Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Illusion of Certainty and the Power of Belief


From an early age I loved reading fiction, and as a youngster I came to believe that literature provided a lens through which the human experience could be viewed with power and clarity. But as an English major in college I soon learned that reading good books had relatively little to do with studying literary criticism, which seemed like a self referential exercise in sophistry masquerading as scholarship. The fact that I wasn’t quite clever enough to meet the mark surely had something to do with it. So I chose medicine, in no small part because I knew I could make a living at it, but also because it offered a sense of certainty. My science courses demanded only one answer. The right answer.   

Yet that certainty has proved also to be an illusion. Much of the teaching that comprised mainstream medical practice during my residency has been stood on its head, and widely accepted treatments have again and again been proven not only useless but often dangerous.

While I am no exception to the essential human need to hold on to something (as outlined however inadequately in the posts of our blog), the older I get the more comfortable I become with uncertainty, and the more I’ve come to think that the truly dangerous man is the man without doubt.

Hmm, that sounds like a typical politician. So maybe your predicted outcome for the fall is the best we can hope for.


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