Riffed by Dr. Geek
from an idea by Vitriol


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call me an establishment stooge, but...

Here are seven statements concerning public health and hygiene that I've never quite been able to believe:

  • Water floridation is a conspiracy on the part of aluminum manufacturers to rid themselves of a harmful industrial byproduct by dumping it into the water supply.
  • Dental fillings made with metal amalgam are toxic because of the trace amounts of mercury that they release and cause any number of problems including headaches, immune disorders, and toxic shock.
  • Regular manipulation of the joints and the spine by a chiropractor can improve general personal health and cure anything from sinus infections to the common cold.
  • Childhood immunizations can cause autism and irritable bowel syndrome in children.
  • The heating of milk in the microwave changes the milk in a way that increases the number of toxins in the bloodstream.
  • Breast implants are a key cause of autoimmune and connective tissue disorders.
  • Use of aluminum foil and aluminum cookware increases the risk of contracting Alzheimer's disease.

I know, I know. A lot of them sound good, play on basic human fears (like injecting substances into the body with needles), or tap into a sense of angst that people have because they live in a modern technological world that somehow feels unnatural. Several of them touch on sensitive issues about how we see ourselves, how we see society, or how we long for a simpler, less complicated, more pastoral lifestyle. I just can't quite believe in them though. The more I look into these issues, I find that they seem to deal more with what people believe than what can be proven clinically.

I also know that if you visit any number of web sites out there on these issues, you'll see statements that purport to be scientific fact. Some even have references to papers in journals with scientific sounding names to lend gravity to the statements people make. It can all be both very confusing and convincing to the untrained eye.

I think the fact that not all science is "good" is often forgotten in the deluge of "scientific" information available on the World Wide Web today. What makes scientific research not "good"? Any number of things. Trying make facts fit what you're attempting to prove rather than the other way around. Designing an experiment that doesn't actually prove or disprove anything relevant. Statistically comparing "apples" to "oranges". Published work is also supposed to be reviewed by other people knowledgable in the field. Weak peer review in publication can allow any of the mistakes listed above to appear in print.

What about the underdog? The whistle blower? The scientist who is not the puppet of a military-industrial complex determined to give us all cancer, make us eat processed foods, and sell us to space aliens? It's up to him to play by the rules and come up with a peer reviewed result so phenominally good that it can change everyone else's mind. It's been known to happen and take a long time... but good, solid results cannot simply be ignored.

Otherwise, you end up with stuff like this:

Bob: Hey Doug! How you doin', buddy?

Doug: Good. Looking good. Feeling good.

Bob: Yeah, you do. Have you lost weight?

Doug: Yes, I have. I'm on a new diet. Want to join me for lunch?

Bob: Sure.

Doug: *popping open a food container* Mmmmmmm! Doesn't that smell good?

Bob: Uh, Doug, uh... what is that? It looks like grass clippings.

Doug: It is grass clippings -- 75% bluegrass, 25% rye grass, with just a touch of chives.

Bob: Ummmm... why are you eating grass?

Doug: It's my new diet. You see, Dr. Langston Martin has written this new book about diet. He says that since humans evolved on the savannahs of East Africa, we should be eating grass like they did. He also says that the herbivores there are some of the leanest animals in the world.

Bob: Umm... but they're herbivores. You know, multiple stomachs and all that. Large flat teeth.

Doug: Well he sells this liquid supplement to help digest the grass. Smell this. Doesn't it smell great?

Bob: It smells like mint flavored liquid paper. *gesturing to the liquid and the grass* You eat all this stuff?

Doug: Dr. Martin says all the East African tribes eat it.

Bob: I minored in Anthropology in college, Doug. The Masai tribe live on the savannahs of East Africa, and they raise cattle.

Doug: Oh, well I guess you won't want to share, will you?

said drgeek on 2003-03-12 at 1:43 p.m.


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