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Belief vs Science Regarding Linear No Threshold Theory: The AAOMR Annual Session

The AAOMR Annual Session was last week in Indianapolis. The organization is small enough that everyone knows everyone, or at least you recognize everyone there. The highlight for me was when Dr. John Preece spoke on radiation risk on Friday morning.

He began the lecture pretending to be an early 20th century opposer of radiology, yelling in olde english and pounding his fists on the table. It was a good way to wake up the audience first thing in the morning. He started into the lecture explaining that it would be a one-sided discussion and that these beliefs were influenced by his Christianity then proceeded to give rather convincing evidence disputing the linear-no-threshold theory of radiation risk.

After the lecture, Dr. Alan Lurie got up and challenged the whole premise of his lecture, saying it wasn’t a matter of faith but matter of science. He emphatically mentioned several counter points that Dr. Preece did not touch on. This was met with overzealous applause by Dr. Mel Kantor. Dr. Preece responded by saying he had stated that it would be a one-sided lecture and he thought this side of the discussion deserved mentioned since all we normally hear is the other side.

As far as my opinion on the matter; there is clearly very convincing evidence for the LNT theory as well as evidence against it and in support of other theories. So you have to conclude that one side of the issue is fudging the data or that none of our data is good anyway. When someone stands up and makes it clear that his belief on the subject does not stem from science, but from his personal religious beliefs, it’s easy to devalue his entire opinion on the matter. Now I’m a very religious person and I admire Dr. Preece for his convictions, but with so many different belief methods and even facets of belief within the same religions, it’s apparent that one should not allow his personal beliefs to influence his scientific understanding. When it comes to science and religion, they are two sides to the same coin, and eventually we will be able to see the similarities and what we were missing to make us draw incorrect conclusions. It’s kind of like the theory of relativity and Newtonian physics. Right now, they don’t seem to be consistent, and you can’t solve problems with one by using equations from the other. But of course, they do both exist and are both true, we just can’t see where the discrepancy hides. At some point we will see how all truth coincides with other truths, and that includes truths from each different religion. I think we will realize that we aren’t all that different from eachother. We will all discover that we held false beliefs and prejudices and hopefully give those up for a more complete truth.

Back to the session… We can’t just throw out the data because the person who presented it is religious. If we did that, we would have to throw out the data for LNT theory because the people who support it are obviously so emotional about it. They preach against religion, but it’s obvious that to them, science has become their religion. That is even more dangerous, because then you don’t even have to pretend to curtail your opinion. If you are dead set on becoming known as an academic, and there is already a belief system established by other academics, all you research and beliefs are going to fall into supporting the status quo. I see as much motivation for fudging the data for one theory as the other.

Later that day, Dr. John Ludlow presented on radiation risk. It fit within the traditional LNT and was very convincing. He presented it without getting emotional and acting like he was trying to prove a point. In the end, I found his lecture the most believable.

Isn’t is crazy that even in matters of science, we all have our own biases and emotion and beliefs play a big part of it. I plan to go over all the evidence and try to come to a conclusion that’s better than, “Dr. Ludlow was the most convincing”. I plan to do it with an open mind and only seeking the truth. Of course the real catch is that we all think of ourselves as open-minded but are by-and-large blind to our own biases. Once I do determine what the truth is about the matter, I’ll get all emotionally invested in it and scoff at and look down on people who take the other side, because that’s the American way.

In other news, I presented a poster on my research from my residency. It was a study on finding a correlation between descriptions of radiologic pathology and differential diagnoses in Cone Beam CT reports. I received the Dentsply Rinn Research Award for it. Maybe I’ll say more about it in another post. Sorry no pics of Dr. Preece pounding the desk or Dr. Lurie giving him the business… I should have had the camera out.