Research and Conversations

I use an app called “Ten Percent Happier” to help me with guided meditations, and learning about meditation in general. I’ve had a regular meditation practice for years, and this app is part of the reason it sticks.  

One of the guided meditations that I came across is by a guy named Jeff Warren — one of my favorite teachers featured in the app (there are many). This particular mediation is intended to be done during a creative activity. I chose, for that activity, posting to this blog. What you read below is edited, but not much. The exercise was to “let it flow” without any editing at all.

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A quote about an article from The Free Press called “The Reason There’s Been No Cure For Alzheimer’s”… talking about a prevailing theory that seems to draw all the funding, but simply is not showing any appreciable results, despite any hyped rhetoric. …   “Acknowledging that this theory may be a dead end would mean entire careers and billions of dollars have all been devoted to the wrong idea. Not only that—there is no clear path to the right one.”

I’ve always known that “following the money” is a path to the Truth behind research, but to attach it to Alzheimer’s is a real punch in the gut.  My Mom died, essentially of Alzheimer’s, in 2018. She was really “no longer with us” for 3-5 years prior to that.

In Project Management, we are taught, when making estimates, to ignore “sunk costs.” It’s almost impossible, in practice, but we can improve our estimation if we at least try to keep that idea in mind.

“Sunk Costs” are the devil in any conversation where people disagree. We all have “attachments” — a very similar idea as “sunk costs.”  If we could let go of them, we’d more easily see any truth that might be in front of us.

I want to believe in science. But science is done by scientists. And scientists are people. And people need to fund their research. And people who fund research need to justify the allocation of those funds. So they will naturally side with prevailing wisdom; popular theories. 

But when the prevailing wisdom is wrong, that’s bad — right? But we can’t just allocate funds willy-nilly anywhere, right?  That would be wrong, too.

So how to put the money where the best possible solution might be? 

Maybe that’s the wrong question. 

How often do we “know” that we’re “on the right track,” and yet we’re not? How do we know we are? Don’t we always feel like we are?  I mean, being on the wrong track feels just like being on the right track — right?

Somehow, in my mind, this idea of research is similar to the idea of a conversation. It’s all about searching for truth.

Unfortunately, doing research is so often like making a case for what you believe, rather than trying to find the Truth (capital T).

So where does the idea of trust come into play in the world of research?  I can place the need for trust in a conversation — but in research? 

We have to have people in charge of the funding of any kind of research — particularly research into health issues — who are interested in the truth, not (primarily) in making money, and definitely not in covering their asses (or assets). 

If the prevailing wisdom doesn’t seem to be working, then somebody has to be able to say “then it shouldn’t be prevailing” — and that defines where the money goes.