(4th post in a series)
Viewing a problem from a new perspective may well reveal the solution. Unfortunately, frequently we get locked into one view because that view has been continually reinforced by various institutions that have a vested interest in that viewpoint.
Let me give you an example.
Two years ago, my son was in eighth grade and required to do an original science fair project. He chose something icky involving growing bacteria in Petrie dishes. My creeped-out wife and I tried to dissuade him, but he was adamant, pointing out that this particular project more than satisfied all previously-declared parental criteria – his mom’s (“Absolutely no mice.”) and mine (“Just do something. Anything!”)
Ever the helpful dad, I brought a newspaper article to my son’s attention concerning bacteria. Apparently, hospitals have inadvertently created a dangerous strain of bacteria. These bacteria have learned to survive in spite of all the attempts to wipe them out. They are now so tough that even the harshest disinfectants and antibiotics can’t kill them. And that has become a huge problem for hospitals. In effect, the hospitals, in trying to be super-clean, have created a new enemy – super-bacteria – and infections caused by them have no known cure.
Something is obviously wrong. Perhaps the flaw resides in the way we look for a solution in the first place. Here we have a problem and our immediate (and perhaps only) instinct is to attack that which is causing the problem. Bacteria cause infections. Therefore the solution is obvious – kill the bacteria. Right?
But if bacteria have proven they can adapt and be able to survive all manners of disinfectants and antibiotics, then we will continually need to come up with stronger and stronger poisons. It won’t end. The trouble with that is, those increasingly strong poisons are certain to have a deleterious effect on the environment. Plus, your poison may kill the bacteria but it may also kill your patient.
After a certain amount of reflection on this dilemma, my then 14-year old son remarked, “Instead of inventing stronger disinfectants and antibiotics, why not focus our efforts on strengthening our immune systems?”
I thought it was a brilliantly insightful comment. Needless to say, the mainstream medical establishment and the pharmaceutical industry are so invested into attacking the problem that they cannot afford for a second to think in a new way. But frankly my son probably has the right approach.