Saturday, May 31, 2008

Science, Statistics, and Social Engineering

It is unclear as to when the decline of science began, but the decline was already underway when Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” was published in 1962. This book was used as a driving force in the international ban of DDT, even though after four decades of research DDT has never been shown to be harmful to man. In fact in order to bolster her case Carson cited cases of “acute exposures” to DDT as proof of its cancer causing abilities. She cited the case of a woman who sprayed DDT for spiders in her basement and then died a month later of leukemia. In another case she cited the case of a man who sprayed his office for cockroaches and a few days later was diagnosed with aplastic anemia. Of course these laughable examples show no empirical connection between DDT and the cancers and no responsible scientist would accept these as proof and to do so would be irresponsible. Yet no one questioned Carson or her conclusions at the time even though the actually observed results indicated DDT was not harmful to humans and the ban continues. But then there was the case of the impact of DDT on bird reproduction. The study Carson cited stated that DDT “may seriously affect reproduction of birds”. Of course the operative work here is “may” and the actual article indicated that DDT had only a minor negative impact on Quail but actually helped in the reproduction of pheasants.

But the real impact that DDT had was on human health, specifically malaria is immense. The World Health Organization credited DDT with saving 50 million to 100 million lives by preventing malaria. . In 1943 Venezuela had 8,171,115 cases of malaria; by 1958, after the use of DDT, the number was down to 800. India, which had over 10 million cases of malaria in 1935, had 285,962 in 1969. In Italy the number of malaria cases dropped from 411,602 in 1945 to only 37 in 1968. Since DDT was banned the number of cases of Malaria has increased and since the ban the number of cases in South Africa alone has increased 400%. So here is a case where no real science was used to further an ecological cause at human expense and what real science was available was ignored by Carson and the advocaes social engineering. Carson was convinced chemicals, like DDT were poisoning the environment and so used faith based "science" to create a problem with no real scientific basis. This was one of the early examples of Faith Based Science, but there were earlier ones.

In 1892 the Senate Committee on Epidemic Diseases concluded that cigarettes were a public health hazard. In 1964 the Surgeon General issued a report that cigarette smoking CAUSED lung cancer. Since that time there has been more than two dozen similar reports and the number of diseases related to smoking is now so high that virtually every disease is included and it is a wonder that anyone who smokes or who has even been around a smoker is still alive to tell about it. However, NONE of those reports has offered any proof that connects smoking to any disease and ignores the actual fact that the majority of smokers do not get lung cancer. To this day there is no empirical evidence that smoking causes cancer. This entire anti-smoking campaign is based on a statistical correlation and the side-smoke conclusions are not only statistical but based on an A Priori hypothesis which means any contrary findings were discarded. This is another and egregious example of Faith Based science because there is no scientific evidence showing smoking as the cause of cancer.

But given the success of their attack on tobacco the non-science scientists took that as a license to forego all of that tedious lab work and move on to data mining and this opened the door to pseudo-science based on statistics. We now see on a regular basis “scientific” claims that cancer is caused by Saccharin, Styrofoam cups, red meat, Oreo cookies, vasectomies, cotton swabs, orange juice, eggs, and the list goes on and on but it is not limited to cancer. Statistical correlations are being offered almost on daily basis to show some truly ridiculous claims. These are duy reported by the media even though there is no science or any real empirical evidence to support these statistical claims. The most recent example of a statistical "disease" is obesity.

Americans are overweight and the culprit is sugar, fast food, large portions,video games, lack of excercise, or whatever is currently in vogue. Everybody is on a diet, or at least everyone in the Northeast and West Coasts where appearance is everything. Of course much of this brouhaha is a direct result of a restatement of what constitutes “overweight”. The National Health Institute declared that 55% of Americans are overweight and the Social Security Administration declared “obesity is a chronic disease”. Did you get that? When you over eat and you gain weight it isn’t because you have no will power, nosiree – you have a disease and this disease is epidemic in America today. Note that the cry isn’t for science to find a cure for this disease – the demand is for the government to attack this epidemic through social engineering. The government should force Ronald MacDonald out of business, to stop people selling candy to kids, and in general to force people to eat healthy foods and a to eat a lot less so restaurants must reduce their portion sizes. Does that sound like science in action or do-gooders telling everyone else how to live? Where is science in all of this? We are assured that obese people have more medical problems than thin people – the statistics show that so there is no necessity to do any real lab work showing there is a direct connection between a disease of the body and the “disease” of obesity.

Science is definitely in decline and seems to becoming more of a belief system than any thing seriously based on the hallowed scientific method. Perhaps the best example of this erosion of science into social engineering is the declaration that alcoholism is a “disease” and not an example of irresponsible behavior. Precisely what the germ is that causes this disease or how you catch this disease is not described. It is enough to know that people who drink to excess and cannot control their behavior cannot be held accountable by society because that would require them to be personally responsible for their situation. Instead we call it a disease and that excuses them from accountability. Where is the science? Where is the empirical connection? Science is clearly in decline and quickly disappearing. I think I need a Big Mac.

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