Science Is Not The Enemy

Toby Birkett
Toby Birkett

With the rise in access to information, it’s only natural that there’s a rise in questioning common conventions. The internet, especially social media, has become a global platform for activists, advocates, and just about anyone wanting to challenge people’s thinking. A lot of this is for good, but there is also a growing movement of loud voices that is more alarming each time they open their mouths: The anti-science movement (anti-vaccine, anti-GMO, etc).
We’re not talking about the dedicated researchers here who use sound methods and testing to try and explore alternative therapies. Unfortunately, a lot of these more credible and educated voices are lost to the sensationalist loud-mouths; the ones that make dangerous, if not outright insane, claims. Claims that some people want to believe. Who wouldn’t want to think that eating blueberries by the punnet can cure their cancer? Regardless, it’s a claim that is easily dashed by scientific research. Actual research, that’s peer reviewed, scrutinised and filtered. Yes, eating healthily can reduce your overall risk of cancer, but it’s like the biological version of wearing a seatbelt to save yourself from death in a car crash.
Strapping a dismembered car crash victim back together with seatbelts doesn’t bring them back from the dead any more than an increase in dietary antioxidants cures cancer. I use this (ridiculous and completely incompatible) example for a reason; this is how anti-science voices tear down scientific theory. They use incompatible analogies, skewed or fabricated data, fear-mongering, and anecdotes from your everyday-Joe to prove their methods work.
In the real world, we know these as marketing tactics.
But when you start to scrutinise their claims, they (and their fans) react like the unprofessional charlatans that they are. Everyone who contradicts them is a “shill”, or they’re “trying to suppress knowledge”, and if that fails, they just out and out avoid the scrutiny and talk about things like “being positive”. They may as well be sticking their fingers in their ears, screaming “I’m not listening”. When a true researcher, scientific or alternative, is questioned or criticised, they respond with what they can to face in to the scrutiny.
I’ll leave you with my own personal experience. At the end of 2013 I got fed up with doctors not wanting to explore reasons for an issue I had with low testosterone. As a skeptic so sceptical that I almost loop back around to conspiracy theorist, I did my own research. It’s not easy, with all the incredulous articles out there, so it was time consuming. Eventually I found a series of interesting articles that linked grains with damage to the endocrine system. So I decided to take a chance, and I cut out grains for six months. At the end of that time I saw a 70% increase in my testosterone levels.
Now, this is the important bit. The lack of grains was not the reason for the increase, though someone could easily make that claim. How do I know? I’ve been eating them for a year, and no drop in testosterone. So then what was it?
In a nutshell, I lost weight that I’ve kept off; 20 kilos of it. Had the no-grain diet not caused other complications, I would have never eaten them again, and would have gone on believing that grains cause low testosterone. This last point is exactly why all claims need to be put up to multiple scrutinies, and why we should never believe the word of a snake oil salesman.

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