Recently, a very powerful person in the world of public health – someone who could make my professional life difficult if she decided that she didn’t like me – asked me why I do what I do. (I do more than just blog to slay the demons of anti-science thinking and irrationality.) She seemed confused that someone like me, someone with things to lose, would actively engage in so many discussions online and in real life about topics like homeopathy, anti-vaccine thinking, faith healing, or even against chiropractors. She told me that there are some very powerful and rich people in those camps, and that all they had to do was lift a finger to destroy me. “If I lived with fear of that, I told her, I’d just go back to doing what I used to do before this. And I would let a lot of people down. That right there, is worse than being ‘destroyed,'” I told her.
You see, dear reader(s), what people like me do day and day out is not about money. It’s not about power. Heck, it’s not even about standing in the community. We could care less about fame and fortune, gold and glory, Queen and country. People like me, contrary to the baseless accusations of the quacks, get paid very little to do what we do. That’s if we get paid at all.
We do what we do because of love. Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is necessary to do what we do without going crazy. We must have compassion of our fellow human beings and see that they are as imperfect as we are. We cannot judge those who contract “undesirable” diseases. We cannot turn away the lepers or the prostitutes that need our help. We will never sell out our principles for a buck or a political position.
Not most of us, anyway.
I write here and in other places about and against science frauds (and anti-science frauds) because we are at a time in the history of the world where any idiot can set up a website, post some bogus information on it, and many people will take him at his words. Just look at how many people blindly, passionately follow this or that television star’s advice and make some really bad decisions. How many people have spent their money on false cures for diseases and conditions that – although difficult to treat, if not impossible to treat – can be managed through evidence-based medicine?
So, no, I’m not afraid of the things I’ll lose because that is not a way to live life. You have to be willing and able to stand up for what you believe, especially if what you believe in is backed up by solid evidence gathered from sound science. You’ll never go wrong if you do it that way. And, if someone takes something away from you – be it your job or your good name – then that is their problem. They’re the villains, not you. It may feel uncomfortable. You may get angry.
But you do what you do in life to help others, not to be happy all the goddamn time. At least I know I do.