Saturday, June 18, 2011


The point of the elevator/door story is, of course, that scientists are trained skeptics.

It never fails to amaze me when people just take their doctor's word for something insane. I could give examples all day ("Your kid won't use a fork! He must have something wrong with him!!" Or... he's two). Or when they simply believe something insane (vaccines cause autism! sinus infections are contagious! homeopathy is not the placebo effect!) that is contrary to all evidence.

I know that I spent ten years being trained to evaluate evidence. I know that my already-high level of skepticism is now at the top of the scale, and that respect for authority, including medical, is ingrained in kindergarten, along with standing-in-line.*

But I always think of that line from The Wizard of Oz: "But they have one thing you haven't got: a diploma."

*Such a truly American thing, our patient and orderly line-forming. Or possibly, legacy of British Empire.


  1. I too have been trained to evaluate evidence, so it was particularly horrifying to me when I found myself freaking out when my pediatrician's office inquired whether I wanted to participate in a clinical trial for a vaccine. (Don't remember what for--haven't read the informed consent yet.) Because some reptilian part of my brain was like VACCINES BAD!

    (Speaking of BAD, thank you for the photo of your gorgeous boy sucking down a beer. Priceless.)

  2. Yeah, but... an untried vaccine? A vaccine that 5 million children a year get is kind of different than one they've tried on, like, 200 people. I'd run the heck away too. Clinical trials SCARY!

    You're very welcome for the photo. He was a little pudgeball. And he still loves beer.

  3. Just FYI - if someone (ahem) subscribes to your blog via RSS, that someone can't see the comments, or even that one could leave/view comments. Not sure if that's your issue, or mine.

    (New computer - reloading bookmarks individually because old computer so hosed at this point I can't export them. Whee!)

  4. Mary: Er... how about now? I think I fixed it. But I don't even really know what an RSS feed is, so... er..

  5. My standard phrase for health care providers is a sweet "Oh how interesting! Could you please show me the studies?" Works like a charm. And I still adore my mid wife, in spite of her repeated recommendations for homeopathy.

  6. My midwives were totally into homeopathy and acupuncture! Despite their otherwise completely non-flaky natures.


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