What's the cost of mistrusting authority?

In general, I think it's healthy to question authority, but reflexively doubting everything is a mistake. Lots of folks have spent large parts of their lives building knowledge that benefits us all. I'm talking about science and medicine.
In counseling patients about the claims and remedies of “alternative” health, we may need to do more than simply explain the  underlying science (or lack thereof). We may need to  address the philosophical beliefs about the value of reflexive doubt. Reflexive doubt is not laudatory in and of itself and it certainly is not a sign of being “educated.” It is just a mindless rejection of authority, with potentially devastating consequences. ...

...vaccine rejectionism, like most forms of “alternative” health is about the believers and how they would like to see themselves, not about vaccines and not about children. In the socially constructed world of vaccine rejectionists, risks can never be quantified and are always “unknown”. Parents are divided into those (inferior) people who are passive and blindly trust authority figures and (superior) rejectionists who are “educated” and “empowered” by taking “personal responsibility”. ...

[Paraphrasing natural childbirth activists:] ...the apparent success of modern obstetrics is illusory. Innovations were unneeded and developed simply to enrich physicians. Moreover, obstetrics has been mistaken in the past so no one should trust it in the present. Therefore, questioning the claims of physicians, and reflexively doubting explanations is not merely necessary, but is the mark of and “educated” and “empowered” consumer of health care.
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