Reflections of the Skeptical Samurai

I have been asked on many different occasions…

How did I get into skepticism?

Good Question.

Funny story actually…

About 4 years ago, I was in a professional and personal rut.  I had finished my university education and had been working for a number of years as a registered nurse (RN).  Being a RN was a great job, and up until recently I had loved the job, but for a variety of reasons I was no longer finding it challenging.  Additionally, I was beginning to experience what we in the health care profession call “burn out”. 

I needed a change.  Something just did not feel right.  I could not put my finger on it, but something needed to change.  I knew I needed a change, and those close to me knew that I needed a change.  Sadly, I had no idea what that change needed to be. 

Also at this point in my life, I had become rather disenfranchised with Western medicine.  In hindsight I am now able to identify that I had not become disenfranchised with Western medicine, I was simply “burnt out”, and need some time to recharge my proverbial batteries and once again become passionate about healthcare.  But I digress…

As a result of being disenfranchised (or what I thought was being disenfranchised) with Western medicine, I began to seriously look into treatment modalities outside of the realm of Western medicine.  In retrospect I think that I was looking for something, anything, to get me passionate about healthcare again.  I began looking into courses at a local “alternative medicine college” on acupuncture + traditional Chinese medicine.  At the time I knew very little about these sorts of practices, but I loved the claims of “practices that integrate both the mind and body”.  I began to think to myself “maybe this is the change that I am looking for”. 

Right about this time I had purchased an ipod.  I know what you are thinking, “how does the purchase of an ipod fit into the skeptical samurai’s transition into skepticism”?  Fear not dear reader…the answer shall be revealed momentarily!    

After getting my new purchase home, I began to transfer/burn my rather large music collection onto my ipod.  It was at this time I discovered the podcast.  I began searching itunes for various podcasts that I thought might interest me.  Further disclosure: I used to be a proponent of the conspiracy theories.  I used to believe that most everything was a “cover-up”, that aliens had possibly visited us and imparted their knowledge upon us at an earlier time in human history, and I believed that 9-11 was an inside job.  In my own defence I was far from a hardcore/militant conspiracy theorist, it was more of a “hobby” then anything, but I digress…

I came across a podcast titled “The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe” (SGU) and an episode that focused on 9-11.  With a title like “Skeptic’s Guide” I was sure that I was in for all sorts of conspiracy theory goodness.  I expected to hear all sort of information “proving” that 9-11 was an inside job.  I downloaded the podcast, got comfortable, and was completely unprepared for what happened next… 

The podcast was absolutely nothing like I thought it would be!  The Skeptical Rogues did not propagate conspiracy theories (like I had anticipated); instead they completely dismantled them using the tools of logic and reason.  Again, I was completely unprepared for this.  The Skeptical Rogues completely dissected and destroyed each and every argument that I had ever heard put forth for the conspiracy “9-11 was an inside job”.  Put simply, I had never before been exposed to this sort of logic and reason!    

Finishing the podcast, I removed the buds from my ears, put down the ipod and did what any sane individual experiencing massive amounts of cognitive dissonance would do, I spent the next week searching high and low attempting to refute the facts that stood in opposition to my personal beliefs.  But alas…I was unable to prove the Rogues wrong, and trust me it was not for a lack of trying!  I was simple out gunned.  I was armed with half truths and fictitious/fabricated stories and the Rouges where armed with logic, reason, science and the process of inquiry. 

After admitting defeat, which took the better part of several weeks, I sat down and digested another podcast.  Then I listened to another…and another…and another…  I then was hooked!  The SGU had opened my eyes to a world that had previously been alien to me (pun intended!  Ha-ha!)…

Logic, reason, science and the process of inquiry… 

It was at this time that I began to cultivate a better understanding of the scientific process.  I began to develop an understanding of logical fallacies and their effect on logic and reason.  I was becoming a student of skepticism!  I took the lesson I learned listening to podcasts, reading books, etc and began applying it to all aspects of my life.  I did not know it at the time but I was becoming a skeptic!

