OCTOBER 3rd 2009
Many have maintained, with G.K.Chesterton, that by seeking the heart of paradox, we can find a higher truth. In the same way, the polarisation of opinion in the modern world as conflicts reach critical levels may, contrary to what many suppose, lead to agreement. To get there, we may have to listen carefully to those we disagree with, accept the experience that engenders their opinion, and find a reality in which apparently irreconcilable facts can all be true because the nature of the underlying reality surpasses the supposed one.

Take for example the arguments for and against 'organic' agriculture on the one hand and the intensive, controlled appliance of modern science and economy of scale to maximise output of produce on the other. There is disagreement on the facts, on the interpretation of the facts, and on the result of any future outcome even if the aforementioned were to be agreed on.

Another good example would be orthodox and alternative medicine, such as Homeopathy.

Religions are in a category apart, in that they are based squarely on tradition. Their claim to validity is based on the historic survival of the culture that has adopted them. Science can change the interpetation of its peer-reviewed experimental results whenever observation so dictates.

The IgNobel Prizes awarded today included:
VETERINARY MEDICINE: Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson for showing that cows with names give more milk than unnamed cows.
Modern Science tells us that is ridiculous, but I am sure you will have guessed that cows who have been given names are in the charge of those whose animal husbandry is superior in  most or every respect to others. The cows give more milk bcause the farmers give them and their environment more attention. An enquiry amongst the farmers in question would reveal that they would agree. Giving cows names is an indication they know them and recognise them and would detect any change in their demeanour. The animals also respond to personal attention and possibly to their names. Such care would be reflected in all aspects of management and the cumulative result would be seen in the milk yield as well as general physical and mental health of the animals.

In the Steiner method of agriculture, blind statistical analysis of the grapes from Steiner Method vineyards and of the wine made from them shows a consistent superiorty of the method in achieving results. Steiner's methods include the abandonment of intensive methods and chemical fertilisers, see It also uses the phases of the moon as a guide to the timing of certain operations, as do many other traditional agricultural practioners. Scientists say: Why should the moon make a blind bit of difference? It could, probably not for the reasons those who follow its phases think, but because it provides a regulatory timetable which controls the activity of agricultural workers better than the strictest gang-master. While I am not insisting that the time-table thereby enforced could not synchronize with a minute reflected radiant or gravitational lunar influence on the surrounding nature, it is more likely the effect of
imposing a timetable that is followed religiously is likely to lead to optimum management, preventing over-interference on the one hand and neglect on the other by humans tending to the plants.
The same applies to those who 'talk' to plants. While I am not at this point eliminating the possibility of plants to respond to human presence and sonic vibrations at vocal frequencies, the fact is you can't talk to a plant without looking at it. That means you will notice of it is too dry, too wet, or subject to attack. That may be better than a regime of watering that may be too much, or too little.

In a recent programme on BBC Radio 4 "
The Great Mineral Heist" the point was well made that the low level of mineral and vitamin nutrition in much produce that results from intensive farming is due to the disproportionate and rapid growth of the carbohydrate and protein structure of the plant as a whole. It is weight and appearance are, unfortunately, what decides the value of crops, land, methods and supermarket sales, to the real detriment of human health and wealth, quite apart from the taste of the food in question. If modern intensive methods were used properly, not to achieve maximum yield by every means incuding the speed of growth and the size of fruit or seed, and if the choice of strain was made for taste and mineral content, organic would have no advantage. Grapes produced by the Steiner Method will thus be superior because of what is abandoned in the way of conventional fertilisers, and by the choice of land for its poverty, as much as what is provided by the subtler introduction of yeasts and compost matured in cow-horns.

The paradoxical conclusions drawn on alternative medicine have led, as the moment of crisis in medical costs and as success and failure in our national health beset society at the same time - a paradox itself of incredible proportions - to a better understanding of the placebo effect. I have covered elsewhere on this site some years ago the reason why homeopathic treatment may be successful in humans and animals even if the effect is linked to placebo/attention/diagnostic factors and the avoidance of equally useless or even harmful orthodox medical treatment rather than any chemical effect of homeopathic treatment. That is not to rule out the latter, as the phenomenon of resonance in the subatomic structure of space-time is way beyond the competence of most scientists to even pass an opinion (not that this stops them).

I intend in due course as time passes to continue in this file with the resolution of some more profound paradoxes that apply to what we call science and the contradictions that arise when taking science, politics, economics and traditional morality and religion to extremes. It is only by exploring what appear to be insoluble paradoxes that we can change our minds. When we have changed our minds, changing our opinions will no longer be a necessity.