In discussing why medical practice should be science-based, neurologist Steven Novella MD, writes: “Unfortunately most academics and health care professionals are simply naive to the situation (so-called “shruggies”) and too easily accept these assurances without checking out the facts themselves. Their initial reaction to those of us who are calmly but insistently pointing out that the CAM [complimentary and alternative medicine] emperor has no clothes is to assume that we must be overreacting, because CAM can’t truly be as bad as we say. Homeopathy can’t really be made of nothing, can it? But it’s a large industry, with entire hospitals in the UK. How can it be as nonsensical as the skeptics are saying?” (1)
I want to take this opportunity to again recommend the Science-Based Medicine website as well NeuroLogicaBlog. I have recommended these sites before because they are excellent places to learn about science, medicine, and how to tell the difference between science and nonscience as well as nonsense masquerading as science. One disclaimer. David Gorski MD, writes on the Science-Based Medicine website but usually about topics other than using animals in research. While I disagree with Dr Gorski on the value of animal models, I find all of his other writing to be excellent. To those who fail to make the distinction between the message and the messenger, I would just say that history is replete with smart people being wrong on one issue and or just being a*#holes in general and we do not dismiss everything else they ever discussed or contributed just because of these facts. I doubt one could find any top scientist in history that did not hold some odd position or engage in behavior that was suspect or even inappropriate. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Enough about that! If you are not reading NeuroLogicaBlog and Science-Based Medicine, you are missing out.
Getting back to Dr Novella’s comments . . . In my opinion the exact same thing could be said about the defense of animal models by the same people Dr Novella is referring to. The sad fact is that most people, regardless of education, are lazy, do not want to get involved with controversy, and or pretty much look out for number one. Consequently, society as a whole suffers. Niall Shanks was frequently upset with some academic biologist somewhere because he refused to speak out on creation and evolution. Most of the time, the biologist’s defense revolved around not wanting his house bombed. (While I have not conducted an exhaustive search on this, I do not recall any such bombing.) Nobody can confront every case of nonsense or immorality or wickedness in the world. Nevertheless, that does not excuse professionals, such as physicians, scientists, mathematicians, and engineers, from failing to confront any cases of nonsense, especially cases that intersect with their area of expertise. Regardless of how much you paid for your medical or scientific education, society contributed to it as well and society deserves more payback than merely the service you provide in medicine or academia or wherever you landed.
I close with the following two quotes. Samuel Johnson: “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.” Albert Einstein: “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”
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1. Novella S. Science, Medicine, and Academia. Neurologica; 2012 [updated January 23, 2012; cited 2012 January 24]; Available from: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/science-medicine-and-academia/.