The Hematologist

March-April 2017, Volume 14, Issue 2

Letter to the Editor: In Response to Hematology...Literally and Seriously

Published on: March 01, 2017

The editor’s personal political commentary in the January/February 2017 edition of The Hematologist calls into question the role of the scientific approach in the new Administration. Many would agree that an increasing mainstream tolerance of loosely supported and misleading pronouncements is inconsistent with an approach to learning that favors reliance on data and a pursuit of truth. Scientific training leads us to doubt the wisdom of those who base plans, policies, and debates on flimsy arguments without reference to objective measurements and systematic appraisal. We are inclined to view an approach to political decision-making that is devoid of self-criticism and a formal assessment of facts as even more tragic than the policies and practices it produces, precisely because it is not self-correcting.

Scientists should not assume a “self-righteous” stance. We have had our own failures. The success of our method depends on a tested verity: truth persists. Falsity and false conclusions wither under attack by suitably controlled, evidence-based, hypothesis-driven research. Rational heads do not demean those who disagree with them; they welcome opposition because it eliminates erroneous conclusions and sharpens perceptions of the truth.

It might be wise for the scientifically minded to maintain a lively, interesting, and dynamic form of communication that makes fact-based, hypothesis-driven approaches to learning, decision-making, and policy formation more attractive and plausible than the communications currently being promoted with such vigor in the nonscientific world — communications that rely on fake information, loose language, instantaneous responses, and superficial reflection.

The disparagement of those who uncritically accept conclusions based on a nonscientific approach has not been proven to convert them to a reliance on science. Rather, conversion might be favored if we demonstrate the advantages of the scientific approach because it provides an efficient pathway to success. To do this, we should support inclusive models of discourse that welcome a healthy consideration of options, contrasting opinions and conclusions, and a non-competitive attitude. Our aim is to cooperate to achieve mutual attainment of valuable truths rather than to compete for a prize devoid of them.

We are all smarter if we listen to each other’s objections rather than insisting that others accept our opinions uncritically.

Daniel Rosenblum, MD
  Kensington, MD

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