|Feature Article - August 2019|
|by Do-While Jones|
But you can argue with counterfeit science.
Science is a foolproof way to discover natural laws. Science is how the Apollo astronauts knew exactly where in their orbit on the far side of the Moon to fire their engine, and for how long to let it burn, to put them on a trajectory back to Earth. All nine manned missions to the Moon (Apollo 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17) made it back to Earth safely because science had correctly taught us orbital mechanics. You can trust science.
Because science is trustworthy, unscientific things sometimes try to appropriate the mantle of scientific respectability by pretending to be scientific. The theory of evolution is the obvious example—but it isn’t the only one.
Concepts that falsely claim to be scientific usually have some elements which have some tangential relationship to science. These dubious concepts are based on “scientific studies” which should be open to question, but usually aren’t questioned.
In the 1950’s, my father (a physician) gave me a salt tablet every summer day to keep me healthy. Now the salt-free tomato sauce is supposed to be healthier than good-tasting tomato sauce. I grew up being told one must eat at least one egg a day to be healthy. Then eggs became one of the worst things you can eat because of cholesterol, which is bad. But then, there was “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol.” I have lost track of all the things nutritional “science” has “proved”—then disproved—are healthy to eat.
The 13 July 2019 cover of New Scientist contrasted nutritional science on the lower-left side with rocket science in the upper-right corner.
The subtitle of the print version of the article is,
Every week seems to bring contradictory advice about diet. That’s because all nutritional science is fatally flawed, finds Clare Wilson. 1
The subtitle of the on-line version of the article is,
Are carbs good for you? Or eggs? Every week seems to bring contradictory new diet advice. New Scientist unpicks the surprising flaws in nutritional science 2
The article begins,
ONE morning a few months ago, I saw a headline that made my heart sink. It claimed that eggs can give you heart attacks.
It wasn’t that I was about to eat eggs for breakfast. It was because, as a medical journalist, I knew friends and family would soon ask me what to make of this claim. And I would have a tough time answering. Advice about what to eat seems to change every week.
Eggs are a classic example. They were once seen as wholesome packages of protein and vitamins, a perfect start to the day. But in the 1960s we woke up to the dangers of cholesterol. Eggs, which are rich in this fatty substance, became frowned upon.
But wait! Around 20 years ago, our ideas about cholesterol were revised: the amount in our food no longer mattered, because it didn’t really affect the levels in our blood and hence our heart health. In the years that followed, it became OK to eat eggs once more. Then in March, the latest study showed the opposite again – that cholesterol in eggs was bad for us.
Sometimes I wonder if we should believe anything we read about food. That might sound like an overreaction, but perhaps it is a rational stance. A growing number of scientists are now saying nutrition science is so flawed that we can’t even trust pillars of advice like eating plenty of vegetables and avoiding saturated fat. Within certain common sense boundaries, they say, it doesn’t matter what we eat. But could that really be true? 3
Wow! What an indictment of nutrition science. What causes these ubiquitous flaws?
Yet the more I dug into the subject, the more it became clear that, while misleading media coverage is part of the problem, this field’s flaws run much deeper. There are huge amounts of research on diet published every year, a lot of it funded by governments concerned about rising levels of obesity and diabetes. But even in the pages of respected science journals, we find conflicting results about much of what we eat and drink, potatoes, dairy products, bacon, fruit juice, alcohol, even water. And this isn’t just quibbling over details: there is a major fault line dividing the field over whether we should eat food that is low in fat or low in carbohydrates, for example. 4
Later in the article she says,
Another source of error is known as publication bias: studies that show interesting results are more likely to get published than those that don’t. So if two studies look at red meat and cancer, for instance, and only one shows a link, that one is more likely to be published. 5
We certainly can’t argue with that!
The big problem with these “observational” studies is that eating certain foods tends to go hand in hand with other behaviours that affect health. People who eat what is generally seen as an unhealthy diet – with more fast food, for instance – tend to have lower incomes and unhealthy lifestyles in other ways, such as smoking and taking less exercise. Conversely, eating supposed health foods correlates with higher incomes, with all the benefits they bring.
These other behaviours are known as confounders, because in observational studies they can lead us astray. For example, even if blueberries don’t affect heart attack rates, those who eat more of them will have fewer heart attacks, simply because eating blueberries is a badge of middle-class prosperity. 6
Because confounders “can lead us astray,” researchers feel justified in “correcting” the data to eliminate the confounders. For example, assumed amounts of contamination are used in geological date calculations to get the “correct” age, and dark matter is added to make astronomical calculations “correct.”
