As one of the surviving members of the staff of the Warren Commission, which investigated and issued a report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, I am not looking forward to the coming weeks: Nov. 22 will mark the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death, and that means a new round of demonizing the Warren Commission and celebrating fallacious conspiracy theories.
After Chief Justice Earl Warren hired me to work for the commission, he told me that “truth was our only client.” Throughout the inquiry, that phrase remained our guiding principle.
The evidence that Lee Harvey Oswald killed the president was overwhelming. We reviewed ballistics analysis, medical records, eyewitness reports, acoustic patterns and a host of other records and investigative reports, all of which demonstrated beyond doubt that Oswald was the assassin. Scientific evidence confirmed that all the shots fired came from the spot where Oswald was perched and from a gun belonging to him. He showed consciousness of guilt by fleeing and killing a policeman. It wasn’t the first time Oswald had contemplated assassinating someone. He had tried to kill a former Army general and outspoken arch-conservative prior to shooting the president.
Obesity is on the rise— as is the incidence of Heart Disease, Diabetes, Stroke and various forms of Cancer. And, shockingly, diseases that had in the past begun in old age are now appearing at much earlier ages.
A groundbreaking scientific study showed how easily (and inexpensively) the rate of occurrence of these and other serious illness could be greatly reduced— but this information is widely ignored.
In this new book, Dr. T. Colin Campbell addresses these issues. Here’s an excerpt from the review:
This gist of T. Colin Campbell’s new book, Whole, (with co-author Howard Jacobson) is this. After publishing his radical landmark The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health in 2005, let’s suppose what he reported there is true. Eight years later, why hasn’t that information and perspective broken through to more widespread awareness? Why hasn’t your doctor or dietitian told you about it, or heard of it, or given it serious consideration? Why haven’t school lunches changed across the board? Whole gives answers.
Three p-words permeate Campbell’s thesis here: profits, power, and paradigms. Power and profits drive the big businesses of livestock and processed food, Campbell argues… (Read it all)
The risk of autism is not increased by ‘too many vaccines too soon’
Cincinnati, OH, March 29, 2013 — Although scientific evidence suggests that vaccines do not cause autism, approximately one-third of parents continue to express concern that they do; nearly 1 in 10 parents refuse or delay vaccinations because they believe it is safer than following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) schedule. A primary concern is the number of vaccines administered, both on a single day and cumulatively over the first 2 years of life. In a new study scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers concluded that there is no association between receiving “too many vaccines too soon” and autism.
Dr. Frank DeStefano and colleagues from the CDC and Abt Associates, Inc. analyzed data from 256 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 752 children without ASD (born from 1994-1999) from 3 managed care organizations. They looked at each child’s cumulative exposure to antigens, the substances in vaccines that cause the body’s immune system to produce antibodies to fight disease, and the maximum number of antigens each child received in a single day of vaccination.
The researchers determined the total antigen numbers by adding the number of different antigens in all vaccines each child received in one day, as well as all vaccines each child received up to 2 years of age. The authors found that the total antigens from vaccines received by age 2 years, or the maximum number received on a single day, was the same between children with and without ASD. Furthermore, when comparing antigen numbers, no relationship was found when they evaluated the sub-categories of autistic disorder and ASD with regression.
Although the current routine childhood vaccine schedule contains more vaccines than the schedule in the late 1990s, the maximum number of antigens that a child could be exposed to by 2 years of age in 2013 is 315, compared with several thousand in the late 1990s. Because different types of vaccines contain varying amounts of antigens, this research acknowledged that merely counting the number of vaccines received does not adequately account for how different vaccines and vaccine combinations stimulate the immune system. For example, the older whole cell pertussis vaccine causes the production of about 3000 different antibodies, whereas the newer acellular pertussis vaccine causes the production of 6 or fewer different antibodies.
Since the start of the New Year the GOP has had such a laser focus on fiscal matters that they’ve had time to introduce or advance the following anti-science bills in state legislatures:
When I left the GOP in 2009 I had a choice - I could have remained an (I)ndependent, but it’s exactly this type of anti-science bullshit that forced me to register Democrat rather than to take non stand on important science issues.
