Capital “T” Truth

Banting and Best with the first dog ever treated with insulin

In 1922, at the University of Toronto, scientists went to a hospital ward with children who were comatose and dying from diabetic keto-acidosis. Imagine a room full of parents sitting at the bedside waiting for the inevitable death of their child.

On that day in 1921, Dr. Frederick Banting and his medical student, Charles Best, went from bed to bed and injected the dying children with their new purified extract – insulin. As they began to inject the last comatose child, the first child injected began to awaken. One by one, all of the children awoke from their diabetic comas. A room of death and gloom, became a place of joy and hope.

By 1923, insulin had become widely available in mass production, and Banting and fellow researcher, Dr. Macleod were awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine. Charles Best, who was only a graduate student at the time, was not included in the award.

This amazing story from the stories of medical history serves as a great way to take a look at Truth and trust as it pertains to our own fraught time in history.

First, there is the matter of scientific research and the hunger to discover hidden truths. We owe our good lives today to earth-shaking discoveries such as electricity, penicillin, pain killers which permit surgery to occur, increasingly more sophisticated treatments for cancer, gravity, the structure of the solar system, and so many more.

Intelligent people take for granted the principle of gravity and take the appropriate precautions in the conduct of their lives. When we get ill, we don’t go to the local witch doctor to request a casting of the bones or a reading of the tea leaves. We want a reputable doctor to diagnose the pain and prescribe appropriate treatments.

When cancer invades our bodies, we don’t tell the doctor that we don’t believe in inoculations or the latest, best treatments. We say, “Help me get well.”

When we want to install the latest, best gadget in our homes, we take as true what the person at the electronics store tells us about the device and then call an electrician to install it. We believe that the science that produced the gadget is legit.

But then there’s the question of what would happen if what we think is true is only intermittently true. For example, what if half the time or a quarter of the time we flip the light switch something shocking or explosive happens? We’d never flip the switch and cease to trust electricity.

We’d never get on an airplane if we thought that there was only the slimmest chance that it would make it to Paris.

Or what if the doctor is only guessing about the benefits from surgery?

What I’m saying, second, is that, because of scientific endeavor, we come to benefit from discoveries. So we drive cars that we know will behave the same way, time after time, when we start the engines. We orient our days to the little time piece on our wrists, knowing that everyday at 12:00 PM the sun will be at its zenith. Every. Single. Day.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we are trusting our lives to knowable, objective, discoverable truth. That is capital T truth. Not my truth versus your truth, but TRUTH. Something we count on, invest money by, plan trips to Europe with, and hang our health on. TRUTH.

That Truth will function the same way for you as for me. And, without exceptions, TRUTH will always function the way we’ve observed it to function.

When Banting and Best discovered insulin, they discovered something that is virtually true for every single person who has diabetes, depending on the severity or other variables. Their discovery has saved millions and millions of lives since 1921 when they began using it.

When I was in elementary school, I began receiving Salk’s new polio vaccine (1955 is when it was approved) along with all my other school mates. We knew that taking the vaccine would protect us from the horrors of polio, including spending our entire lives in what was called an iron lung. No one had suspicions about the motives of the doctors and the legitimacy of the drug. We lined up and got the vaccine and the disease of polio basically went away. It took Salk’s dedicated work in a labratory to make the discovery.

Recently, the dreaded and deadly Ebola virus was curtained through careful medical strategy and inoculations. We actually saved some lives when in the past, Ebola was a death sentence.

Current conspiracy theories about the motives of Medicine are ludicrous. Those of us who grew up with measles and mumps know the value of being immune to those diseases through the simplicity of an inoculation in the arm. Easy peazy, as they say. We believed in capital T Truth and that legitimate discoveries were made in laboratories.

Which brings me to idea 3, namely, you have to trust someone. I recently had cancer. My doctors knew it was encapsulated and had not metastasized. They were also able to measure its changes in virulence, and when it reached the point that required treament, surgery permanently removed it. My doctors used MRI and biopsy to diagnose the cancer.

What if I had said something like, “Medicine is just out to get my money,” or “I don’t trust those MRI machines,” or “I’m afraid of anesthesia.” I wouldn’t be able to tell you that I’m cured today. But I trusted the doctors. I built my treatment strategy that if it was TRUE for my doctors, it was TRUE for me as well. Objective, knowable, discoverable TRUTH.

I will never understand why people trust Facebook and other such social media applications with their lives. Or Qanon. Or anti-vaxxers. Or anti-anything else. I believe in the doctor I can look in the eye. The doctors and nurses who, with compassion, repeatedly do things that ease pain, heal from disease, and sacrifice their lives for the good of others.

It boils down to my truth versus your truth or THE truth. I don’t want YOUR truth. I want THE truth.