Thursday, April 20, 2006

I'm Not Surprised

Over at Respectful Insolence there's a well-thought out post (via Pharyngula) about MDs who support Intelligent Design. Both Orac and PZ express surprise that there are so many doctors (and soon-to-be doctors) who believe in this sort of thing. I've got to tell them that I'm not nearly as surprised. Thanks to my wife, whom I've know since before she started med school, I've had the dubious privilege of witnessing the transformation of college graduates into practicing MDs. It has, shall we say, torn the scales from my eyes. These people are mortals, yea verily, with all of their foibles and failings. In med school they overslept, didn't study enough, drank to much, were catty and gossipy... all that good stuff. According to my wife med school is a lot like high school; its certainly not an inherently dignifying process. None of the above critique is terribly original, but it bears telling anyway. More telling (and perhaps more original) is an observation that my wife and I have made time and time again. Most (though not all, trust me on this one) MDs are smart in a book-learnin' sort of way, but most are neither wise nor reflective. This really disappointed my wife; she had hoped that one of the perks of becoming a doctor would be that she would get to know interesting people. This was true to some extent in med school; you have the opportunity to interact with people in all 4 classes, so just by sheer numbers there's more of a chance you'll find interesting people. This is not the case during residency. The number of people you work with and really get to know is greatly reduced. We've been able to find a small contingent of interesting people, but I think it grinds my wife down that she has to associate with dumbfucks every day. These people are at the top of the opportunity food chain; if anyone has ever had the ability to make something of themselves these are the folks. But frankly, I've had the opportunity to talk to some of these people and really, when you get right down to it they've got all the self awareness of a bag of hammers. This manifests itself, I think, in a number of ways. Physicians can be very superstitious people and tend to cling to tradition. Which would be fine, if sad, if this didn't have an adverse affect on their patients. You know what's a real big thing these days? "Evidence-based medicine". The first time I heard this phrase my initial thought was "as opposed to what?". Glad you asked. It turns out that many conditions are treated according to tradition rather than, say, according to current research. The worst part is that these book-smart folks like to think of themselves as up-to-date on the latest and greatest. When you point out that in many cases they're within spitting distance of Galen they don't take it too kindly. So no, it doesn't surprise me in the least that there's a whopping great number of physicians who support any one of a number of ridiculous ideas. There seems to be a systematic blindness, if not willful disregard, for evidence in favor of tradition among this set. Given that the ability to fairly evaluate evidence is less a function of education and more a function of true open-mindedness then there is little to separate physicians from the rest of the herd in this regard.

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