Political Correctness Outweighs Science


Political correctness is getting in the way of science – and medical education. This unpleasant truth was revealed in two recent articles in The Wall Street Journal.

The first was written by Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, former associate dean of curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Goldfarb laments that the medical school curriculum is being challenged by those with political agendas. He notes criticism he has received for not including a program on climate change, while others want the school to teach gun control.

Goldfarb says the stated purpose of medical education since Hippocrates has been to develop individuals who know how to cure patients. Yet a new wave of educational specialists is increasingly influencing medical education. They emphasize “social justice” that relates to health care only tangentially. This approach he believes is the result of a progressive mind-set that abhors hierarchy of any kind and the social elitism associated with the medical profession in particular.

The traditional American model of medical training, which has been emulated around the world, emphasizes a scientific approach to treatment and subjects students to rigorous classroom instruction. Students don’t encounter patients until they have some fundamental knowledge of disease processes and know how to interpret symptoms. They are expected to appreciate medical advances and be able to incorporate them into their eventual fields of practice.

Progressive sociologists first began their attack on the American medical education system in the 1960s and 1970s because increased spending failed to lead to breakthroughs in cancer treatment and other fields. They sought to reorder the field toward their social agenda. Recent interest in “social justice” has sparked renewed interest in altering medical education. Goldfarb fears these attacks will lead to alterations in curriculum focusing on climate change, social inequities, gun violence, bias and other progressive causes only remotely related to treating medical illness. In the meantime, physician shortages in the fields of oncology, cardiology, surgery, and other specialties will worsen.

On the same day, The Wall Street Journal published another article attacking the scientific basis of energy policies promoted by the environmental left. Robert Hargraves, Dartmouth University professor, says no one seriously concerned about the environment can oppose nuclear energy. Yet this is precisely the campaign rhetoric coming from the Democrats running for president.

Hargraves says, “Nuclear is America’s largest source of emission-free electricity. The candidates are anxious to stop using fossil fuels but offer no viable replacement. Wind and solar are intermittent and require supplemental power, normally from burning natural gas, which emits as much as half the CO2 of coal. Batteries to store intermittent electricity are too expensive by a factor of 10.”

Environmentalists are fearful of nuclear energy but scientists are not. The United Nations reported in 2013 that the 2011 Fukushima accident caused no immediate health effects and probably will have no detectable effects. Cancer rates did not rise notably after Chernobyl. No one has been harmed by used fuel. There is no good reason to avoid nuclear energy production in any well-thought plan to produce sufficient energy for the economic needs of civilization while protecting the environment.

Both articles highlight the evils of getting politics ahead of science. Medical education and energy production that protects the environment should be based on science – not on the political agendas of those who want to bully scientists into their way of thinking.

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