The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Monday, September 20, 2010

End o' Blog Break (Hopefully)

A lot has happened in the time I've taken off from seriously writing on this blog. Frankly, there's been too much to even recap, so I'm going to start anew. I'm even going to start anew with something old in that last night I watched the documentary Flock of Dodos.

I enjoyed this movie and it highlighted one of the main problems with science and scientists dealing with the general public: a lack of communication skills that are at the level of the layperson. I had a personal experience with this gulf, although not in the creation/evolution context. My wife, while dealing with the early breastfeeding stage of our new kid, had to get some medical intervention with milk production. The midwives recommended an herbal remedy in their kindly and personable way, and the doctor recommended a pharmaceutical in his cold and aloof way.

Now, the problem is that when I looked at the evidence for the herbal concoction, it didn't look promising at all. In fact, it seemed not to work at all when properly tested. The pharmaceutical seemed to have much better results and be less prone to being a placebo (or having to deal with the wackaloons at the natural/herbal store who had a printed sheet at the cash regsiter warning of the "dangers" of the flu shot...sigh....). My wife really wanted to believe the midwives because they seemed like they cared for her as a person, but the evidence lay with the zero-personality, you're-just-a-number-to-me doctor.

It reminded me of that scene in Patch Adams where Mitch and "Patch" are talking about being a prick:
Mitch: I will save lives that could have otherwise not been saved. Now, I could be like you and go around laughing and have a good time, ha ha, but I prefer to learn, because the more I learn the more likely I will have the right answer at the crucial moment and save a life. And you say I'm a prick? You say I'm a prick? You know, maybe I am but you ask the average person, when death comes knocking at their door whether they want a prick on their side or some kindergarten teacher who's gonna kiss their ass! Because when that day comes I want the prick and so will you.

Hunter "Patch" Adams: You know, I forget how young you are, Mitch that you think you have to be a prick to get things done and that you actually think that that's a new idea.
It's hard not to see both points of view here. While I don't think that you have to be a "prick" to handle the day to day of being a doctor, you do have to work your butt off and know your stuff. That kind of time committment and work ethic often doesn't lend itself to being a super-personable jokey individual, especially if you're dealing with life-threatening/changing events.

Conversely, scientists and doctors have to get on board with public relations in order to get the average Joe/Jane-on-the-street to understand and appreciate why they should, for example, get a yearly flu shot. If the medical/scientific community doesn't get the importance of this, they will (and are) get quickly out-voiced by ill-informed professional communicators - Bill Maher, Jenny McCarthy, et al. When your doctor and your midwife are telling you opposite information, the patient only sees two professional health-care providers giving differing advice, and the advice that gets followed often depends on who the patient wants to spend their time with and who made them feel good.

Sad but true. It's why naturopathy is so popular despite the sheer lunacy that is espoused by many of these people. I often tell people who ask that it is the same as me knowing nothing about how cars work, so any semi-professional auto enthusiast could very easily pull the wool over my eyes and sell me a flux capaciter. Obviously any mechanic would think I'm a complete rube, but it's not me - you can't be an expert in everything and as such, we have to be dependent on others to take care of us in the areas where we are not up to speed. Choosing which experts to trust in is a skill that we all need to brush up on and scientists/doctors would do well to make it easier for the public to warm up to good science.

1 Barbaric Yawps:

At 20/9/10 6:01 pm, Blogger Fall Garlic said...

Man you hit the nail on the head there. People who can talk who don't have any facts. Versus people who think the facts speak for themselves. Unfortunately facts only speak to very rational people. Other people need a little honey to take it in. Yes, I think you summed up the situation pretty nicely there. Well done.


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