MD vs PhD

Steven B. Harris sbharris at
Wed Jul 2 03:10:43 EST 1997

In <mark-ya02408000R0107971920520001 at>
mark at (Mark Brandt, Ph.D.) writes: 
>In article
<Pine.GSO.3.96.970630185345.18895A-100000 at elaine5.Stanford.EDU>,
>amit mehta <amehta at leland.Stanford.EDU> wrote:
>>         The common high sounding claims of pursuing scientific truth
>> about as meaningful here as those of medical philanthropy. 
>> also seek invidious comparison but of a different sort.  First, the
>> surrounding community usually does not penetrate the quasi-mystical
>> of esoteric terminology, and the scientists do not really give them
>> respect which ostentatious displays would indicate.  Hence, in a
>> meaningful sense, scientists are more vain than physicians. In fact,
>> little interaction with the surrounding community is required.
>Tell me, how would you explain, for example, the molecular details of
>protein synthesis, without using "esoteric terminology"? 
>Is it possible? Yes. 
>However, it either takes a great deal longer, due to the necessity to
>establish a common language by including the required definitions, or
>lacks details. If too many details are left out, the "science" becomes
>indistinguishable from pseudoscience, which may defeat the purpose of
>discussion in the first place. 

   Yep.  Every discipline has its terminology, and disciplines which
are old, or didn't originate in English speaking countries, tend to
have a lot of baggage in the way of specialized vocabularies.  Are all
those terms in ballet and music in there just so that musicians and
dance instructors can feel important?  And all that math that goes
along with physics?

   Medicine has a few words which could be easily replaced with English
equivalents (diaphoresis = sweating), but these are holdovers from
medicine's origins, and are no more deliberate attempts to bamboozle
the public than are allegro and pas de deux.  There are other terms in
medicine which simply DON'T have any easy English counterparts in words
or even phrases (like "non-gap acidosis"), and these are sort of like
terms in math and physics (partial differential, say, or your example
QCD).  They aren't used to bamboozle either, but are simply a shorthand
for a shared concept between professionals. 

   Medicine does have a unique problem, in that it is profession which
is forced to explain stuff to a public which ordinarily doesn't give a
*(&% about that stuff, but is forced to in a particular instance,
because not doing so will cause intense pain and suffering.  That makes
sometimes for a really cranky and nasty and paranoid student.  I
suppose that criminal defense attornies have something of the same

                                        Steve Harris, M.D.  

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