The Biggest Junk Science of 2016

Dec 12, 2016

In 2016, the year of “Post-Truth,” it’s no surprise that there was a fair amount of junk science being tossed around. Like we do every year, we strived to debunk as much of it as we could. We also called out its most prominent purveyors. Now, we count down the worst of the worst. So here it is: our annual list of the biggest junk science of 2016. Click the red arrows to the right of Jean Luc Picard (pictured above) to begin. And gird yourself, this will get ugly.

Afterwards, we encourage you to peruse our past lists from 2013, 2014, and 2015 (if you haven’t knocked yourself out from excessive facepalming, that is).


Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

44 comments on “The Biggest Junk Science of 2016

  • 1
    Pinball1970 says:

    I thought the anti vaxer articles were very good this year and also a couple on homeopathy.
    Just checking the list I was very surprised at the chiropractic article.
    I thought this was ok? Never had it, I hate massage so unlike to ever use this.



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  • Having been banned in the UK for fraud and faking his so-called medical research on autism, ex-doctor Andrew Wakefield has been welcomed by the quacks and conspiracy theorists of the USA, where he is exercising his freedumb-of-speech, making money lecturing to gullible audiences on pseudo-medicine!
    He has now created this deceptive pseudo-documentary film promoting his quackery and playing the martryr, – disputing the decisive evidence and consensus of expert medical opinion, which exposed his gross misconduct and faked medical claims.

    @OP link – Dubious and deceptive from start to finish, Vaxxed distorts and misrepresents pretty much every single detail to fuel its conspiratorial narrative.

    “I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was actually surprised (slightly) at the manipulative depths to which this film sinks,” David Gorski wrote
    at Science-Based Medicine in a detailed takedown of the film.

    Ubiquitously panned throughout the scientific community,
    the film even received poor reviews from film critics.



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  • Hello Pinball1970
    You are unlucky if you hate massage.
    I went on a few one-day courses many years ago and picked up the basics. Subsequently I attended an eight-week course of two hours a week and became quite proficient. Massage is a two-way conversation. You can usually tell if it is working, or not, by the feedback that you get from the recipient. After playing badminton on Saturdays, I used to work my way along behind the players and give them a quick neck massage. There was just a single player
    out of the forty or so, that declined the massage.
    Unfortunately, I damaged the nerves in my left hand, and one-handed massage is not as good.



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  • 4
    Pinball1970 says:

    @3
    Tried it when I hurt back playing rugby at uni and I squirmed around like an eel. Not for me.

    I play badminton now every week too now I am too old for football (finished rugby at 31)

    Your hand can still move though?



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  • 5
    fadeordraw says:

    In Canada in 2016, I’d say the big junk science story was “David Stephan, 33, and his wife Collet, 36, were convicted by a Lethbridge jury in April after their trial was told they used naturopathic remedies rather than seeking medical treatment for their son, Ezekiel”. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/lethbridge-meningitis-trial-sentence-parents-toddler-died-1.3650653 ). They didn’t have the boy vaccinated against meningitis and didn’t take him to a doctor when he got quite sick.
    Del Bigtree and Polly Tommey, who were in Calgary promoting their movie, Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, interviewed David and Collet in Lethbridge, some 175 kilometers from Calgary, during their trail.
    The case was covered widely and lead to extensive public discussions on radio, on-line, newspapers, largely about naturopathic versus “conventional” medicine and parents’ rights in the matter. The conviction was usual for Canada; court imposed blood transfusions for kids of Jehovah Witnesses, etc. However, what was encouraging was the repeated call for the naturopathic industry to have scientific research to support their claims, without which the remedies should not be available. There were those who raised the issue of the integrity of big Pharma and the conventional medicine (doctors/pharmacists) industry, but to my ears the vast majority viewed the naturopathic approach with serious scepticism. Will this lead to a federal (Health Canada) and provincial (provinces have constitutional responsibility for health care) focus on naturopathic validity? Sadly, we might need a few more Ezekiels for that.



