Don't Blame Science for Bad Doctors

Science is a method for separating fact from fiction. Doctors and therapists are trained in science—the two are not the same thing. We shouldn't reject science because of bad doctors for the same reasons we shouldn't reject education because of bad teachers. This rejection tendency is a prime example of a heuristic gone wrong.

Scientists can loosely be put in two categories: practitioners and researchers. I say "loosely" because there are many practitioners who are also researchers, or practitioners who run a strict research-based practice. The scientific method is an integral part of any researcher's daily life, whereas practitioners, such as medical doctors or therapists who treat patients or clients for a living can begin to incorporate personal experience, anecdote, and "gut feeling" into their practice. While this is not always a bad thing, this is an abandonment of the scientific process. An example is doctors in the 1950s who endorsed smoking not based on research but on other factors mostly surrounding personal biases and other reasons.

The bottom line is that science, as a methodology, cannot be judged by the behavior of doctors because there is often a large disconnect between the two. Some doctors have a strong understanding of the scientific method and are consistent with science-based medicine, practice, and research while others are not. Trust science as a method, but approach any claims with a healthy dose of skepticism.

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