Patel says this shows researchers can get any result they want out of their data, by plugging into their analysis tools whatever confounders give an outcome that fits their favoured diet, be it low-fat or low-carbohydrate, vegetarian or Mediterranean. “We have large studies that measure all things simultaneously – it’s more possible than ever to cherry pick,” he says. 7
Patel isn’t the only one who says this. John Ioannidis agrees.
It is impossible to quantify exactly how much confounders and publication bias are distorting the field. But they are enough of a problem that we should be sceptical of all dietary advice, says data scientist John Ioannidis at Stanford University in California. 8
The majority of the article tries to separate nutritional facts from nutritional fiction. You can use the link in the footnotes to read the article for yourself if you care to read about what she thinks. The nutritional arguments are irrelevant to the theory of evolution, so we won’t endorse or refute them. Our interest is in how science can be misrepresented—and this article on nutrition is simply an example of how, as the New Scientist cover says, “Convoluted studies cherry-picked evidence.” Our essay is about the relationship of science to the theory of evolution, not the relationship of science to fad diets. We say convoluted studies cherry-pick evidence to produce misleading conclusions about evolution, too. Let’s look at another example.
Scientists know how to make a nuclear reactor big enough to power a large city. They know how to make a nuclear reactor small enough to fit in, and power, a nuclear submarine. They don’t know how to make a nuclear reactor small enough to power an automobile. Imagine if you could buy an automobile which came with a nuclear reactor and one ounce of uranium fuel which would power that automobile for five years. Instead of making frequent stops at a gas station, you just had to take your car back to the dealer every five years to replace the uranium (or buy a new car).
In a hydrogen bomb, a massive amount of pressure and a really high temperature force hydrogen atoms to fuse. When they do, they produce helium atoms and a devastating, uncontrollable amount of energy. In 1989, Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons thought they had figured out a way to make a tiny, room-temperature nuclear reactor which used hydrogen fusion to produce helium and a small amount of heat, which could be converted to a reasonable amount of electricity. It was called, “cold fusion.”
A cold fusion reactor would be an even better power source for an automobile than a uranium reactor because it runs on hydrogen (which you can make by passing an electric current through water) and the waste product (helium) is not radioactive or toxic.
Cold fusion was (and still is) a great idea. People did (and still do) want it to work. But science is brutally honest. When other scientists tried to repeat the Fleischmann-Pons experiment, it didn’t work. Scientists tried really hard to make it work, using different catalysts and slightly different procedures; but nobody ever succeeded in getting cold fusion to work. After three years, most scientists gave up on the idea because science proved it didn’t work, despite the fact everybody really wanted it to work.
After 1991, cold fusion research only continued in relative obscurity, conducted by groups that had increasing difficulty securing public funding and keeping programs open. These small but committed groups of cold fusion researchers have continued to conduct experiments using Fleischmann and Pons electrolysis setups in spite of the rejection by the mainstream community. The Boston Globe estimated in 2004 that there were only 100 to 200 researchers working in the field, most suffering damage to their reputation and career. Since the main controversy over Pons and Fleischmann had ended, cold fusion research has been funded by private and small governmental scientific investment funds in the United States, Italy, Japan, and India. 9
The difference between cold fusion and abiogenesis or macroevolution is that when science proved that Fleischmann-Pons cold fusion didn’t work, scientists accepted reality. Science continues to prove that abiogenesis and macroevolution didn’t happen, but evolutionists won’t accept that reality. They continue to believe that life did arise by some unknown natural process, and new classes of living things evolved from other radically different classes, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, they insist you believe it, too.
I hope scientists continue to study hydrogen fusion. I hope that research will lead to a different way to fuse small numbers of hydrogen atoms to produce a controllable amount of power. It would be such a valuable invention that it would be a shame to give up too soon; but just because we like the idea doesn’t mean we should claim it worked (or pass a law saying all cars built after 2035 must use cold fusion instead of gasoline. )
It might be too soon to give up on looking for a way to cause cold fusion that really works. On the other hand, the evidence against abiogenesis and Darwinian evolution is so strong, and has been known to be incontrovertible for so long, it is long since time to give up on evolution. It has been 160 years since the publication of Origin of Species. It is time to accept the scientific truth that Darwinian evolution isn’t true.
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Clare Wilson, New Scientist, 15 July 2019, “Why everything you know about nutrition is wrong,” pages 32-35, https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24332380-000-why-everything-you-know-about-nutrition-is-wrong/