Monday, September 22, 2014

Doctors Within Borders

I've forgotten most of what I learned in medical school. What was valuable to me, as a surgeon, I learned during residency. With a gun to my medulla oblongata I couldn't conjugate a Krebs cycle or frabulate a benzene ring. Sure, I still know about the rudiments of certain organs' physiology, something about how a few drugs work. Anatomy? Most of it didn't really sink in until it mattered in the OR. The stuff duly memorized in front of a blank TV and excreted back into a quiz book is mostly gone. And I don't expect I'm entirely exceptional in my forgetting. We retain what's useful.

Yet it's hard to imagine anyone making it through medical school without at least some understanding of the scientific method rubbing off deeply enough to stick. It's, like, the foundation of all modern medical inquiry; and it provides the means, on one's own, to evaluate new concepts, to be able to distinguish good research from bad. Mediocrity, I guess, can be achieved and maintained by rote and uninquisitive learning; and it's certainly true that not everyone who has an M and a D and a couple of dots after his or her name is above the 50th percentile in intelligence. (Look at this guy. Read about him, too.) But it's an enduring mystery to me that so many R physicians elected to public office are lunatics. Pig-headed. Entirely refractory to the lessons of reality. Or, alternatively, conscience-free panderers and prevaricators.

Listen to this guy, and wonder if he's actually stupid enough to believe this shit, or if he's a deliberate liar who assumes his audience is. Congress is full of physician science-deniers, every single one of them a Republican. Here's another, a proud member of the House science committee (who, happily, overstepped his ego and lost a bid to become Georgia's next senator). (The guy set to replace him is even worse, but he's a man of god, not a doc.) Here's yet another. A Georgian, too, wtf.

They're not alone, of course, among their colleagues. But virtually every one of them is on the record denying global climate change, or making ridiculous claims about homosexuality. And Obamacare. A lot of them have flatly rejected the fact of evolution. Nor are there only one or two such split-brain creatures. There are gobs. And more in the pipeline. (What is it with neurosurgeons, anyway?)

On some level, I find it as embarrassing as I do mystifying. I feel a certain kinship with all physicians. When docs are uncovered as fraudsters (a lot of that, too, lately); when incompetence or shameless greed within the profession are revealed, I take it personally. It's degrading to us all. But this peculiar political idiocy is a special category, somehow, and beyond the usual sort of human insufficiencies. I get that many, if not most, docs are "conservatives," and mostly for the expected reason: don't wanna pay taxes. And maybe it's just as simple as the truism that human beings run the gamut from thoughtful progressives to hateful reactionaries, from brilliant to petrified (both senses of the word) and there's no reason to expect doctors to be different.

Now, I have many conservative colleagues with whom I've had enjoyable and reality-based conversations. And I have an extremely former friend of whom that was transiently true, before he mysteriously went off the deep end, claiming that the whole Seal Team 6 killing bin Laden thing was faked, that Obama is a terrorist plant, etc ad teabaggium. I have no idea what happened; perhaps it was just a natural progression. Maybe, within the conservative-medical brain confluence, such devolution is inevitable.

But it's bewildering nonetheless. It's one thing for Michele Bachmann or Sean Hannity or Louis Gohmert to reveal their cranial impenetrability every day, every hour, on national TV. But doctors? Elected to public office? Simply unfathomable. I think I prefer to believe they're just Foxolimbeckian liars and charlatans, on the take, in the tank.

Easier to comprehend.

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