Where’s my tinfoil fedora? Ah…found it.
Thank God. I need it because of all the things. You know…all the things that our governments and big pharma and big agro are doing to us. Poisoning us with chemtrails, hiding the cure for cancer, giving us cancer with their “synthetic chemicals”, GMOs, vaccines, 9/11, telling us the world is spherical. All the conspiracies man!
Now readers might be forgiven for thinking I’m having a laugh here. Granted, the beliefs I noted above (and they’re by no means an exhaustive list) are kind of funny to anyone with even a modicum of scientific education. But here’s the thing; the people who espouse these views aren’t trying to be funny. They’re serious. Deadly serious. There are really people out there who think that the Earth is flat. Apparently the fact that anyone who has ever been in a plane at forty thousand feet, can see the curvature of the horizon with their own eyes, isn’t a barrier.
It would be easy to just laugh off these conspiracy nuts as a harmless, but they are not harmless. Anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists (or anti-vaxxers to use their more common name) are responsible for a huge downturn in vaccination rates across the developed world, which has led to the re-emergence of some highly dangerous diseases, such as measles. People (particularly infants and children) have died. Take a moment to put that in perspective. People who, ten years ago would have had the protection they needed to go on to live long lives, are dead, and all because a bunch of ill-informed, ignorant, conspiracy nut jobs, have made an industry out of spreading false information.
These kind of people actually believe that diseases like measles are pretty harmless, and just “part of a natural upbringing”. Here’s the thing though: Measles is not harmless, and nature wants you dead. Measles can cause brain damage, deafness, and death. Right now there is an ongoing measles epidemic in Eastern Europe, particularly in Romania, caused by a drop in vaccination coverage. Romania’s National Institute of Public Health reported 3,071 cases of measles, including 16 deaths, from September 2016 to mid-February 2017. That’s 16 kids dead. The deaths of those 16 kids was entirely preventable. All but one was unvaccinated.
The anti-vaxx movement may be the most obvious example of conspiracy theorists causing real harm, but it certainly isn’t the only one. It is because of that, and because, as someone with a life-science background, the uneducated drivel these people spread gets right on my nerves, I will from time to time be leaving the Scottish independence debate aside (if there’s nothing much happening there), and writing about/debunking some of the issues I mentioned above, and others as they come up.
In the interest of saving time in future articles, here are 15 basic scientific truths (and valid conclusions drawn from them) that everyone should know:
- Whether a chemical is natural, or man-made, tells you precisely nothing about how dangerous or safe it is. Cyanide, arsenic, and funnel web spiders are natural. Saying “synthetic chemicals are bad” is as stupid as saying “grizzly bears are harmless because they’re natural”, and if you say it to anyone with a chemistry or biology background, that’s exactly how dumb you sound.
- You cannot have a “chemical free” food or life. The phrase is utterly meaningless. Everything is made of chemicals. Literally every damn thing in the entire universe. You are made of chemicals. What people really mean when they say “chemical free” is “man-made chemical free”, in which case, see no. 1 above.
- Whether or not you can pronounce the name of a chemical is completely irrelevant to whether or not it is safe or harmful. Back in a minute, I need some 1,3,7-Trimethylpurine-2,6-dione (caffeine).
- Almost everything can be dangerously toxic. Water is fatally toxic if you drink enough, and yet we cannot live without it. Whether or not something is toxic, or carcinogenic, is not what’s important. What is important is at what dose something is toxic or carcinogenic. This is not some new-fangled theory. It’s a scientific principle that has been known for over half a millenium, and often referred to as “the dose makes the poison”.
- Some “scientists/doctors” are unscrupulous people, who will spread misinformation in order to make money. The worlds of science and medicine are not immune to such people. They are more correctly known as con-artists. They allegedly include; Stanislaw Burzynski, Sherri Tenpenny, and Stephanie Seneff, among others. If you read an article, or see a YouTube video where some scientist(s) is/are making a claim like “vaccines cause autism”, do not take it as fact. Ask yourself; “what does the evidence say?” and “what is the scientific consensus”.
- Vaccines do not cause autism. They just don’t. There isn’t a single shred of credible evidence that shows they do.
- Not all evidence is of equal validity, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. Single studies are not definitive proof. Studies done in vitro (on cells, in a petri dish for example), or animal studies, are not evidence of an effect in humans. The systematic review of all available studies, is the highest form of scientific evidence. It is to these reviews you should look to find the truth (or otherwise) of a claim. Anecdotes like “I know it’s true because my cousin Grieg cured his cancer by drinking lemon juice” are not evidence of anything, no matter how many you see.
- David Wolfe is a cock.
- Chemtrails do not exist.
- “Organic” food is a scam. It isn’t environmentally friendly, it isn’t any more tasty or nutritious, and it isn’t “pesticide free”. It is however, more expensive.
- Chemical compounds, made up of two or more chemical elements, are not the same things as the elements they’re made from. Table salt is a compound of sodium and chlorine. Sodium is a highly reactive metal that explodes on contact with water. Chlorine is a deadly toxic gas that was used as a weapon to devastating effect in WWI. Table salt (sodium chloride) neither explodes nor gasses people to death. For the same reason, the thiomersal (an organomercury compound) used as a preservative in some vaccines, is not mercury, and is not harmful.
- You cannot “detox” your body through diet. There is no substance known to man that is capable of performing this function. Your liver and kidneys are perfectly capable of detoxifying your body on a continual basis, every day of life. If they aren’t, you’re either in hospital or dead. People who sell “detox” diets, or supplements, are the modern equivalent of snake oil salesmen. They are charlatans, and the only thing they are removing is money from your wallet.
- You cannot prevent or cure cancer by making your body more alkaline. You just can’t. Your body’s pH is strictly controlled at between 7.35 and 7.45. This is part of a process called homeostasis. The pH cannot be altered beyond this range without you becoming incredibly sick or dying. It is true that in vitro studies showed that cancer cells do not tolerate an alkaline environment, but neither do your own body cells. Shotguns also kill cancer cells in a petri dish.
- Margarine is not “one molecule away from plastic”, and even if it was, the statement is completely meaningless. Even the tiniest variation in molecular structure can lead to an entirely different substance with entirely different properties.
- The world is not flat.
Ok, I could go on all day, but that will do for now. I’ll be addressing many of the myths/conspiracy theories mentioned here, and others, in future articles. For now, thanks for visiting.