Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Chapter 5: Experimental method in the madness: Miss Sci-Gone.

There is something fascinating about science.  One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi, 1883

Is there anymore of this trifle left?
Allen A. Alan, Why I Love Cottage Pie, 1999.

Illness: Miss Sci-Gone
Discovered by: The Miss Sci-Gone phenomenon was first haphazardly noticed by Dr Dean Burnett during his misguided attempts to administer scientific reasoning to homeopathic practitioners. As Dr Burnett is a neuroscientist, only aware of the simple workings of the actual human nervous system rather than a definitely properly trained placebologist with a full assumed understanding of alternative biology, he was ignorant of the devastating reaction they would exhibit. To this day these homeopathic practitioners wander the streets, clutching at any pseudoscience they can cram into their gibbering mouths. If you see them step away and watch in horror as they shamble past; throwing tarot cards at pigeons they consider insolent, rubbing their grimy bodies with the shattered remains of crystal skulls and reading Dan Brown novels.
Epidemiology: The exact nature of the spread of Miss Sci-Gone in the population is difficult to determine as the symptoms of the early stages of the syndrome are often similar to the normal behaviours of amateur practitioners of alternative medicine. Those in the advanced stages of Miss Sci-Gone are more easily recognised but are rendered impossible to study as scientific scrutiny of their symptoms further exacerbates them. Fortunately placebologists as alternative scientists have more sophisticated methods of analysis at their disposal. They do not apply science to these unfortunate individuals and thus can avoid making their condition worse. More advanced research methods place the proportion of the population afflicted with Miss Sci-Gone as, “Signs point to yes” and in extreme cases, “Outlook not so good”.
Aetiology: The symptoms of Miss Sci-Gone all result from an allergic reaction to scientific analysis. As scientific analysis is required to diagnose the syndrome an attempt at diagnosis can make the sufferer much worse. In fact even if someone doesn’t have Miss Sci-Gone and someone tries to diagnose them they may suddenly develop the allergy and get Miss Sci-Gone. Miss-Sci-Gone is therefore a fairly unusual disease in that it can be caused by itself.
In actual biology an allergy occurs when the immune system overreacts to a normally benign stimulus. The alternative immune system is in many ways a more sophisticated construct in that while capable of protecting the alternative body from alternative disease it can also protect the alternative body from bad vibes and from feeling a bit iffy. Science being a method of developing and testing models that approximate the truth can make those with a highly developed alternative immune system feel a bit ill at ease as it exposes the alternative body to bad vibes and facts that conflict with what it might want to be true.  Exposure to the truth can be harmful to the alternative body and when the alternative immune system overreacts to this exposure then the symptoms of Miss Sci-Gone occur.
Symptoms: All of the symptoms are produced as a result of the alternative body’s rejection of all things scientific. On initial exposure to science a sufferer of Miss Sci-Gone will initially feel a general state of poor health and feeling ill at ease. At this point the alternative immune system is halting the entry of the potentially damaging truth by blocking the mind-pipes. As the mind-pipes fully contract and close completely the alternative body starts to accumulate damage, clogging with data. Only self-generated inaccuracies prevail. Individuals may start making ridiculous claims about the world like “rain doesn’t fall, it’s the earth jumping to catch clouds”, “biscuits are just cakes that got a bit sad” or “only science that works should receive funding”. If the abnormality is not corrected then sufferers can enter a terminal stage of Miss Sci-Gone where they start to exhibit truly bizarre ideas. They may start to form links with Washington neo-conservatives, try to flip their second homes, steal money from children and to not even recognise or understand the concept of science. At this stage the sufferer is described as being a bit Osborney. Following this there is no hope for the unfortunate individual and their days are numbered as soon as they start to think puns about musicals are funny. It is a truly wicked illness.  Less miserable than many but still so awful that not even cats could find it amusing. Grease is the word.
Treatment: Despite the best efforts of research placebologists there is currently no cure for Miss Sci-Gone. As such if individuals have to be treated symptomatically. Obviously nothing scientific can be used or the patient’s suffering would be exacerbated. Bulk standard homeopathy with or without chiropractic manipulation are often highly successful at symptom control and many people with Miss Sci-Gone can go on to lead literally lives. This is aided if they try to avoid all forms of science, a task made difficult by its impossibility.
This Dr Alan’s Alternative Illness was “thought up” in tribute to the Science is Vital Campaign. Please go to the website, sign the petition and write to your MP. Cuts to science funding in the UK would be disastrous and Science is Vital is doing something about it. Now have at it!

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