With the new legislative session beginning in most states around the country, this is the time that we see creationist bills crop up all over the place. Colorado has one (HB 13-1089), disguised, as many of them are, as a bill to boost “academic freedom” — but only about subjects where they think the textbooks and the scientific consensus are wrong.
The bill creates an “Academic Freedom Act” (act) for both K-12 public schools and institutions of higher education in the state of Colorado (act). The provisions of the acts direct teachers to create an environment that encourages students to intelligently and respectfully explore scientific questions and learn about scientific evidence related to biological and chemical evolution, global warming, and human cloning.
I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that the bill just happens to require “academic freedom” on those ideas on which they think the scientists have it completely wrong. Because if they were actually interested in “academic freedom” and wanting students to “intelligently and respectfully explore scientific questions,” wouldn’t that apply to all scientific questions?
UPDATE: A welcome news bulletin from Phil Plait, Colorado bill is “DOA”
In your wildest dreams, could you imagine a government that builds its policies on carefully gathered scientific evidence? One that publishes the rationale behind its decisions, complete with data, analysis and supporting arguments? Well, dream no longer: that’s where the UK is heading.
It has been a long time coming, according to Chris Wormald, permanent secretary at the Department for Education. The civil service is not short of clever people, he points out, and there is no lack of desire to use evidence properly. More than 20 years as a serving politician has convinced him that they are as keen as anyone to create effective policies. “I’ve never met a minister who didn’t want to know what worked,” he says. What has changed now is that informed policy-making is at last becoming a practical possibility.
That is largely thanks to the abundance of accessible data and the ease with which new, relevant data can be created. This has supported a desire to move away from hunch-based politics.
Last week, for instance, Rebecca Endean, chief scientific advisor and director of analytical services at the Ministry of Justice, announced that the UK government is planning to open up its data for analysis by academics, accelerating the potential for use in policy planning.
At the same meeting, hosted by innovation-promoting charity NESTA, Wormald announced a plan to create teaching schools based on the model of teaching hospitals. In education, he said, the biggest single problem is a culture that often relies on anecdotal experience rather than systematically reported data from practitioners, as happens in medicine. “We want to move teacher training and research and practice much more onto the health model,” Wormald said.
Personal-health journalism ignores the fundamentals of all scientific research and serves up unreliable information
In late 2011, in a nearly 6,000-word article in The New York Times Magazine, health writer Tara Parker-Pope laid out the scientific evidence that maintaining weight loss is a nearly impossible task—something that, in the words of one obesity scientist she quotes, only “rare individuals” can accomplish. Parker-Pope cites a number of studies that reveal the various biological mechanisms that align against people who’ve lost weight, ensuring that the weight comes back. These findings, she notes, produce a consistent and compelling picture by “adding to a growing body of evidence that challenges conventional thinking about obesity, weight loss, and willpower. For years, the advice to the overweight and obese has been that we simply need to eat less and exercise more. While there is truth to this guidance, it fails to take into account that the human body continues to fight against weight loss long after dieting has stopped. This translates into a sobering reality: once we become fat, most of us, despite our best efforts, will probably stay fat.”
But does this mean the obese should stop trying so hard to lose weight? Maybe. Parker-Pope makes sure to include the disclaimer that “nobody is saying” obese people should give up on weight loss, but after spending so much time explaining how the science “proves” it’s a wasted effort, her assurance sounds a little hollow.
The article is crammed with detailed scientific evidence and quotes from highly credentialed researchers. It’s also a compelling read, thanks to anecdotal accounts of the endless travails of would-be weight-losers, including Parker-Pope’s own frustrating failures to remove and keep off the extra 60 pounds or so she says she carries.
In short, it’s a well-reported, well-written, highly readable, and convincing piece of personal-health-science journalism that is careful to pin its claims to published research. There’s really just one problem with Parker-Pope’s piece: Many, if not most, researchers and experts who work closely with the overweight and obese would pronounce its main thesis—that sustaining weight loss is nearly impossible—dead wrong, and misleading in a way that could seriously, if indirectly, damage the health of millions of people.
Arvada pastor and KLTT radio show host Bob Enyart said his program “Real Science Friday” is a direct challenge to — not an imitation of — the popular National Public Radio show of almost the same name.
