It's really incredible how pompous neurosurgeons are. Those characters presume to think that removing tumors from the brains of children is their exclusive purview. I mean, what the hell! The rest of us have Internet access, don't we? We can look up "neurosurgery" on Wikipedia. The nerve of those guys!
And pilots -- don't get me started. Can you even believe the pious sanctimony regarding pilots? Most of us have been passengers. We know the drill. No big deal. Just some buttons and dials. I'm sure we could handle it.
And epidemiology isn't even worth talking about. Who on earth needs epidemiologists? The rest of us not only have cyberspace, but personal anecdotes. The notion that years of training are needed to interpret cause and effect reliably is an insult!
So I say, let's shove the neurosurgeons out of the ORs, we don't need 'em. We don't need pilots, either; we could just figure it out by talking to other people who think like we do. And we certainly don't need no stinkin' epidemiologists.
Yes, friends, you are being played 0- but not by me.
The simple fact is that our culture is committed not only to the death of expertise, but to daily abuse of its corpse. It's harder to express in the O.R. or cockpit, easier in epidemiology. But it's all the same game. In for a penny, in for a pound.
I am an epidemiologist. That doesn't make me smarter, better, faster. It just makes me... an epidemiologist, in the same way that pilot training makes pilots, and neurosurgical training makes neurosurgeons. Sorting out cause and effect in health is, in fact, quite subtle and challenging. My training encompasses nine years of post-graduate education, 25 years of practice and research, and authoring four editions of an epidemiology textbook.
Now again, that doesn't make me smarter or better. But it doesn't make me stupider, either. So here's the thing: we epidemiologists have the same Internet and Wikipedia access as everyone else, plus actual training. How likely is it that we are systematically so much stupider, and more gullible than the rest of the world that we are actually more likely to get it all wrong than Joe the Plumber?
But for a rounding error, all of the experts trained in epidemiology, pediatrics, internal medicine, family practice, immunology, preventive medicine, and public health have their own kids immunized. Even though our Internet access leads to conspiracy theories, too.
As for those: I have apparently been caught up in them. Here is how it played out.
Twice recently, I received cordial invitations via email from seemingly serious producers to do TV interviews on the vaccine topic via Skype. I agreed. The first time, it turned out the interviewer -- a non-expert apparently younger than several of my children -- had no interest in asking me any questions. A few token questions were thrown in, but mostly the interest was in having me as a prop while she told the audience what's what. I was, apparently, brought on as a human punching bag with credentials.
Fool me twice, shame on me. So shame on me. I was duped a second time.
I shot an interview about vaccines via Skype for a cable TV station. The first question was, essentially, "Isn't it wrong for the CDC to conceal information about vaccine harms from the public?"
There are three possible answers to all such leading questions of the "Shouldn't you stop beating your wife?" variety.
One is to say "yes." In this case, that not only sounds like "Yes, it is wrong," but implies "Yes, it is true." By design, there is no way to agree it is wrong without suggesting it is happening.
Two is to say "no" -- which makes you sound like a complete jackass.
Three is something along the lines of: hummina, hummina... Whatever you say other than yes, or no, sounds like stalling, obfuscation, and prevarication. It sounds as if maybe you get a kickback every time a CDC thug injects radioactive waste into someone's tush.
This is by design; it's how interviews are done when there is a hidden agenda, and no interest in a guest's expertise or opinion.
Given that I had to provide them in just that kind of landmine as the cameras rolled, I thought my answers were pretty good. But then it turns out, my answers were edited, excerpted, and presented online as one half of a "debate." Call me crazy, but I think for something to qualify as a debate you actually have to know it is happening. The person I allegedly "debated" was given my edited answers, to those ridiculously leading questions, then invited to pontificate. I only even found out about it all afterward, and by accident. I not only have never debated this guy, I don't know him from a hole in the wall.
But there it is, online, suggesting to all the world that not only is there a roiling conspiracy, but I'm caught up in it.
It's entirely bogus. But then again, you know what Abraham Lincoln famously said: "Of course you can trust everything you read on the Internet. I do."
I know, I should tell you what I really think. Okay, glad you asked.
Many of the scientists and physicians who would have to be directly involved if there were a massive CDC vaccine cover-up or government conspiracy are personal friends, colleagues, and associates. I know them and in some cases, their families, too. So, for starters, my many years of costly education were obviously wasted on producing a gullible ignoramus. Sorry, Mom and Dad!
Then, and far more impressively, it means that many of my personal friends and colleagues are both (A) nefarious, genocidal sociopaths; and (B) better actors than anyone in Hollywood. Wow!
And then, most impressively of all: it means this government of ours -- which, according to some of the same folks who perceive conspiracies, is utterly dysfunctional -- is, in fact, totally genius. If the government is capable of orchestrating a society-wide, decades-spanning genocidal charade artful enough to dupe most of the world's experts, then they make the machines in the Matrix look like Buzz and Woody in Toy Story. Folks, we are putty in their hands. Game over. No need for them to waste time with adulterated vaccines. They could just introduce futuristic malware directly into our dreams and induce all our cells to commit apoptosis.
Of course, it's a little weird that the government is capable of all this at the same time they can't keep Wikileaks out of their underwear drawer. We'll have to let that go.
So there you have it. Go ahead, take over the cockpit and storm the O.R. Fly your own plane, remove your own tumor. And help yourself to prefabricated, overcooked gobbledygook in the place of epidemiology. Give the carcass of expertise a good kick as you go by.
But here's the thing, folks: if you buy into this nonsense, and meaning no disrespect, you are not merely wrong. You are wrong about why you are wrong.
Where propaganda meets public health, you are being played.
David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP is available as a human punching bag for TV interviews, birthday parties, and Bar Mitzvahs. He has, on occasion, been known to punch back, however.
And, by the way, according to his mother: he is better, smarter, faster. And if she can't be trusted, who can?
Director, Yale University Prevention Research Center; Griffin Hospital
President, American College of Lifestyle Medicine
Editor-in-Chief, Childhood Obesity
Author: Disease Proof