It is always a bit of a challenge to determine if what you are being told by “experts” is true or not. The book “Lies My Teacher Told Me,” by James W. Loewen, exposes lots of misinformation that we were all taught in history classes in school. For example, none of us were told that Helen Keller was a political radical who helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union. Nor were we told that at least 15 other explorers came to the Americas before Christopher Columbus. Go figure, information that we didn’t need, I guess.
Sometime scientific “truths” are just as misinformed as our history texts. Every few years an exciting scientific theory comes out that gets everyone upset, and even fearful. Global Warming is an example of this. We all love to debate it and lots of research money is being spent on the concept, yet who can point to definitive research that proves that the atmosphere is really heating up in an unusual way? Here is an analysis that I did a few years ago on one of the graphs often used to “prove” global warming. The first section of the graph data comes from an ice core the southern part of Antarctica, where carbon dioxide is naturally at the lowest levels on the earth. This is followed by other ice cores where carbon dioxide levels are naturally higher. The graph is finished up with a surface air reading in Hawaii. What does this lead Al Gore and you to conclude? Also, look at the pattern from the Vostok ice core for earth carbon dioxide levels over the last 400,000 years. To me it looks like the earth was ready for the repeating 100,000 year rise in carbon dioxide about now. Who should you believe?
Medical Conundrum 1: Antioxidants are good free radicals are bad, or is it the other way around?
The scientific theories that our society seems to get most excited and fearful about are often related to medical research. This research nearly always concludes that, if we don’t all take a certain drug, or eat a certain food additive, we will all die early deaths.
For example, we all know that antioxidants are good for us. We have been told this over and over for many years. We need to drink green tea and eat other foods which have antioxidants in them, in order to remove “free radicals” from our systems.
However, a recent article in Scientific American magazine details how a researcher was unable to show that antioxidants really helped. The idea that antioxidants were good for one’s body came from Denham Harman, a chemist. He said the idea came to him, “You know, just ‘out the blue’.“ He went on to study his idea and was able to produce results that seemed to prove his hypothesis. This all changed when David Gem did a study with genetically altered worms. He was hoping to be able to show that Denham Harman was correct. But, he found that the worms with more free radicals lived longer than the ones with fewer. His study has been confirmed by others. So, are we supposed to drink that green tea, or not?
Medical Conundrum 2: PSA Testing is meaningful
For a number of years now, a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test of a man’s blood during a physical exam has been common. It was thought that using the results of the test would determine if a man had the early stages of prostate cancer. However, last year Scientific American magazine published several articles that refute this belief. The US Preventative Services Task Force, and the American Cancer Society now recommend against using the PSA test for otherwise healthy men. The reasons for the recommendation against are that (a) there is no real evidence that this test accurately detects cancer, (b) there is evidence that this test coupled with the anxiety it produces in patients and (c) unneeded biopsies and (d) unneeded treatments actually cause more deaths than the test prevents.. The American Cancer Society recommends that doctors counsel their patients before running a PSA test, so that the patient is aware of the risks that the test can bring on.
Medical Conundrum 3: Cholesterol
While some studies show that lowering cholesterol can lower the risk of heart attack, still others show that taking cholesterol-lowering medication can cause memory loss, irreversible muscle weakness and mood and personality changes. Dr. Golomb of the University of California San Diego has been researching these ill effects. As with PSA testing, global warming and antioxidants, there does not seem to be a clear explanation for how lowering cholesterol really reduces the risk of heart attack. And with the common explanation, there is rarely a mention of how important cholesterol is.
What to do in the face of lies from “authorities?"
We all have to learn which “expert” opinions we are going to follow. I note that the conclusion of almost any public information about health is the suggestion to lose weight, exercise and eat a healthy diet. Maybe this is the answer after all. It’s the one I try to follow. What do you do in the face of conflicting “facts?”