“Things Exist Outside of Science” – or: Science as a Panacea

I often get into somewhat heated debates about the role of science. Specifically, one thing I hear relatively often is that science does not have all the answers. That science is “limiting”, and that there are things that exist outside of what the scientific method can observe. To which my response would be: what things?


I googled “God Photshop” and was not disappointed.


The Shotgun Effect

Imagine you want to spend time investigating whether being around stupid people causes medical conditions. So you set up a trial with two epidemiological groups – one for people who live near homeopathic clinics, and one for people who live on college campuses away from homeopathic clinics (as a control). Then you check these groups for all manner of illnesses. You examine them for leukemia, lung cancer, measles, multiple sclerosis, Ebola, AIDS… all in all, over 1000 serious health conditions. Your tests are designed for between 95% and 99.9% certainty. In the end, it turns out that those who live near homeopathic clinics are statistically more likely to have shingles, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C. So can we conclude that homeopathic clinics cause shingles, tuberculosis, and hep C?



God, I wish. Because given how many homeopaths either buy into studies that fall prey to this kind of error or abuse it themselves, a study like this could lead them to shutting down clinics for the sake of public health. Have I mentioned that I don’t like homeopathy?


Seriously, guys, it’s just water.



An Exercise in Critical Reading

Okay, science pals, I’ve got a fun little exercise for you. Let’s see how many of you can spot where this paragraph goes wrong:

Merck and the CDC have determined that 1 out of every 912 who received Gardasil in a large study,  (see page 8) died. Yet, the cervical cancer death rate is only 1 out of every 40,000 women per year. In other words, girls are better off not taking the shot because the Gardasil shot kills the girls in greater numbers than does the disease it purports to treat.

Obviously, if you don’t click on the link to the study, you don’t spot the error. So let’s do that. The first thing you should do in a case like this is look to what’s cited. In this case, it’s page 8 of a safety assessment where the paper does in fact offer a number of people in their study who died. What was the largest cause of death among those who supposedly died of Gardasil? Acute respiratory failure? Negative reaction to aluminum leading to organ failure? Car crashes?

…Wait, what?


Things I read on facebook: Monsanto and Bt


Source: Vegiheal.com on facebook



Getting information about anything from infographics on Facebook is a bad idea. This should be obvious. What should also be obvious is that getting information about medicine, nutrition, or food from facebook is an even worse idea, because there is a massive grassroots campaign of hippies (hey, they don’t call it grassroots for nothing) who generally mean well but unfortunately will share almost anything that perpetuates the idea that everything natural is good and everything to do with technology is dangerous or toxic. The end result is that if you’re friends with a lot of old-school hippies (like I am) you stand a very good chance of seeing a lot of really bad science in your news feed. (more…)