Enyart is being sued for trademark infringement and cybersquatting in New York state and federal courts by the NPR show’s producers at ScienceFriday Inc.
Representatives of the show “Science Friday,” hosted by journalist Ira Flatow, say the similarity in names is confusing people and sometimes diverting them to Enyart’s website, kgov.com.
Enyart is the self-described fundamentalist Christian pastor of the 60-member Denver Bible Church. He believes the world’s age is measured in thousands, not billions, of years because the Bible tells him so and, he said, scientific evidence backs it up.
Imitation, in this case, is the sincerest form of challenge, Enyart said. His science-talk show started in 1991, but he renamed it “Real Science Friday” in 2006 to push back against mainstream science journalism.
Pop quiz: Which of these statements is false?
1. We use only 10% of our brain.
2. Environments rich in stimuli improve the brains of preschool children.
3. Individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style, whether auditory, visual or kinesthetic.
If you picked the first one, congratulations. The idea that we use only 10% of our brain is patently false. Yet it so permeates popular culture that, among psychologists and neuroscientists, it is known as the “10% myth.” Contrary to popular belief, the entire brain is put to use—unused neurons die and unused circuits atrophy. Reports of neuroimaging research might perpetuate the myth by showing only a small number of areas “lighting up” in a brain scan, but those are just areas that have more than a base line level of activity; the dark regions aren’t dormant or unused.
Did you agree with the other two statements? If so, you fell into our trap. All three statements are false—or at least not substantiated by scientific evidence. Unfortunately, if you got any of them wrong, you’re hardly alone.
These “neuromyths,” along with others, were presented to 242 primary and secondary school teachers in the Netherlands and the U.K. as part of a study by Sanne Dekker and colleagues at VU University Amsterdam and Bristol University, and just published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. They found that 47% of the teachers believed the 10% myth. Even more, 76%, believed that enriching children’s environments will strengthen their brains.
Coming October 23, 2012.
FRONTLINE explores the massive shift in public opinion on climate change.
Four years ago, climate change was hot. Politicians from both parties, pressed by an anxious public, seemed poised to act. But that was then. Today, public opinion about the climate issue has cooled, and politicians either ignore the issue or loudly proclaim their skepticism of scientific evidence that human activity is imperiling the planet. What’s behind this reversal? FRONTLINE correspondent John Hockenberry of PRI’s The Takeaway goes inside the organizations that fought the scientific establishment, environmental groups, and lawmakers to shift the direction of debate on climate issues and redefined the politics of global warming.
Watch on air and online beginning October 23 at 10 pm ET on PBS.
Promoting Social Mobility: The Accident of Birth Is a Principal Source of Inequality in America Today
The accident of birth is a principal source of inequality in America today. American society is dividing into skilled and unskilled, and the roots of this division lie in early childhood experiences. Kids born into disadvantaged environments are at much greater risk of being unskilled, having low lifetime earnings, and facing a range of personal and social troubles, including poor health, teen pregnancy, and crime. While we celebrate equality of opportunity, we live in a society in which birth is becoming fate.
This powerful impact of birth on life chances is bad for individuals born into disadvantage. And it is bad for American society. We are losing out on the potential contributions of large numbers of our citizens.
It does not have to be this way. With smart social policy, we can arrest the polarization between skilled and unskilled. But smart policy needs to be informed by the best available scientific evidence. It requires serious attention to the costs of alternative policies, as well as to their benefits. Close attention to the evidence suggests three large lessons for social policy.
First, life success depends on more than cognitive skills. Non-cognitive characteristics—including physical and mental health, as well as perseverance, attentiveness, motivation, self-confidence, and other socio-emotional qualities—are also essential. While public attention tends to focus on cognitive skills—as measured by IQ tests, achievement tests, and tests administered by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)—non-cognitive characteristics also contribute to social success and in fact help to determine scores on the tests that we use to evaluate cognitive achievement.
Second, both cognitive and socio-emotional skills develop in early childhood, and their development depends on the family environment. But family environments in the United States have deteriorated over the past 40 years. A growing fraction of our children are being born into disadvantaged families, where disadvantage is most basically a matter of the quality of family life and only secondarily measured by the number of parents, their income, and their education levels. And that disadvantage tends to accumulate across generations.