In the final installment in his series on pathological science, Gary Taubes claims institutionalized skepticism is a necessary trait in any legitimate scientific field. He brings this claim to bear on modern research on nutrition and chronic disease and notes a tendency to act on poorly formed or ineffectively tested hypotheses. Scientists who call for the implementation of such hypotheses ask for trust without having performed the rigorous research necessary to earn it, Taubes claims, and when this practice becomes the norm, an entire field of research can become pathological. “A healthy scientific enterprise allows for no shortcuts,” he writes.Read MorePathological Science, Part 3
CrossFit Health is an investigation into the ills of modern medicine and the wilful abuse of the public’s trust in science. The lessons learned from the legal dismantling of fake science, a crooked journal, and perjuring scientists have given us a forensic view as to how everything might have gone so wrong. We’re calling the combination of runaway medical costs and disease rates — which many profit from but none combat effectively — “The Mess.”
In part two of his series on pathological science, Gary Taubes estimates the extent to which self-deceit has infiltrated scientific research and further investigates whether entire disciplines have become pathological. His inquiries lead to meditations on the necessary characteristics of rigorous scientific study. One indication that health-related research has become pathological, he suggests, is its experts’ tendency to view “placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized-controlled trials as the ‘gold standard’ of scientific evidence.” This view, he argues, represents “a lack of understanding of the scientific endeavor,” because “these trials are simply what’s necessary to establish reliable knowledge.”Read MorePathological Science, Part 2
Richard Feynman’s famous 1974 Caltech commencement address on “science, pseudoscience, and learning how not to fool yourself.”Read the article Richard Feynman: Cargo Cult Science
In this three-part series, Gary Taubes investigates what Irving Langmuir terms “pathological science,” or the “science of things that aren’t so.” Taubes distinguishes pathological science from fraud, which is characterized by a person’s attempt to deceive others, arguing rather that participants in pathological science delude themselves. He compares this self-deceit to what Richard Feynman famously called "Cargo Cult Science." And while researchers and philosophers of science have long expressed concern over the possibility of self-deceit distorting scientific truth, Taubes questions whether the problem has grown rampant today. “The possibility exists that entire disciplines may be essentially pathological,” he writes.Read MorePathological Science, Part 1
In October 2013, cardiologist and professor of evidence-based medicine Dr. Aseem Malhotra published an editorial in the BMJ entitled “Saturated Fat Is Not the Major Issue.” There, he contradicted popular wisdom about saturated fat consumption contributing to heart disease and claimed the medical establishment’s focus on lowering cholesterol to improve heart health had led to the overprescription of statin drugs with negative side effects. Though the scientific evidence was on his side, many in the scientific and medical communities were not. Here he describes the history and inner workings of the ongoing conflict and the lessons to be gleaned from it.Read More The Great Statin Scam – Time to Clean up the Mess
The Effect of Statins on Average Survival in Randomised Trials, An Analysis of End Point Postponement
The benefit of preventive drugs such as statins is often quantified as the “number needed to treat,” or NNT, which reflects the number of subjects who would need to be given a drug for one negative clinical event to be prevented. For example, if the NNT for a statin preventing cardiovascular death is 40, it suggests that for every 40 patients given a statin, one cardiovascular death will be prevented. This number, however, distorts the likely reality of the benefit distribution by suggesting a single subject receives the entire benefit while other subjects receive no benefit. This 2014 review aimed to quantify the clinical impact of statins differently, assessing the mean extension of life due to statin treatment. The analysis found the median benefit associated with statin use was 3.2 days in primary prevention and 4.1 days in secondary prevention. In other words, statins extended life expectancy by less than a week. Separate research suggests if the benefits of statins were explained this way, the majority of subjects would not choose to take them.Read MoreThe Effect of Statins on Average Survival in Randomised Trials, An Analysis of End Point Postponement
In September 2019, "The Chair of the British Parliament Science and Technology Committee, Sir Norman Lamb MP made calls for a full investigation into cholesterol lowering statin drugs. It was instigated after a letter was written to him signed by a number of eminent international doctors including the editor of the BMJ, the Past President of the Royal College of Physicians and the Director of the Centre of Evidence Based Medicine in Brazil wrote a letter calling for a full parliamentary inquiry into the controversial medication. Here, lead author Cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra makes the case for [why] there’s an urgent need for such an investigation."Read the articleDo statins really work? Who benefits? Who has the power to cover up the side effects?
Science is immersed in a crisis of reproducibility, but how can science go so badly wrong? Here, an anonymous author with intimate knowledge of the academic world and its research and publishing practices addresses this question, drawing examples from his formative years in the university and ensuing professional life. Citing firsthand experiences wherein he witnessed the impact of questionable research practices, conflicts of interest, and perverse career incentives, he explains how “the very enterprise of research can deviate systematically from the paths of truth.”Read MoreWhy Do Scientists Cheat?
“There seems to be a prevalent idea that cholesterol is a wholly undesirable substance. It should be pointed out that it is an essential constituent of all animal tissues and undoubtedly plays an important role in the normal function of all cells. To eliminate cholesterol from the diet means the elimination of animal foods from the diet — meats, milk, eggs, etc. These are the protective foods which nutritionists have clearly shown are essential for an adequate diet. … The proposition that low cholesterol diets be used as a preventive for the development of atherosclerosis would mean that animal foods be omitted from our diets. This is equivalent to the negation of practically all that nutrition science has taught us in the past. Such a course may well be disastrous.”Read the editorialComments on Cholesterol: D. M. Hegsted, G. V. Mann, F. J. Stare, and Lewis J. Moorman in 1952
Maryanne Demasi, an investigative journalist with a Ph.D. in rheumatology, shares highlights from her interview with Danish physician Uffe Ravnskov. Ravnskov, a famed cholesterol skeptic, has gained worldwide significance for his persistent fight against the demonization of cholesterol. Though he once believed additional research would “out the absurdity of a narrative that cast saturated fats and cholesterol as dietary villains,” he has since become an active crusader against misinformation and the corruption of science, publishing more than a hundred articles in well-known scientific journals in an effort to set the record straight on cholesterol.Read MoreIn Conversation with Uffe Ravnskov