Cognition & Reality

Friday, 12 November 2010

Physicians Aren’t “Scientists”

Although explaining psychological problems as “genetic” disorders as mediated by “chemical imbalances” obviously inflates doctors’ authority and efficacy, their enthusiasm for these types of explanation probably reflects their ignorance of scientific methods more than anything else. You can hardly watch a television “doctor show” without hearing one of the doctors referred to as a “scientist.” In spite of the widely-believed mythology of the medical profession that its members are scientists, however, physicians typically have no scientific training.

The medical school curriculum in North America and in most parts of the industrialized world has two main components, coursework and clinical training. Medical students are notoriously overworked. They take difficult courses, and spend countless hours on “rotations.” In their internships, the excessive length and frequency of their shifts is a matter of some controversy. Given their packed schedule, which really begins when they are undergraduate pre-med majors, and despite the requirement of some schools that they prepare a thesis, medical students have no time for a scientific education. They learn about science, taking courses in the medical sciences, but they do not do science. A  biochemistry course or two, no matter how demanding, does not make you a biochemist, nor does an honors thesis completed more or less as an afterthought.

Because most physicians have not had years of post-graduate training to develop the abilities necessary to a critical appraisal of research results, they tend to rely on secondary sources often issued under the influence of drug companies and other interested parties. They are, moreover, inclined to believe results that comport with the possibility of “curing” psychoemotional problems with medicine. And they’re inclined to propagate myths that magnify their own powers.



1 Comment »

  1. […] technical expertise to evaluating claims about the genetics of mental disorders. As I explained in yesterday’s post, even doctors are at sea when it comes to this topic, although they may not realize it. Therefore, […]

    Pingback by Scientific Authoritarianism « Cognition & Reality — Saturday, 13 November 2010 @ 11:41 am | Reply

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