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  • Dr. Ben Carson said

    “It takes more faith to believe in evolution than to believe in
    evolution.”

    Can you believe the post he will be getting via Trump??? He graduated from Yale University and earned his MD at the Medical School of Michigan University school of medicine. How he was able to earn an MD is difficult to understand. In addition how can such well known prestigious universities graduate someone who actually thinks that way.



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  • I love what Richard has done and is doing for humanity, but I’m puzzled as to why I cannot read the articles after signing in without first posting it on Facebook. I would like to read the article first. Please advise what I am missing here. Why would you make this information difficult to get to??



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  • Greg

    See above where there is an orange box that says “source”. Next to that is a grey box that you should click on to go straight to the article. All new posts are set up this way.



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  • Its getting a little boring, all these articles on junk medical science. Whilst I agree that homeopathy and cupping is rubbish, if adults want to use it, then thats their business. What about medical scams like unnecessary caesars or the misinformation by drug companies i.e the Neurofen case in Australia. Or is that taboo? Better still stick to religion and evolution.



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  • Topomountain #11
    Dec 18, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    What about medical scams like unnecessary caesars or the misinformation by drug companies i.e the Neurofen case in Australia.

    Some of us looked at that and similar issues about a year ago!

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/12/french-mps-vote-to-force-supermarkets-to-give-away-unsold-food/#li-comment-192784

    ACCC research also found the products [with fancy labels and packaging as the only difference] were sold for almost double the price of Nurofen’s standard product.



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  • The list misses one questionable ‘treatment’ from traditional Chinese medicine: moxibustion. In China, citizens wear pollution masks, have pollution filters in their homes and purchase cars with PM 2.5 particulate filters – then go to a “health spa” and spend hours in a poorly ventilated room, exposed to the toxic smoke from the moxa sticks! You can smell these spas from quite a distance away, as the acrid plumes of burnt hydrocarbons make their contribution to local pollution levels – but it’s OK: practioners of traditional Chinese medicine say breathing in the smoke is “beneficial to health”!



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  • Junk article, unfortunately. Not refuting anything very well, I don’t know who is the target audience: those who already know which “science” is junk won’t be impressed at the skimpy narrative, and those who don’t will be unconvinced at the shallow dismissive tone. Those wavering in between (such as the ones who say, yes, the rest is junk but what about X, where X is the one “that worked” for them, or their cousin Betty, or someone.) One commenter gave a bit-of-a-reason for “cupping”, another queried the bad-outcome rate for conventional treatments vs chiro. A thought-out approach to each case would have pre-addressed these kinds of concern, instead of broad-brush sneering.

    It seems this article did no good to anyone, and is well beneath the standard for this site. But since I wasted the time it took to read it, I’ve wasted a bit more commenting on it.



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  • And to add to the comment above, I would say that while I have a personal aversion to chiropractors I did hear that they can provide effective treatment for lower back pain – but that is all.

    Dr. Stein’s comments were taken out of context. Maybe that’s what she said; maybe it wasn’t.

    CBrown, Ben Carson had a practice, is an MD, was a neurosurgeon, and was held in high esteem by his colleagues. Dawkins has discussed this bizarre, psychic bifurcation; he has known people who are both good scientists and creationists. They are able to somehow compartmentalize in a way that is hard to understand, although some cannot maintain the tension between the two parts of their selves and are eventually impelled to quit science. My firm belief, with regards to Carson, however, is that he is not just religious; he is a bona fide psychotic. (A fine line, yes.)

    Regardless of whether he is insane or not, he has a disdain for the downtrodden and poor that is astonishing and cruel. No safety net! That’s not “Christian”. Christianity is, in many cases, a mask for cruelty and bigotry.



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  • Dan #15
    Dec 18, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    And to add to the comment above, I would say that while I have a personal aversion to chiropractors I did hear that they can provide effective treatment for lower back pain – but that is all.

