Church of Pfizer – Science as the New Priesthood

As discussed earlier, the original discussion that led to the naming of “The Church of Pfizer” was one on that started with my perceived similarities between Science and Religion in the late 20th/early 21st century. The discussion was held in the summer of 2007 and so maybe a little outdated with regards my writing style.

The overall discussion burst, alien style, out of the chest of a discussion on the supernatural and people’s beliefs in the paranormal. The latter subject being one that I was loathe to comment on at the time; discussions on paranormal topics often start out friendly enough but usually devolve into either side shouting “Prove It”, “Don’t want to prove it” at each other whilst throwing rocks around and grunting.

I inadvertently began the flame war I was hoping to avoid by responding to a poster’s tongue-in-cheek comment on religion and backing up a comment someone else had already proposed:

‘Science’ is the new church and even less open or accountable than the old one. Scientists are the new priesthood. Neither should be accorded implicit respect or faith.

My repsonse:

I see little difference between religion and the basic understanding of paranormal lore – however I do ascribe to the propositions put forward by former Eton math tutor (by nom de plume) Ramsey Dukes, that society’s guiding forces can be divided into four cyclical aspects – Science, Religion, Art and Magic(k).

I also genuinely believe that we are moving out of a Religious/Science paradigm (Therefore scientists WERE the new priesthood – look at the way the New Inquisition (American Medical Association) disposed of Wilhelm Reich and his Orgone projects) into a Science/Magickal paradigm. (Some would argue thate we are moving out of an Art/Acience paradigm, I’d disagree) – viva Generation Hex!

Looking back, I cringe at my fanboy references to Uncle Ramsey and Saint Bob, like I can’t think for myself without falling back on the works of published authors.

Following this, a fellow poster responded on the side of the rational minded scientist:

Calling scientists “the new priesthood” is nonsense. Science actively pursues knowledge of reality and when new theories or facts emerge, the old theories are dropped or modified. In religion and superstition the seeking out of facts is actively discouraged. You are supposed to have faith i.e. you are to believe things whether there is proof of them or not and indeed even if there is a mountain of evidence against them.

Unlike the priesthood, scientists aren’t handed money by the public nor would people accept scientists dictating how they should behave in their private lives e.g. whether they should use contraception. The great majority of people disregard science and understand nothing about major issues like evolution, quantum theory and relativity, even though they are happy to enjoy the fruits of science. Most scientists are not well paid.

When a scientist makes a statement about some topic, if you disagree then you are perfectly at liberty to check his research or undertake your own and prove them wrong. In religion, if you do this you are a heretic or blasphemer. If society would allow them to do it I have no doubt that the religious establishment would love to persecute anyone who disagrees with them as they do still in many Muslim nations.

My response to this is both lengthy and studded with my feeble attempts to avoid slipping into a fundamentalism of my own; whilst other responses were shorter:

No but they do a very good job at been “holier then thou”.

Also the subject of funding and money. Most scientists will tend to come to the conclusions that match the views of their pay masters.

My own response follows, edited to remove names and to better fit into a wordpress format. I’ve tried to keep editing to a minimum, to keep the feel of the original rant.
Click here to see the whole thing

Church of Pfizer – Origins

I heard a radio advert for yet another “Stop Smoking or the Bunny Gets It!” advert this morning; like most adverts it finished with some hastily-spoken-at-low-volume audio fine print:

Brought to you by Pfizer

Well that’s what it sounded like anyway, it could have been anything considering the speed of the sound-byte. Either way it reminded me of a flame war conversation that was held on the British Horror Film Forum a couple of years back, during which I coined the term “the Church of Pfizer” as a catch all way of referring to the New Inquisition – or more clearly stated, the dogma and beliefs of devout followers of Science (with a capital S).

The term appeared in reference to the medication I take on a daily basis to manage my Diabetes and associated complications;

I am a type 1 diabetic. I self-administer 2 subcutaneous injections of a mixed human analog insulin a day to “live”. I lived for years beforehand without my twice daily prayer rituals to the Church of Pfizer and have only the word of a venerable “specialist” to state that I need it.

I appreciate that out of the context of the original discussion, this sounds a little facetious. The original discussion had started when I supposed that the 20th century could be seen to have evolved into a Science/Religion paradigm and that Scientists were the new priesthood (an idea put forward far more eloquently by the dearly missed St. Bob).

The point really comes from a discussion that I had with my GP shortly after being diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic. To keep my cholesterol levels down, I am prescribed 10mg of Atorvastatin (Pfizer) to be taken orally every night. When my GP saw that I had been prescribed that particular “brand” of statin he exclaimed surprise. I probably shouldn’t have picked up on it but I did. Asking for an explanation, my GP kindly offered me one.

He explained that he would have prescribed an alternate statin; when asked why, he explained that his favoured brand had been tested on a demographic of around 10,000 men of all ages in the North of England from the 1960’s onward and that the results showed that the statin had a positive preventative effect on the complications of high cholesterol (such as Heart Disease).

My GP went on to explain that the statin I had been prescribed had been tested for a short period in the 1990’s, on a demographic of around 1,000 middle aged men and women on an island in the Mediterranean. The studies showed that the statin was highly effective at rapidly reducing blood cholesterol counts but there was not yet any evidence as to whether it was as efficacious as other statins with regards long term complications.

(I should add the caveat that the exact details of the conversation are lost to the mists of time, this is just the crux – facts and figures may be out but the point is the proportional difference between studies)

We discussed this at length and both agreed to keep the prescription as was, the Hospital presumably having its own reasons for the prescription.

I’m a scientist at heart, I studied Molecular Biology at University and work in computing (which, granted, can have its arcane moments); I also maintain an open mind to new ideas and have recently found myself sympathetic to zeteticism. That being said, the rising fundamentalism within the Church of Pfizer does worry me. We the public take everything for granted; in my case I assume that my doctors are right and the pills and needles are essential to a healthy life (despite the fact that they can no longer agree on a correct diagnosis of my condition). There are other concerns, that should become apparent when I resurrect the discussion from the BHF. I may actually edit it (to protect the innocent) and post it here for posterity.