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Science is Understanding Nature!

—Professor B. M. Hegde

Natural science, does not simply describe and explain nature; it is part of the interplay between nature and ourselves.
—Werner Heisenberg

“Whosoever would be a man must be a non-conformist.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson


science tells us stories about how nature works. Every story teller understands nature in one’s own way. However, science has differences of opinion and keeps changing its stories from time to time. That which does not change does not qualify to be called science. We have had our share of surprises as also misunderstandings. All that is fine. The big bang theory, the relativity theory, quantum mechanics, as also many others that followed do have their share of misunderstandings built into them as long as scientists rely only on their five senses to study and understand nature. Medicine, which follows the natural sciences of physics, chemistry and biology has to, per force, have the same degree of uncertainties and possibly more as the human body is a greater wonder than many of the other aspects of nature. The human mind seems to be unfathomable, at least, for the time being. Applying the faulty reductionist science to the dynamic chaotic human physiologic laws leads the medical world into the bottomless pit of misunderstanding resulting in human suffering, making our interventions worse than disease. Our whole edifice, built on the concept of individual diseases and their treatment, seems to be falling apart.

Having said that, I must explain in simple terms the difference between the usual reductionist science that we use and the chaotic holistic science that nature follows. Let me simplify without losing the essence. Let us say that one wants to know the taste of a nice chocolate. If he goes to analyze the chocolate for its contents as is done in reductionism, one comes up with sugar, cocoa, and milk as the main ingredients. Then we study the tastes of these three ingredients separately. If, in conclusion, we pronounce that the chocolate should taste like sugar, milk or cocoa, even a child, which has tasted chocolate, will disagree. Similarly, while studying the effect of fresh garlic on human health, if one goes by studying its individual constituents like anti-oxidants and the SH group that gives its smell, they will come up with wrong conclusions. Just as chocolate tastes as a whole, garlic will be an effective drug only when eaten whole, that too after chewing in the mouth for the saliva to activate its vital action. The last two actions are called holistic actions vis-à-vis the reductionist ideas of tasting sugar as chocolate!

The hot topics in science today are the moon journey and stem cell research. Both these efforts are trying to bend nature’s laws to suit our convenience and not trying to understand nature. I shall avoid the moon journey for this article because of space constraints. Stem cell research has become a money spinner. These days, societal respect for science seems to depend on the quantum of grant money that one gets.

One could manipulate the stem cells in vitro in any way one likes but, when they are inside the human body they do not necessarily follow what the scientists want them to do. They might have their own compulsions of holism to do what they do depending on the environment.

In short, there are innumerable imponderables inside the human body that we are not able to account for and manipulate from outside. The same holds good for genetic engineering. One could do anything in vitro to engineer the genes but once inside the system gene penetrance depends on the environment to a great extent! I wonder why people do not talk about the audits on the outcomes of the first trials of genetic engineering in patients with leukaemia. What matters at the end of the day is healing outcomes, as all our “so called” science is to help patients in distress. Predicting the unpredictable outcomes based on our reductionist thinking is akin to trusting astrological predictions.

The million dollar question is: could we learn from nature about the working of such cells which are pluri-potent in nature? My good friend, Bart Flick, a noted orthopod at University of Georgia, could answer at least a part of this question along with another great researcher, Professor Rustum Roy at Penn. State.

Bart was lucky to have had training under that great electric man of medicine, Becker in New York University in the 1950s. While a household salamander could regrow its cut tail in a few days, a frog or you and I cannot do that! Why does this happen? How could the salamander, a less evolved animal, do that? It reminds me of how snakes can suck their myocardial blood directly from the ventricles through small holes in the endocardium that spread the blood through fine meshwork of vessels all over, while we, the higher evolved creatures, need a separate circulation — the coronary tree, which seems to be the best business where we claim to improve their blood supply with our interventions (going in between with malice)!

Silver is a great healer of human ills from “times out of mind” in Indian Ayurveda. Rustum Roy could get nano-silver particles in water to heal many ills. Bart did similar experiments on wound healing. In place of the conventional dressing, Bart dressed wounds with silver mesh that got a small current from a DC source.

The latter might do two things — a) it might get the silver deposited as nano-particles on the wound thereby avoiding any infection, and b) also reverse the cell wall polarity at the cut ends for the cells to grow. The wounds heal! He has even healed fingers with the terminal digit cut off to re-grow to full fingers with finger nails and finger prints! That is not my story today. Bart did something wonderful which tickled me. He learnt a great lesson from nature as a bonus!

He was fascinated to see some gelatinous glistening debris on the healing wounds stuck to the inside of the silver mesh. He cleverly sent the material to the laboratory without telling them where it came from! Lo and behold, the report said that it was from the bone marrow with many blast (mother) cells that are pluri-potent. I understand that as a great lesson that nature had to teach us, but we did not learn until Bart came up with his innovations. If a conducive environment is created nature can produce pluri-potent cells (akin to stem cells) at the site, without our expensive stem cell research, to repair the cuts without any effort on our part. This is called observational research and learning science from nature. This is not trying to teach nature a lesson or two as our moon voyagers and stem cell researchers are trying to do and achieve the impossible with their grants. I do not think Bart got any grant for this serendipitous research outcome. I strongly feel that this kind of research of carefully observing nature as to how it tries to keep man (or any other creation) alive on this planet deserves the best Nobel Prize.

A simple Pulsed Electromagnetic Field energy could stimulate the ischemic myocardium to re-grow new perforating vessels to relieve anginal pains as also to increase the left ventricular ejection fraction. My friend, Glen Gordon, who invented this simple device was himself a patient waiting for a heart transplant after a massive heart attack from which he survived by the skin of his teeth.His ingenuity from his dying bed did the trick and made him walk out of the hospital with his own heart remodeled to bicycle through half of the United States to convince his doctors at Washington University Hospital that he was alive and kicking. Glen Gordon is another great innovator and a nature observer.

Let us teach our brilliant scientists, our young children in school, that true science is learning from nature. Let us change our educational system from rote learning and memorizing to creative curiosity in every child where it is dormant. Every new born child is but a genius waiting to be allowed to blossom (e=out, ducare=deliver). Let not their schooling come in the way of their education! While a good teacher teaches, a better teacher preaches, the best teacher reaches the child’s heart! Thank God for giving me such great friends like Rustum Roy, Bart Flick and Glen Gordon.

About the Author
Dr Belle Monappa Hegde was the visiting professor at various universities. He has been the chairman of Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan in Mangalore for the last 35 years. He has authored 35 books in English and Kannada besides presenting 289 research papers in the country and abroad.

“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”
—Oscar Wilde

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