Conspiracy Theory of the Week

OK, so it's been a lousy day, and I'm way behind. What follows is a post I originally put some time ago on another,thankfully dormant blog, so some of the links might be a little stale. Moreover, it echoes many criticisms made elsewhere in the blogosphere, but, I believe, frames them somewhat differently.

I'm working on a lot of other conspiracy posts, and should have something a bit more provocative, or at least tin-foil hatlike, next week. In the meantime, enjoy.


The professions seem to be getting knocked around a bit. Most recently, it's pharmacists trying to not fill prescriptions, such as birth control or for the morning after pill, that they disagree with. But there has been similar turmoil with doctors, lawyers, who gave Bushco carte blanche to torture people, university professors, who may face an ideological litmus test if some people get their way; and science teachers, who may be forced to teach intelligent design 'theory' alongside evolution. (The second set of quotes around "theory" was deliberate, as ID is less of a theory than a collection of anecdotes in support of a foregone conclusion). And don't get me started about the accountants.

Not all of these events are strictly comparable. Some, like the pharmacists and the doctors, are examples of some members of the profession wanting to carve out a conscience exception to their professional ethics clauses. The professors and science teachers are under attack from people who want to change what they do and how they do it. And what the accountants are doing is hardly new, as they are simply compromising their professional ethics, and frequently, the law, in order to make a buck--a sin that all the professions can play, including pharmacists, lawyers, doctors, and professors, and of course, the universities that employ them.

What I think ties all of these examples together is that in each case, it's the professions themselves that are being undermined. Professions are more than jobs. They are frequently seen as vocations or callings. At the very least, they require their aspirants to master a complex body of specialized knowledge, frequently at great expense, and to pass some sort of state-sanctioned licensing process. More importantly, they are supposed to supply society with an incorruptible source of expertise-when a lawyer tells you that's the law, or a doctor says you have the flu, or an accountant tells you that you owe $13,000 in back taxes, that's supposed to be the truth regardless of their personal, religious, or political leanings.

What these attacks are trying to do is change all this. They've tried gagging doctors before; now, it's the pharmacists that will give you a lecture on the evils of premarital sex rather than birth control, your doctor won't treat you because you sued a hospital, once, and your kid thinks that the world began six thousand years ago and people rode dinosaurs like horses back in the old days. This is just another front in the faith-based society, where our perception of the world becomes less and less what it really is and more and more what some people want it to be.

If you're trying to do something really radical, independent sources of knowledge are really dangerous. Lawyers will tell you it's illegal, accountants will say you can't afford it, your doctor will tell you it's bad for your health, and your history professor will tell you when Harding tried it in 1922 it didn't work.

Independent, ethical professions are a brake on stupid behavior. For the most part, they're great to have around. But when they are undermined, by law, religion, or greed, we take one more step away from the reality based community and into the faith-based la-la land.

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