Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Physicians Are "Science Professionals"

At least that's what the IDiots say [Medical Doctors a Fast Growing Segment of Darwin Doubting Science Professionals].

Who knew? I suppose we shouldn't be surprised if they think an M.D. degree makes you a "science professional." After all, these are some of the same people who think the Earth is only 10,000 years old.

UPDATE: Turns out that many of these medical doctors are actually dentists [Dentists Against Darwin]. Sheesh!


  1. Bah, doctors are science professionals like engineers are -- practitioners of a craft which depends on the results of empirical science, which is (on good days) informed and advanced by the best of that science, but not necessarily "scientists" (though some of the more research-heavy individuals in both fields may cross over that line).

  2. Physicians I know are generally very intelligent, hard working folks.

    These same people are generally very one-dimensional. The good ones know this and acknowledge it. The goofballs like DI's Michael Egnor suffer from intellectual hubris.

    They are not scientists, nor are they "science professionals". In fact, many of the physicians I've dealt with are really not much more scientifically literate than a well-read accountant or lawyer.

    I agree with eamon, though. . . there are obviously physicians who do real research, and they are decidedly scientists.

    One has to remember that the DI is not a "think tank". They are a propaganda machine, and their target audiences are the credulous bible thumpers that fill those big round churches every Sunday.

  3. As I pointed out here a long time ago, the DI blatantly lied about the poll results they cite. The overwhelming majority of doctors surveyed favored evolution and called ID a "religiously inspired pseudo-science". The DI turns this into favorable news only by playing switcheroo with the survey questions.

    As for the whole "growing number" thing, that seems to be another one of their fantasies. The Finklestein survey was a one-time poll and so obviously can't support the notion that pro-ID doctors are either growing or shrinking. The only evidence they have for this claim then is that their "list of dissenters" has grown from pathetically small to pathetically small. 260 doctors out of 15 countries? I dare say, given the huge number of doctors that 15 countries will hold, you could get a better response for homeopathy, exorcism, or faith healing.

  4. I've prepared a graph of these numbers. How overwhelming these numbers are becomes clear when you compare them to other numbers, see here, here, here and here.

  5. "Tech support for the human body", in a nutshell. It's an applied science field along the lines of engineering. Unless you're a research doctor, science is not what you live.

    Not to say that it's not hard work, but it relies a lot more on experience and in some cases manual skill than scientific mojo. Each patient fails to be a proper experiment, because patients seldom come with controls, unless you're lucky enough to get a lot of twins business. Specialists in certain syndromes are likely the most science-exposed, since they're not only looking for the latest research, but have patients with something in common.

    It has to be said that there's also a significant luck factor involved, and people sometimes get a bit odd when it comes to things they have no control over (witness baseball players)

    There's also the doctor-patient relationship. Whereas I might actually be really thankful for a doctor who could admit to not knowing, I imagine a great majority of people like them to be "sure". I don't know how the guesses-as-fact affects people in the long term, but it might make them more inclined to surety when there is no such thing.

    Exposure to the science on their way to becoming physicians certainly helps as an inoculant, as a great many non-kooky doctors can attest to. It's no polio vaccine, though :)

  6. It's worth bearing in mind that medical schools have, for the past several years, been pushing hard to rouse more applicants to their MD/PhD programs - and as difficult as they are to survive, they're now one of the easiest ways to get into medical school (perhaps I should say "easier").

    Also, it's pretty much a standard rule that the -best- physicians in the field are those that carry out research. You can literally tag a physician's eminence in the field by his publication record.

    So, while not all doctors are scientists, one ought to at least bear in mind that the BEST doctors are.

  7. I've met far too many physicians who tend to co-prescribe "Alternative" therapies alongside "Allopathic" Medicines.

    A lot of them (even specialists) tend to trust "my personal experience with my patients" in judging treatment regimens, rather than RCTs.

    So I'll have to say that No, unless proven otherwise in individual instances, Physicians are definitely not "Science Professionals".

  8. Dentists Against Reality, more like!


  9. I work with clinician-scientists every day of my career (I'm a biomedical scientist, Ph.D. and all).

    There is no question that some physicians are excellent scientists (doing both basic and clinical science). A well-conducted randomized trial is as much a science experiment as a well-conducted manipulation of HeLa cells.

    But my family physician is not a scientist. She has not trained in the scientific method. Granted, there science was involved in the development of the medicine she practices, but she herself is not a scientist.

    Declaring an M.D. a scientist simply because of the degree has long been one of my pet peeves.

  10. Maybe dentists aginst Darwin was just tongue in cheek.