Unscientific Science – originally posted March 19, 2009

A few weeks ago, sitting in the waiting room while a relative had shoulder surgery, I read a Wall Street Journal piece about unnecessary infection rates after surgical procedures. It seems that lack of hygiene relating to surgical scrubs is relatively common. My stomach was already in knots anticipating the coming surgery, and reading the article was less than comforting. A minute’s reflection highlighted the Journal’s point. Does anyone really want doctors, nurses and orderlies to travel around town wearing the same clothing they had on in the examination or operating rooms, and then heading back to deal with another patient without changing? What use are sterile instruments if bacteria are carried around on the medical uniform? I realized that I have indeed seen medical personnel at Starbucks or other food establishments grabbing something to eat or drink while dressed in their scrubs. Haven’t you?

Previous pieces detailing the abysmal rate of hand washing in hospitals and doctors’ offices came to mind as well. Washing hands between patients should be a no brainer, shouldn’t it? The fact that the medical profession only clued in to the value of hand washing in 1847 is shocking enough. The fact that any medical professional ignores that information today is beyond comprehension and criminal.

I admit that this lack of hygiene totally befuddles me. How can people who choose a career ostensibly to serve others through healing, negate their purpose in such a primitive manner? But it is also a useful reminder that members of scientific professions can be as stupid, careless, evil and unscientific as anyone else. And if that’s the case when things are as clear and lucid as they can be, such as with hand washing or changing scrubs between activities, how much more careful do we have to be when presented with the latest social science study, perhaps on sexuality, guns, or child raising?

Like so much else in our lives, science can be a powerful force for good and a powerful weapon for evil. The aura of science is frequently employed to stifle questions or dissent, the field is incredibly politicized and often the truth is only revealed decades down the road.

Most of the time, we don’t have the luxury of waiting to see how things play out. We need to decide to buy organic or regular fruit, to have our children vaccinated or not, to expect faithfulness from a spouse or cite hormonal reasons why that is unrealistic, while the debate on these subjects in the scientific community is still raging.

How reassuring that in a faith centered life, some of these questions become irrelevant. God trumps pseudo-science and is the Creator of authentic science. I may very well need to assess health and nutritional claims about food, but at least I can choose to ignore many of the issues that grab the headlines, secure in the knowledge that eventually God’s word will emerge as the truth. 



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