And then it dawned on me…this was the change that I was looking for!

It should go without saying that I did not pursue a career in acupuncture and Chinese medicine.  As mentioned above, once being exposed to the process of inquiry I began to apply it to all aspects of my life.  Turning a skeptical eye towards acupuncture and Chinese medicine, these “treatment modalities” (if you can call them that) simply did not hold any water.  After much research, I came to the conclusion that these practices where the complete opposite of evidence based/scientific medicine.  While modern medicine changed and evolved in the presence of new/emerging evidence, acupuncture and Chinese medicine remained stagnant and clang to practices that have been proven ineffective and in some cases harmful. 

At this point I decided to do what seemed like a logical choice and further my nursing education.  I entered into the Masters of Nursing/Nurse Practitioner program hoping it would help to recharge my proverbial batteries and get me passionate about healthcare again.  I did not know it at the time, but I was about to take the 1st sets in a rather long journey.  During my graduate studies, I continued to develop my skeptical chops.  It was during this time that I became aware of the fact that I had become a student of skepticism!  I devoured any information I could get my hands on!  I started this blog, I read skeptical magazines (specifically, Skeptic and The Skeptical Inquirer), I read numerous books (the 1st being Carl Sagan’s “Demon Haunted World”), listen to podcasts (namely, The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, Skeptoid, and Point of Inquiry) and consumed any other resources that I thought may positively contribute to the process of becoming a skeptic. 

Right around this time I started the clinical rotation component of my Graduate program.  This event assisted me in truly gaining an appreciation for how science and the process of inquiry can have an effect on the “day to day” level.  I was now in charge of the care of a patient.  Previously, I was a member of the healthcare team that collaborated on decisions, but now people where looking to me for answers!  It was now my responsibility to determine the course of care/treatment for a patient (in collaboration with the patient and other members of the healthcare team of course!).   

How was I going to decide which course of treatment to settle on?

And that is when everything began to fall into place…

Skepticism (including but not limited to science, logic, reason and the process of inquiry) was the way!  Utilizing the tools I developed as a skeptic, I had (unknowingly) becoming capable of utilizing the process of inquiry to made sound logical/rationale decisions based on science/the best information available.  I did not prescribe a random antibiotic, at a random dose, for a random amount of time for a bacterial throat infection.  Instead, I reviewed the most current/relevant research available and prescribed a specific antibiotic for a set length of time to effectively target and kill the offending pathogen, while having the least amount of adverse effects of the patient.  

At about the half way point of my graduate education I became completely infatuated with the scientific process and how it applied to healthcare.  That infatuation then turned into a way of life, and that is when it happened…

I did not want to be a nurse practitioner.  I wanted to be a physician. 

I finished my nursing graduate studies, and now I am in the process of completing upgrading so that I can apply to medical school.  My path to becoming a skeptic has been a long and (at times) difficult journey, which has led me down paths that I had previously not imaged.  But I would not have it any other way.  I have never been happier!  I maintain that it is not the destination that is important it is the journey.

This has been the skeptical samurai…

Working to serve through the process of inquiry

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2 Responses to “Reflections of the Skeptical Samurai”

  1. Interesting, I actually stumbled upon SGU in my 3d semester of Nursing School. Our stories are a tad different (I had always been “skeptical,” but am not a full blown Skeptic, complete with the logical training and other skeptical tools.)

    I have only been nursing for about a year, still love it, and am looking for a way to parlay that into a lecture series of some kind, and am currently thinking about filming a documentary on how alternative medicine has bypassed the routes that the drug companies have to go through and get to do basically whatever they want.

    • theskepticalsamurai Says:

      Lonnie,

      Thanks for reading!
      And thanks for the comment!

      Always interesting to here other peoples “origin stories”. Thanks for sharing.
      Your idea about a documentary about alt medicine sounds very interesting…

      Please do keep me posted!

      I have some ideas/projects that i am working on for the Skeptical Samurai blog/project along the same lines…

      Stay tuned!

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