I've commented before on the phenomenon of pareidolia, whereby people see familiar images in blobs of marmite, pieces of toast, aubergines etc and attribute huge relevance to this, claiming they are signs from their god. Occasionally however something happens that, although almost certainly coincidental, has far more to justify a vague feeling that someone "up there" is trying to tell us something. Like this.
Funny how the faithful, gathering in Rome, don't seem to be taking much notice.
Until today I wouldn't have known who this man was. His name is Steve Webb, and apparently he's the pensioner's minister. He has recently stated that we should be telling old people when they are going to die, so they can better manage their finances.
Where do you start? The flaws in this are so numerous, and obvious to anyone with any intelligence that I can only assume that Mr Webb is exceptionally stupid, even by the standards of this government.
We all know that, even when presented with a patient with terminal illness, predicting lifespan is so inaccurate that most of us don't do it. Does he really imagine we can predict the future. What's he suggesting we use, astrology, tarot cards, tea leaves? How does he think we are going to do this with any degree of accuracy.
Fortunately for us there is a website that does this for us that I'm sure we can rely on. Putting my own details into this highly accurate computer model gives me the information that I will live to be 89, and that my remaining allotted time is 917,643,294 seconds. And counting!
There can't be many doctors in Britain who aren't aware of the current mounting crisis in infectious diseases treatment, resulting from the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria. For not much more than 50 years we have been blessed with the ability to treat bacterial infections with spectacular success. DZ trained as a medical student at the height of this golden age, yet even so I remember our undergraduate training in microbiology as being long and detailed.
But even then, 40 years ago, the microbiologists were warning of the perils of antibiotic overuse and resltant resistance, so we've been aware of the potential problem for a long time. So what has stunned me is a statement in this article where it is stated that undergraduate medical training in microbiology occupies just two hours. Total! Have we become so complacent about bacterial infection that we don't think it's worth teaching doctors about it any more?
So we now face a possible massive resurgence of bacterial disease, which the emerging generation of doctors will be totally unprepared for. One has to ask those that set the content of training what were they thinking. And what has been considered so important for trainee doctors to learn, that they have to make room by discarding microbiology? More fucking sociology I expect.
Pretty much all of us in medicine have had to do some research during our careers, and we've had to publish. It's been a necessary part of our training. I, like many others, didn't enjoy it very much and was glad to get it over with and return to a career of clinical medicine. But that's not to say having done it was without value. It taught us a lot about the pitfalls and errors of research, and how to look critically at the published work of others.
One of the great principles of science to my mind is that of uncertainty, or tolerance. The history of medicine, and science in general, is full of instances when cherished long held beliefs have had to be discarded in the face of new evidence. This happens because some individuals question accepted wisdom, and investigate it. Some areas of practice fail to live up to that scrutiny and we all have to take on new ideas as a result. This is how science advances, through the acknowledgement that we may be wrong.
When an area of science is repeatedly investigated, and results confirmed, this adds more and more credibility to that area. If we try really hard to disprove something, and fail, that adds great credibility to the theory under investigation. It follows then that scientists should be prepared to gladly open their data to scrutiny, and to encourage others to try and disprove their work.
I have recently come across a quote from an eminent scientist. I'm not going to identify him, or his field, I don't want to get distracted by the subject, but stick with the principle. He is quoted as saying;
“We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data
available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with
To my mind this man has become lost in his own ego. He appears totally unwilling to have others see his data, or test his theory. He has crossed the line from being an open minded scientist of humility, and become a quasi religious figure demanding respect for his dogma. What a complete knob!