Category Archives: science
You probably know that climate change is real and humans are a major cause of global warming. You probably know that life has evolved and the Biblical story of creation is false. Scientists have been actively promoting these ideas for decades and they've been relatively successful in most countries. What you may not know is that these are just two of the many controversial claims that scientists are fighting. You may even have been tricked into believing some of the other pseudoscientific claims that are out there.Do you think genetically-modified organisms are dangerous? Do you think vaccines are a threat to your child's well-being? Do you consult a naturopath or a homeopath? How about a chiropracter? Do you take daily vitamin supplements? Do you avoid gluten or lactose? Do you think hamburgers and fries are unhealthy? Poutine? Have you ever had acupuncture? Have you ever been detoxified? Are you afraid of free radicals? Is Round-Up a deadly poison? Do you spend extra money buying "organic" food? Are you afraid of fluoride? Are preservatives always bad? Is Diet Coke gonna kill you? Do skinny people live longer? Are whole wheat bagels better for you than the regular kind? Do you take probiotics? Do you even know what they are? Can you avoid cancer by eating healthy and working out every day?1
Health and Wellness the Trillion Dollar Industry in 2017].
Fortunately, there are a few scientists out there who are fighting back and, even more importantly, the legitimate press is beginning to pay attention. This is important because those scientists are fighting a trillion dollar industry and they're mostly doing it for free. Today I was pleased to read the following article in Toronto Star: Scientists, researchers fight against online plague of nutrition pseudoscience.
This group is collectively working to debunk the most egregious health myths with evidence-based, factual information.It always a good thing when proponents of evidence-based facts get as much attention as the proponents of pseudoscience. One of the scientists highlighted in the article is Timothy Caulfield, a professor at the University of Alberta Health Law Institute. He's the author of Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? (Spoiler Alert! - the answer is "yes.")
Finding health information online is easy. Cutting through the clutter and getting facts is very difficult. There’s a cacophony of voices, each saying something different. The confusion worsens when charlatans provide false hope and bad advice.It's fun to debunk the claims of pseudoscience but let's not forget that the important goal is to teach critical thinking in our schools so that our children grow up armed with the tools to avoid falling for false claims in the first place.
But there is a glimmer of hope. Scientists and researchers are working to debunk the most egregious health myths and educate readers with evidence-based, factual information. Let’s call them skeptics, myth-busters or debunkers. In any case, this group is collectively using science to fight back against the pseudoscience (such as fad diets and quack cancer cures).
1. If I haven't found at least one question that makes you want to post an angry rebuttal then please let me know and I will add some others.
A recent letter in Nature draws attention to a serious (?) problem in modern society; namely, the persecution of junior scientists by older scientists who ask them tough questions. Anand Kumar Sharma warns us: "Don’t belittle junior researchers in meetings". Here's what he says, ...
The most interesting part of a scientific seminar, colloquium or conference for me is the question and answer session. However, I find it upsetting to witness the unnecessarily hard time that is increasingly given to junior presenters at such meetings. As inquisitive scientists, we do not have the right to undermine or denigrate the efforts of fellow researchers — even when their reply is unconvincing.I wasn't going to comment on this but Neuroskeptic blogged about it and supported the idea that junior scientists need special protection when they present their work at meetings and conferences [Hostile Questions at Scientific Meetings]. He says,
It is our responsibility to nurture upcoming researchers. Firing at a speaker from the front row is unlikely to enhance discussions. In my experience, it is more productive to offer positive queries and suggestions, and save negative feedback for more-private settings.
In my view, a conference is not a place to be making critical comments. For one thing, it is very difficult to critically appraise a conference presentation, because they don’t provide the full details of the study. It is also unlikely that putting a presenter on the spot with a hard question is going to elicit a useful answer. It’s better to wait until the paper is published, and then critique that, giving the authors time to respond properly.I recognize that there are abuses from time to time but I take the opposite position. I don't think there's enough harsh criticism at scientific meetings. I think that too many scientists get away with making ridiculous claims that go unchallenged out of politeness and political correctness. I think we need MORE hostile questions not fewer. Why should a scientist be allowed to make stupid statements at a conference presentation on the grounds that they can't be criticized because the work isn't published?
When I was younger—yes, that's me on the left—I would have been insulted to be told that I was being treated as a child, not an equal, by my senior colleagues.