Nancy is a lovely fair skinned blonde; and because of this, she and direct sunlight do not get along well. It’s often humorous to see pictures of the two of us vacationing in tropical climates – we are the ones under the sun umbrella with cover-up on.
One day I noticed Nancy had developed a dark mole on her forearm. Tucked away in our medicine cabinet we had one of those little paper cards with pictures of various skin cancers printed on it in color. The mole on Nancy’s arm looked an awful lot like the photo example of Melanoma. She was scheduled to see her physician shortly anyway so I reminded her to have her doctor have a look at that mole.
When she came home from her exam I asked what her doctor had said about the mole. “The doctor said it was nothing; she told me that she had done her residency in dermatology and for me to not be concerned about the mole.”
But I was concerned... very concerned, in fact! For one thing, the picture of the Melanoma example on the card could have been taken from the mole on Nancy’s arm. So if what was on Nancy’s are was NOT Melanoma, then of what use is the stupid card? Troubled by this, I asked Nancy to go back to her doctor and have the mole removed anyway.
Nancy agreed and again visited her doctor. They discussed doing a simple a “punch biopsy” but then opted to allay everyone’s concerns (especially mine) and have the whole mole completely removed.
A week later we were out driving in the car, Nancy became very quiet. Then said she needed to tell me something; the results of the biopsy had come came back – Melanoma!
We immediately scheduled Nancy with a dermatologist who promptly carved a deeper chunk out of her arm. Nancy ended her relationship with that general practitioner.
Being scientifically trained, I have a healthy respect for professionals, experts in their fields. It is why we consult lawyers, accountants or landscape specialists rather than try to bang everything out ourselves. It is a perfectly reasonable approach; we recognize that these people have devoted full attention into their interest of study. We correctly rely on the fact that they are the consummate experts in their respective fields.
However, part of being of a Skeptic is to not “blindly” accept the testimony of all “experts” unquestionably. At some level we need to have at least rudimentary knowledge to assess the expert opinions given to us, seeing if they match up with our internal “reasonableness meter”. If the information doesn’t, then it is incumbent upon us to request clarification or justification from the expert until we are satisfied that their expertise is indeed sound.
I am sure there are many people would have just accepted their doctor’s opinion thinking, “Well, she’s the expert”. But I know that had we not questioned the advice we were given, we would have faced a very different and unpleasant outcome. Would we have still celebrated a 25 year anniversary?