Believing It Makes It True
“For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” —Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 17:20
This is another philosophical one that I’ve been stewing on lately, partly—just partly, mind you—because I am continually exposed to videos made by keto doctors.
Now these keto doctors claim that mainstream “orthodox” physicians and nutritionists, and probably most biochemists also, are mistaken with regard to the workings of human metabolism, the central role of glucose in biochemical respiration, the causes of metabolic diseases, and so on; and they produce plenty of evidence in support of their claims. Furthermore, there are plenty of case histories of people who followed keto diets prescribed by these alternative experts with astonishing results, improving their health dramatically, and in some cases even multiplying their testosterone levels several times over.
Even so, I remain skeptical over this new nutritional gospel. I took biochemistry in college, so I’m fairly confident that glucose, and carbohydrates in general, aren’t poison or anywhere near to being poison. It may be that the central importance of glucose metabolism is an artifact, based on the fact that glucose metabolism was the first to be extensively studied and more or less understood by chemists (like Dr. Krebs of the almost kind of famous Krebs cycle), but still, I’m pretty sure that most aerobic respiratory metabolism in living beings on this planet is based on it. Also, even though our early stone age ancestors may have eaten mostly animal protein for many tens of thousands of years, our digestive system and our teeth are designed for an omnivorous diet including plenty of plants, and for the past several thousand years most of our ancestors have been living on a high-carbohydrate agricultural diet. Lots of grain-eating may have been unnatural in our species fifteen thousand years ago, but it stopped being unnatural long ago, and we have evolved to live with it. We still can get diabetes from too much sugar and starch, especially if our ancestors weren’t agriculturalists, but still, we are not designed by nature to be primarily carnivorous.
But I have been adopting a materialistic, scientistic point of view thus far in this, so I may as well quit that and get more seriously philosophical. I would dearly love to see one of these keto experts, these fellows who are so certain that they are correct, debate….not a mainstream doctor or nutritionist or biochemist (though that would be interesting too), but a high-level Christian Science practitioner.
So for those of you unfamiliar with Christian Science, or its revered founder Mary Baker Eddy, I will enlighten you, just a little. Christian Science is, for starters, not materialistic in the philosophical sense, and thus, to them, this world is generated by Mind. Also, God created the universe, and God is necessarily good…and so nothing bad can possibly really exist in this world. Phenomena like evil and sin and bad health simply do not really exist. They just don’t. And so bad health, like diseases or even broken bones, are merely an illusion, conjured up by an unwise and inferior mind (inferior to God that is). Thus being sick comes close to being a sin in Christian Science…although sin can’t really exist in a world created by God, who is infinitely good.
The thing is, though, that Christian Science also has resulted in spectacular healings and curings also, possibly even several-fold increases in testosterone levels, or at least in virility—testosterone as a material substance not really existing to the Christian Scientists. The last section of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by reverend teacher Mary Baker Eddy, practically a second Bible to Christian Scientists, is called “Fruitage,” if I remember correctly, and contains about a hundred pages of appended testimonies from people who were miraculously healed of various maladies just by reading the book, and believing it. Many or even most of these healings were of maladies known to be conditioned by psychosomatic factors, like asthma, tuberculosis, bad digestion, and bad eyesight; but I remember one case involved a forty-pound tumor, and another a broken arm.
I must admit that my own position comes very much closer to the Christian Scientists than to the emphatically materialistic and scientistic keto doctors, let alone the mainstream doctors not so long ago that were assuring everyone that all you have to do to prolong your life by three point something years on average is to stop eating eggs—because of course at the time cholesterol was proven to be more or less toxic. It wasn’t even controversial. But now of course it’s the bread in your breakfast that is toxic.
From the Buddhist perspective, karma conditions our “physical” state, and karma is essentially a mental state. Karma, a mental state, governs to a profound degree such “physical” phenomena as health.
The thing is, just as the Christian Science practitioner is able to heal illnesses with little more than deep faith, the same is true of the materialist physician: It is said that we no longer live in an age of faith, but that is not true, and can never really be true. We have to believe in, and have faith in, SOMETHING; and it’s simply the case that now our faith is substantiated by different means. Now it’s not holy revelations and miracles performed by saints but rather measured and recorded data, and repeatable empirical results, but still it is faith in the narrative that strengthens and validates it, just as with faith healers. We just think differently now, and look to support for our faith in different directions than our ancestors did. That is my take on things anyhow.
Our beliefs condition our reality (our perceptions condition our perceptions), and a Stone Age animist was living in a different world than ours, even though the trees and animals and sky and so forth might look similar. Likewise with a classical pagan or a medieval Christian or a premodern Buddhist—their beliefs regarding the nature of their reality WAS their reality. Their conventional reality anyway, if not the Ultimate one.
So now we have a minor battle of paradigms between “orthodox” doctors and keto doctors, with the ultimate winner, if there is one, being the one which produces the most convincing, and thus the most faith-inspiring, case. It is the same with everything in our world.
Some may say that anyone believing anything insane, like a person believing himself to be the Messiah, would disprove this hypothesis, though the Christian Science people, and others, say that there is a deep subconscious empathic agreement among people in this world with regard to basic facts, such as physical events and natural laws. A lunatic either doesn’t believe in his delusions at a deep enough level (and some psychotic people may be cut off from deeper levels in some way), or else the sheer force of everyone else’s beliefs in this Plato’s cave overpowers the individual delusion with what is essentially mass delusion.
Hence the archaic Buddhist practice, as described so mind-bogglingly in the Atthakavagga of the Sutta-Nipata, of not believing anything at all, not even Buddhist philosophy, not even the information provided by our sense organs, not even simple choices between yes and no, is and isn’t. Do we have an immortal soul? For that matter, do we exist at all? The answer is not yes, not no, not yes AND no, not neither yes NOR no. Don’t even think about it, because what you believe enslaves you and keeps you stuck and wallowing in Samsara.
In Buddhist philosophy and in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, just to mention two sources, there are two truths, or two levels of truth: conventional truth, the thing as it seems, which is what we are working with when we use words and other symbolic descriptions; and ultimate truth, the thing as it really is, which is unspeakable and truly unthinkable. And really, only the second kind of “truth” is really true. Thus all philosophies, including the scientific realism of mainstream doctors and keto doctors, and including Christian Science and even the highest Buddhist philosophy, are ultimately invalid deviations from Reality.
And so, perhaps needless to say, the reason why well educated and presumably even intelligent “progressives” in the west can believe such blatant drivel is because believing it is sufficient to make it true, at least for themselves.