Paradigm Shift: Health and Healing


presented to the New York State Communication Association Annual Conference, October 2004, Kerhonkson, New York.


On the May 18, 2004, edition of NBC's Today Show, Al Roker did a story bout going back to his old school in Queens. One of the main issues he raised was how teachers have to work harder today than when he was there because of shorter attention spans. Electronic media habits, video games, etc. were cited as likely causes.

Later in one of the show's breaks, there was an ad for adult ADD from Strattera.



Several controversies related to different aspects of applied science are being played out in the spotlight of our national attention. At the same time that electronic games and electronic media are more popular that ever before among the nation’s youth, children are increasingly being diagnosed with a variety of conditions. At the same time that mass media are generating revenues from the pharmaceutical sector, the research and marketing practices of drug companies are being called into question. In adition, a battle seems to be brewing between “traditional” and “alternative” approaches to health and behavoral issues.


Tony Attwood, author, lecturer, and a pioneer in the field of Aperger’s Syndrome—sometimes called high-functioning autism—shares a question from a child diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome: Do you think we are the next step in human evolution?


My purpose in this essay is to argue that the controvesies being played out in the national spotlight repesent a small portion of what Thomas Kuhn calls a paradigm shift. Specifically, they represent an emerging (some might say on-going) shift in the science of health and healing.


The normal science of today--as applied through some modes of contemporary medical research and through the medical practices of some member of the health industry (pediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc.)--is no longer capable of explaining what is happening. At the same time, so-called “alternatives” are emerging and are being marginalized by proponents of “normal science.” Yet, increasingly, “alternatives” seem to be working for some segments of the population.


Indeed, the very question of what constitutes knoweldge is being addressed in the media spotlight. Theories of causation are being reformulated. Human communication and consciousness itself are being restructured by our electronic media of communication.


Through the analysis of several contemprary issues on health and healing, insights into the structure of our current scientifc revolution are revealed.


[See bibliography.]