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[Buck Throckmorton] »
April 03, 2021

Science Isn't Dead, But It Is Ailing - Part 8
by Your Raving Roving Science Correspondent [Jay Guevara]


Consider the following assertions:

Tanning bed use linked to higher risk for endometriosis in study

Vitamin C infusion may reduce sepsis death risk

Obesity may exacerbate the effects of Alzheimer's disease, new study shows.

Bacteria in the gut may influence COVID-19 severity, study says.

Scientists identify nutrient that helps prevent bacterial infection

Aspirin: Quitting cold turkey could be dangerous. "Studies have linked [emphasis mine] aspirin withdrawal to heart attacks."

The Pandemic Could Be Harming Kids' Eyesight, But It Isn't The Virus to Blame. 

Researchers identify bacteria that promote metabolic and mental health.

Regular aspirin use can lower risk for death in bladder, breast cancers.  

NSAIDs might exacerbate or suppress COVID-19 depending on timing, mouse study suggests.

Hydrogel injection may change the way the heart muscle heals after a heart attack.

Exercise may help curb migraines for people with certain triggers.

Neanderthal-derived protein may reduce the severity of COVID-19.

Higher pollen count may increase risk for COVID-19, study says. Some doctors in my area have been speculating that the high pollen levels here may account for the relative non-severity of cases in the region. But of course, reducing the immune response might both make you more likely to catch it, and also less likely to get the deadly immune overreaction we see in severe cases.

Bone marrow treatments may reverse brain damage caused by stroke.

Electricity could help speed wound healing, new study shows.

Notice the highlighted language in these assertions:"may," "could," "might," "help," "promote," "linked," all terms that appear so often in pop sci articles on biomedical research. What is the evidentiary value of these assertions? I'd say, it's nil, because if something may have some effect, then it also may not have that effect. In other words, they don't know for sure.

Suppose the weather forecast read: "It may rain tomorrow, although it could besunny, it might snow, and there could be a heat wave. That's the wrap-up for tomorrow's weather."

That clears that up, huh?

The obvious rejoinder to all such hedged statements is "Thank you for pointing out that various possibilities exist. We knew that before you started. Get back to us when you know, and don't just suspect or hope or have a hunch, OK?"

The assertions cited above result from the unholy confluence of biomedical research with "journalism," and clearly reflect the influence of "weasel words" taken from the marketer's art. Marketers use such hedged language to avoid legal liability, so that if litigation should ensue, they can protect themselves by pointing out that they didn't say the product did something, only that it helps to do something. Implicit in that statement is the possibility that the help afforded may be nugatory. (See, I'm catching on!)

Now anyone who takes such assertions at face value is, in my opinion, a fool, since even those making the assertion clearly don't repose much credence in it.

For some reason, however, some such hedged assertions are taken as gospel in some quarters. This is because the true religion of the 21st century is not any monotheistic belief, but rather health and nutrition fads. You can insult a man's nominal religion and he may shrug it off, but insult his dietary beliefs, and the matter will be settled on the field of honor. (In this contest, I've considered teeing off on the risible high fructose corn syrup cult, but decided against it because I don't want to join Salman Rushdie in witness protection.)

So far these types of health-based assertions are generally fairly harmless scaremongering to the neurotically health-obsessed, but a more pernicious variant is now extant in our race-obsessed culture.

Consider this one:  Study: Racist 'redlining' policies increased stroke risk for Black people.

Discriminatory housing practices from nearly a century ago continue to influence a person's risk of suffering a stroke, claims a new study that reveals the legacy of structural racism in the United States.

Researchers found a 1.5% higher rate of stroke within census tracts in Columbus, Ohio, most heavily marked for "redlining," compared to neighborhoods in the city least affected by housing discrimination.

Now purer, more crystalline horseshit would be difficult to find. As a voice crying out in the wilderness I shout - apparently to no purpose - first, that correlation is not necessarily causation. Second, how else might the two neighborhoods differ, perchance? Incidence of smoking? Of obesity? Of diabetes? Age distribution? Are these things not relevant to incidence of stroke? Third, what are the confidence levels on the 1.5% higher incidence? Is that significant?Assuming that the neighborhoods had the same population, that meant that if one neighborhood had 200 stroke victims, the other had 203. Seems to me that there's a lot of fuzz on that tennis ball. What was the year-to-year variance in each neighborhood? I'm guessing it's more than 1.5%. And to go out on a limb, I'm further guessing by suitable choice of years, you could find data supporting the exact opposite contention.

But that would not serve the purpose of the study's "researchers," which clearly was to use this study as a vehicle to advance a racial narrative.

As always, I denounce myself, of course. And to remind all and sundry that I long ago called "top bunk."


Past entries in the series:

Science isn't dead, but it is ailing - part 7
Science isn't dead, but it is ailing - part 6
Science isn't dead, but it is ailing - part 5
Science isn't dead, but it is ailing - part 4
Science isn't dead, but it is ailing - part 3
Science isn't dead, but it is ailing - part 2
Science isn't dead, but it is ailing - part 1

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