Posted by: fireweaver | April 16, 2008

scientific reality check

ok, everyone, sit down.

like we’ve discussed before, the media is pretty damn clueless about science.  reporting on medical literature is all about how wacky you can make something sound, either demonizing something as The Worst EEEVIL Ever, or touting some new hypothesis as That Which Will Cure Us All By Next Week.  so color me shocked today to read this tale in slate, which reminds us that freaking out over infinitesimal causes of cancer while ignoring very real ones is kinda like walking around naked in a blizzard because you’re worried about a coat’s zipper attracting lightning.  actual sanity in medical/scientific reporting, who knew it was possible?

one of the most interesting points the author makes is about the subtle paradigm shift of blame that this wrong-headed thinking is starting to cause.  if Everyone Knows that cancer is caused by cell phones and growth hormones in your milk, then obviously you can prevent cancer in your life by having a Healthy Lifestyle ™, genetics & environment be damned.  the flip side of which is, of course, the subtle suggestion that if you use a cell phone or work in an older pre-asbestos-ban building then the cancer you acquire later in your life is your own stupid fault.  the “shit happens” theory of cancer – including such things as the luck of the genetic draw, or factoring in constant bombardment by solar radiation – may be a whole lot closer to the truth, but it sure doesn’t sell any cell phone “cancer-preventing discs” or “ionic” air purifiers.

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