CancerCells

Don’t eat that! It will cause cancer. Wait, eat more of it! It will actually cure cancer.

A high-fat diet will make you obese! No wait, actually, a high-fat diet is the best way to get in shape!

It seems every day Americans are bombarded with breathless, contradictory headlines about their health. For Americans hoping to lose weight and avoid chronic illness, even reading the morning paper can be a baffling or infuriating process, as millions are told last week’s fad diet is now this week’s dangerous health risk.

But the phenomenon isn’t just a minor frustration. Science as a whole is suffering a “reproducibility crisis.”

For a discovery to have any value, different scientists repeating the same experiment under the same conditions need to get the same results. Yet research shows half of the medical studies trumpeted by the establishment media are found to be worthless after follow-up scrutiny.

Sometimes, the errors result from a wholesale failure to follow even the most basic scientific procedures. In one shocking example, research supposedly being conducted on breast cancer was actually being performed on melanoma cells that had been mislabeled. The mistake meant years of research and millions of dollars was completely wasted.

NPR science correspondent Richard Harris estimates taxpayers lose more than $28 billion a year because of such failures.

Adding to the problem is a sensationalistic media climate that often trumpets dramatic medical developments without waiting to see if the findings will hold up over further study. Marc Fitch, author of “Shmexperts: How Ideology And Power Politics Are Disguised As Science,” says media sensationalism conceals the more subtle and slow-paced reality of serious scientific research.

“The media’s job is to make headlines,” Fitch told WND. “If you have a study that says ‘coffee causes cancer’ or some such argument, that is going to make headlines. A different study saying ‘coffee reduces cancer risk’ will also make headlines. But subsequent studies that refute those initial findings are not going to have the same impact, nor the same media coverage. It also takes a long time to conduct a study – particularly ones dealing with long-term health issues – so by the time a contradictory study is released the issue has largely faded from public consciousness or major media interest.

Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes? Don’t believe everything you see on TV or read in the paper – many of those so-called experts are just trying to sell you on their agenda. Find out the real story behind the media’s façade of expertise in “Shmexperts: How Ideology And Power Politics Are Disguised As Science.”

“This is why critical thinking and personal research is so important during this time of a 24/7 media cycle which is heavily focused on getting online viewers and Facebook clicks.”

A different kind of sensationalism is also distorting the research process itself. Because of fierce competition to obtain funding for research, scientists are also at risk of being guided by their own hopes and biases, exaggerating results or overlooking evidence that goes against the result scientists want to see.

Fitch suggested the issue of government funding of research is “complicated,” and while he said it might play a role, ultimately upholding scientific standards is up to the search community itself.

“Scientists compete for funding, and to get more funding you have to show results, so there is certainly an increased pressure to produce something – anything – that can be said to advance human understanding of health issues and other scientific questions,” he said.

“I don’t think the government is to blame except for the choices they make in what to fund with grants. Reproducibility, testing and verifying takes time. The onus of responsibility should ultimately rest on the researchers themselves. If science is being undermined it is probably being done so by the people conducting the research and the subsequent media attention.”

People are understandably desperate when it comes to information about their health, especially deadly diseases such as cancer and ALS. Those with deadly diseases and their loved ones thus naturally seize on any new report as a source of hope or a miracle cure. But Fitch argues scientists are only beginning to understand the human body, and Americans simply have to understand this kind of progress takes time. Even the most obvious health findings, such as the negative effects of tobacco, took a significant amount of time and effort to discover.

“Obviously, people want to know more about the world and any scientific findings that may impact their lives, but we live in an age now where we want those findings right away and it’s just not doable,” Fitch said. “Today, it is common knowledge that smoking increases your likelihood of getting lung cancer. But proving that fact took years of research. The increased rate of lung cancer was first noticed following World War I. It wasn’t until decades later that scientists reached a solid conclusion and even then there was a lot of back and forth.

“Or you could look at how studies have changed back and forth concerning the best kind of diet, whether or not eggs and butter are good for you, and the impact of cholesterol on heart attacks. Medical and health studies are not like mathematical equations and chemistry experiments, which offer solid proofs. Every individual is different and complex and are affected differently by certain activities, so reaching a general conclusion in health studies can take a lot of time and testing.”

But where does that leave Americans who are concerned about their own health? Fitch advises tuning out excitable media reports and turning back to common sense and old-fashioned wisdom about staying in shape, eating a balanced diet and not using dangerous substances.

schmexperts

“Don’t take it on face value and recognize that there are a number of mitigating factors and circumstances inherent in medical and health studies that can render them invalid,” Fitch said. “Stick to the basics of good health that have been around for generations. Keep it simple. The media is there to stir up anxiety, that is how they get people to read their stories, and the biggest anxiety of all deals with our mortality.”

Perhaps most importantly, Fitch says Americans need to not let excitable journalists or click-hungry media corporations commandeer their own judgment.

“You see it everywhere – from politics to science to economics,” Fitch said of the media’s scaremongering. “But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice parts of your life and everyday routine to that fear. If you see a medical or health study that worries you, just wait a little while or do some checking on your own. Chances are you will find a different study saying the exact opposite. Scientists disagree all the time. There is little reason the public shouldn’t be able to make their own personal critiques and criticisms and decide whether or not a change in their lifestyle is justified.”

Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes? Don’t believe everything you see on TV or read in the paper – many of those so-called experts are just trying to sell you on their agenda. Find out the real story behind the media’s façade of expertise in “Shmexperts: How Ideology And Power Politics Are Disguised As Science.”

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