine, but not as a solo remedy for such aliments as cancer. So, once again Bill Nye has saved the world.

Posted in Photography, Psychology, Writing

Could Brain Damage Cause Brilliance?

The New York Times features an article about using cognitive brain manipulation to explore mental disabilities such as autism. This article leads to future possibilities that could have a huge impact on how mental disorders are studied. This article begins by the author discovering new skills, such as impressive drawing, through the application of electrodes of certain brain regions. The electrode experiment led to further investigation into the ability to manipulate human cognition past their mental capacity and provide insight into how the human brain functions. One example of this type of manipulation of brain areas is the research into autism.

Allen Snyder developed a theory while studying autism called the Savant theory. Snyder theorizes that a small number of people with autism can perform super specialized mental acts. These acts can include learning new languages without any formal training or impressive drawing skill.

The unlimited mental capacity within people with autism leads to the larger question of the neurological impairment that causes autism. Could neurological impairment be the cause of such genius-like abilities? With this line of questioning, I wonder if higher brain capacity is caused by lack of brainpower.

An analogy that I think relays this thinking is having all your eggs in one basket. By having more brain area impairment, more time and neurons are applied to fewer brain areas as compared to multiple brain regions. The experiment to investigate this savant theory was tested by the manipulation of electrodes to shut down parts of the brain. This type of testing can also give people with normal functioning brains gives a glimpse into the reality that people with mental disabilities deal with daily.

By manipulating certain brain areas, changing the way people perform and think can provide more intense and scientific research into what causes mental disabilities.  It could also change the way we think in unexpected ways

Not only can we determine the underlying cause of mental disorders, it but can also assist in the treatment of mental disorders. This treatment and cause for mental disorders can be achieved by stimulating other areas of the brain to dispel syndromes and side effects of mental disorders by using a normal functioning brain to create autistic syndromes.

In summary, not only can brain manipulation help with treatment and prevention, it can also assist with therapy. This technique could be used as a therapy where people can learn what is it like to have a mental disability. By gaining a new perspective and appreciation for people who deal with daily mental difficulties.

This week’s featured photo is of graduation shoes, which is symbolic of this blog post, by allowing people to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. whether this is through shoes or brain manipulation.

Posted in Psychology, Writing

Philosophical Take on Creativity:

So this is my first blog post for my writing bootcamp. Enjoy!

Creativity is difficult to define. I believe that creativity is a mindset, but there are different perspectives on the influences of creativity. This blog post focuses on Julie Burstein’s view of creativity and how to enhance it.

In Julie Burstein’s Ted talk, she discusses how creativity is enhanced from experiences, challenges, limits and loss. She begins with a creative process metaphor.

Creativity comes from failures and stresses that occur from letting go of control illustrated by Raku. Raku is a Japanese style of pottery used in tea ceremonies, which involves playing with clay, temperature, and fire resulting in cherished cracks. The example of Raku is thought-provoking by providing a decent metaphorical example of creativity and control. Creativity involves letting go of control and letting stress and imperfections occur resulting in something beautiful.

Burstein’s first lesson is that creativity comes from everyday experiences. It states that creativity involves being open to new experiences and having the ability to see the unique from the everyday. By being open to new experiences often bring a different perspective and offers new inspirations for further creativity. Being open to seeing uniqueness, leads to the second and third lessons that are in creativity, which is challenges and limits.

With creativity and life, challenges arise by pushing the limits. You must be able to prevail to succeed. Often, limits are created by mental and physical disabilities which are viewed as a setback, but these challenges can help push the limits leading to something unique. The idea of challenges and limits to provoke creativity has merit but lacks luster. Burstein never mentioned or explicitly implies the idea of motivation. With motivation, it offers the intrinsic drive that allows people to push their limits.  Motivation does connect with challenges and limits, but I believe that Burstein’s idea of challenges and limits are based more on the person, and less about the creativity task. The idea of pushing limits and exceeding challenges does carry a hopeful thought that can be a great adversary by embracing your differences. The idea of embracing differences is shown by the example of a Pulitzer prize winner who has dyslexia.

The fourth lesson is that creativity can come from loss. An example of creativity from a loss would be the photography of Joel Meyerowitz. Meyerowitz tried to capture the beauty of the rubble, destruction, and sadness of 9/11 in New York City. Creativity from loss can be because of inspiration, or as a form of therapy to deal with the loss.

Burstein ends her lecture with another metaphor of Japanese pottery called Kintsugi. Kintsugi is a type of pottery where any damage is repaired with gold lacquer making a more beautiful and unique piece. Kintsugi is symbolic of experiences, challenges, limits and loss. It helps tell a story of creation and destruction that assist in creating something new. This notion of loss leads to the same notion of motivation and brings to light the idea of inspiration, which is a subjective aspect of creativity. Through loss, people reframe the situation, creating a different viewpoint that can lead a creative idea. This idea of loss to enhance creativity is just one example of how motivation plays into creativity.

Burstein’s view on creativity is philosophical, subjective and hopeful at times, it appears to only be skimming the surface of creativity.

 

References:

Burstein, J. (2017). 4 lessons in creativityTed.com. Retrieved 26 April 2017, from https://www.ted.com/talks/julie_burstein_4_lessons_in_creativity#t-1020910