Evidence Matters — Part II

Jun 16, 2020 | Environment, Food, Health, Politics/Policy

And it’s not okay that…… millions of people are being “abused” and many even dying as a result of evil people using false data and making false scientific claims for their own financial or political benefit. It’s not only wrong, it’s criminal and what’s worse is that the incidence of such behaviour seems only to be increasing.

I have no idea how to put an actual value, monetary or otherwise to the extent of this fraud.  I’ve listed and described a number from different fields of “endeavor”, in particular from health and medicine that to me seem particularly egregious. The most worrisome aspect is that the incidence of false information seems to be growing almost as if evidence really doesn’t matter.

Hundreds of thousands of poor undernourished children in underdeveloped countries die each and every year from Vitamin A Deficiency. This is totally unnecessary when there is a product of biotechnology, a GMO called “Golden Rice” that has been shown to be a safe and effective cure.  It’s a normal strain of rice into which the gene for Vitamin A has been incorporated. But the powerful anti-GMO forces, often led by Greenpeace use false claims to keep it off the market….and children in underdeveloped countries continue to die.

In 2019, approximately 150,000 people worldwide, died from Measles primarily because many parents refused to vaccinate their children after listening to daytime television and the anti-vaccine claims of a so-called scientist who has been shown in court to be a fraud. Vaccinations are critical to limit the spread of infectious diseases. Think about the whole world now eagerly awaiting a COVID-19 vaccine. The anti-vaxxers are a huge danger to individual and public health worldwide. Given the fact that an individual who refuses vaccination becomes a potentially lethal threat to their community, there should be stringent laws. And yet somehow, we can’t bring ourselves to accept the evidence and take action.

Thousands of sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis have resorted  to an unproven surgical procedure championed by Italian surgeon Paolo Zamboni. Some of them even lost their lives as a result of the surgery. It took years for the community of sufferers to understand that the surgery doesn’t work. Unfortunately, false medical claims and unnecessary and unproven surgeries are all too common in the health care world.

Holocaust Deniers spread hatred and Anti-Semitism. And there are hundreds of other organizations fomenting hate largely through misinformation that create untold grief and death. Amazingly (or not), some of them are even encouraged by the current American President.

Thousands of cancer patients refuse treatment in the United States and Canada and travel to cancer clinics in far off places with lax or no regulation. Take for example the cancer patients who flocked to Tijuana, Mexico for treatment with Laetrile, an extract from the apricot pit that contains cyanide and does nothing  to help or cure cancer. There are many such questionable clinics situated around the world preying on vulnerable people.

Young people are told, through massive advertising campaigns that vaping, and e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to smoking. How can this possibly be acceptable?

Oil companies are allowed to spend 100s of millions of dollars per year much of it tax deductible so at the public’s expense spreading false claims that Global Warming and Climate change are not real. And hedging, they say that if they are real, they are certainly not caused by humans. That is pure unadulterated and false propaganda and it’s a major impediment to the development of non-fossil fuel sources of energy and a cleaner environment.

It’s extraordinary that we accept that elections may be won or lost based on blatantly false statements which once and often re-stated become difficult to refute. This should be of much greater concern to us all. Think about President Trump’s repeated call to jail Hillary Clinton or his Birther conspiracy.

The President of the United States continues to make outrageous claims. The COVID-19 virus won’t be an issue. Hydroxychloroquine really works. Use bleach. Someone calculated that he’s now up to 8000 such statements all without evidence, most wrong and many dangerous.

Our pharmacies have shelves packed with products making outrageous claims with no or at best dubious evidence. In fact, too often these products failed to get FDA approval and found their way to OTC (over the counter) shelves where claims are virtually unregulated and often without any evidence.

These are but a few of the many examples and they are simply  not OK. It really is a form of abuse when people, often poorly informed in particular areas, are taken advantage of for nefarious reasons. The reason may be financial: as in the snake oil salesman; the plight of the oil and gas industry; and the crises of global warming. It may be an issue of power and politics as is the case of the behaviour of President Trump. Or it may be a case of unmitigated hatred as in the case of the White Supremacists, the Anti-Semites, the Anti-Blacks, the Anti-Muslims, the Anti-Asians and the list goes on. What’s worse is that in today’s complex world people are looking for hope and leadership and too often they’re presented with falsehoods and solutions which come with dire consequences.

In the next blog, I’ll continue to speculate on why so many of us appear to accept facts without evidence and often, straight falsehoods. I’ll even attempt to offer some solutions.

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Image courtesy of Drew Hayes (via Unsplash)