Does One Need A Doctorate To Analyse Science? And Does Bias Smell?

The skeptical cardiologist reserves the exclusive and unimpeachable right to censor reader comments he deems inappropriate, nasty or unhelpful.
There’s a good chance if you attack me personally, I won’t post your comment. On the other hand,  if I find your attack particularly amusing there is a good chance I’ll include it in a blog post.
Here’s an ad hominem attack I really enjoyed:

You may be an MD, but you are no doctor. That requires a doctorate, which I have, and I can smell the bias from the other side of the Earth. Your “skepticism” is a front for your cynicism, and you yourself are the very thing you hate when denigrating people like Esselstyn as “evangelists”. Get a doctorate degree and learn science before attempting to analyse it.

There is so much to unpack and ponder in this paragraph! I love it.
The reader says that I am “no doctor.” This, it appears, requires a doctorate (which, coincidentally my reader has). The reader advises me to “get a doctorate degree” before attempting to analyse science.
The Cambridge English dictionary defines doctorate as “the highest degree from a university” whereas Merriam-Webster defines it as “the degree, title, or rank of a doctor”
If we assume the reader is going by the Cambridge English definition, and my title of doctor of medicine doesn’t count as a doctorate, let’s see what does.
Wikipedia lists a ton of different types of doctorates. My reader didn’t specify what kind. Would a Doctor of Music qualify me to analyse science? If so, sign me up for the coursework.

My newly-minted mother-in-law has a doctorate in English, is she more qualified than me to analyse science?
The reader left his comment on my post about the death of Robert Atkins, so I’m not even sure what bias I am accused of, but I love this sentence:

“I can smell the bias from the other side of the earth”.

In my defense it should be pointed out that the entire Robert Atkins post is a precise  analysis of his medical history and doesn’t really touch on science. Perhaps the bias my reader smells from so far away is my bias to seek the truth.
Finally, I have to say the killer sentence in my reader’s comment  is the most brilliant ad hominem attack I have ever encountered:

Your “skepticism” is a front for your cynicism, and you yourself are the very thing you hate when denigrating people like Esselstyn as “evangelists”.

It is so deep and piercing that I am incapable of defense and I can only say “mea culpa” and I yield to your doctoral brilliance.
By the way, this whole PhD versus MD debate brings up the burning question of who one should be referring to as doctor. Should I address my mother-in-law as Dr. Perkins since she has a Ph. D. in English Literature?  And, by the way, although she is my go-to person for questions about D.H. Lawrence, Hemingway and Shakespeare, I don’t think her scientific analytic skills are up to mine even with her doctorate.
Doctorally Yours,
Photo by Adrien Converse on Unsplash
N.B. I have deduced my reader is from Australia based on his use of analyse and his smelling my bias on the other side of the earth.
(Also, his email address ends in au)

frequency of usage of analyse versus analyze in England
frequency of usage of analyse versus analyze in England .

frequency of analyse versus analyze in America



20 thoughts on “Does One Need A Doctorate To Analyse Science? And Does Bias Smell?”

  1. When you asked in the title if bias smells, I thought you were going to discuss the sniff test by which we quantitatively challenged assess assertions.

  2. It is not just Doctors of Music who can be base fellows…
    (apologies to the Bible)
    I’ve been laboring under the (mis) apprehension that a Doctorate – from Latin, docere, was a qualification and ability / desire to… teach & instruct and by implication, to make clear & apparent. To educate.
    On the other hand, having the ability to detect BS is not the sole preserve of the ‘Highly educated’

  3. I have a PhD in computer science. Does that make me more qualified to analyze medical research than you? I don’t think so. Years of experience working in cardiology gives you a decided edge in understanding what the research is indicating. The minor for my PhD was in Experimental Statistics, so I fully understand research design in medical research. This does not make me qualified for anything more than a commentator.

    • Erwin,
      I agree. I didn’t put this in the post but I feel like I have a unique combination of experiences, skills and training that allow me to sort through medical science. On the other hand, I am way out of my league when it comes to physical or computer or environmental or molecular biologic science.
      Very importantly, I was actively engaged in research and publication for 10 years and this provided an invaluable understanding of all the flaws, biases and limitations of medical science. During that time I read and studied voraciously the foundations of medical statistics. Equally important was participating as a principal investigator in multiple randomized clinical trials of medical therapy and seeing from the inside how these work. Finally, 30 years of clinical cardiology if one is listening and learning and evolving and correlating data provides invaluable insight.

  4. I concur with Cher/lowly baccalaureate degree completely. I would like to add this: Shouldn’t the point be education in the effort to help people learn how to think, and not what to think? The human being is infinitely complex and each of us unique. “Science” is also very complicated and since man is involved, can be very flawed. I am also only of a lowly degree, with a Masters in Occupational Therapy, and had only one statistics course in my education. I nearly failed it (even with a strong math background). But I think I learned a most important fact that was taught in that class in 1982 regarding science and research: Statistics can be manipulated in many ways.

  5. I may not agree with you on everything, but I do respect you. You are a licensed doctor and obviously a very smart one. I am amazed that someone who has a doctorate would write something so ignorant to you. It is not very professional. I have to wonder if he does really have a doctorate.

  6. One does not need a Ph.D., or any doctorate, to understand scientific journals. A good grasp of basic statistics and a good medical dictionary are sufficient for a basic understanding of medical journal research. Then, talk to your (medical) doctor about your analysis and see if he/she concurs.

  7. Coming from a strong liberal arts background (though with a lowly baccalaureate degree), I would contend that any decent education ought to prepare one to analyze science — hopefully beginning in the elementary years! It seems to me impossible to live well in the modern age without doing so. As for addressing doctors, it is most appropriate to ask the doctor, since it is their right to be addressed as same if they choose, whether PhD or Md. The deepest conundrum here is whether bias ‘smells’. Hmmm. I claim to be able to see it while reading and hear it while listening, so I suppose it looks off-kilter or sounds off-key, but I am not sure I’ve ever smelt it. I have perhaps tasted it tripping off my own tongue on occasion (or having to consume it like crow when it was pointed out to me). A time or two it has hit me in the gut when driven my direction so I suppose I have felt it. But smell? Not so much, in my experience.

  8. I enjoy reading your blog and it has given me a lot of inspiration and working advice! Through you I discovered (and trusted) KardiaBand and Keto.
    May I try to reciprocate by encouraging you to maybe do a Headspace session next time before you respond to spiteful or condescending comments. It may help filter out the ones not worth your time (the above certainly was one of them). It also brings blood pressure and heart rate down, even long-term with practice. Laymanly yours, Peter Gorges

  9. I guess we should just blindly trust all the real Doctors then, as they hold the keys to the secrets of the universe. I will wait anxiously by the gates of the city awaiting the announcements of the oracles and scribes as too how we should think.
    By the way, those Doctors of Music can be treble…


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