    That would be when they provide temporary relief using heat treatments and physiotherapy!

    Many quacks mix in bits of real medicine to add credibility to their “treatments”!



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  • 17
    Pinball1970 says:

    @16
    Talked with a guy who has just a scan on his back, partially prolapsed disc, the Drs told him not visit either an osteopath or chiropractor.
    I don’t think they went further and it does not work but that is enough for me I think.



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  • Pinball1970 #17
    Dec 19, 2016 at 10:37 am

    @16
    Talked with a guy who has just a scan on his back, partially prolapsed disc, the Drs told him not visit either an osteopath or chiropractor.
    I don’t think they went further and it does not work but that is enough for me I think.

    Physio can manipulate a piece of damaged disk back into place, and physio or traction can ease the pressure on the nerve and reduce the inflammation or bulging of a disk, which is locking everything up, but these results tend to be temporary, as the cartilage of a disk does not heal.

    I read up on this in some detail before I had a disk damaged in a car accident, surgically removed back in the 1970s.

    There is a danger that unqualified people could do damage and make problems worse.



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  • cBrown,
    We have touched upon a particular pet peeve of mine. Not something I get incensed about, but, something I wish more people would understand.

    That is, “expert” in one area gives you ZERO say in other areas. We cannot believe “how Ben Carson got his MD…..” and all that shit. These are a form of false equivalences.

    Here’s a couple analogies to illustrate:
    Slash (guitarist in Guns N’ roses) cannot read music. WHAT??? He’s a “genius”… world renowned… known far and wide for…… GUITAR…. He is NOT an expert at reading music. He is a fantastic guitar player. Ask him why a flatted third constitutes a minor chord and well…. but, give him a few chords to solo over and….presto, genius.

    There’s this guy who has a crazy high IQ. you might know him. I have one of these guys in my circle. Every room he has ever walked into, he is the smartest one there. He has a law degree, cum laude fro Duke university. He is a bartender. Dude, can have a conversation about anything, wins at quizzo every Tuesday night and would not change a thing about himself.

    How many pulpit preaching devout priests think that they know something about biology? Conception…etc..

    Butchers and veterinarians both cut animals with knives. You want to get a steak from your vet??? You want to bring your cat to the butcher for it’s check up?

    Celebrities do this shit all the time. They are deluded into thinking that their opinion on something matters because “Do you know who i am?”…… Trump is uber guilty of this exact thing… “I know more… more…than the generals…” Yeah. flim flam at it’s finest.

    So, how did Ben Carson get his MD and excel in such a hard discipline? Because he’s good at it and worked his ass off. Why doesn’t he know other shit? Because we are all idiots in some area where others are experts. The problem is ego can make people think that they are better than everyone at everything. And, well, remember when Michael Jordan thought he was going to play professional baseball?



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  • Also,
    One reason that people will go to bat for chiropractic is that it can provide relief of very specific issues. Did your finger ever ache and you crack your knuckles and the pain is reduced? Well, when you go to the chiro for a similar issue, the massage the muscle, they pop the vertebrae, ally warm compresses and stimulate to area with electric pulses (tens units). this can offer relief. BTW, take out the chiro part and just do stim, warm compresses, and massage…. and well… it would feel better with just that.
    But since a person walks in with X hurting and walks out with a modicum of relief, it “works” in their mind.



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  • crookedshoes #19
    Dec 19, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    So, how did Ben Carson get his MD and excel in such a hard discipline? Because he’s good at it and worked his ass off. Why doesn’t he know other shit? Because we are all idiots in some area where others are experts.

    In fact having (particularly for a weak student), had to work hard on a specialism for many hours, means that they did NOT spend the time studying anything else, so on general knowledge of other subjects, they may well be much worse than the average citizen who dabbled in this and that and studied a wider range!

    Many aspects of being an MD, are technician level applications of diagnosis in anatomy, and following instructions on pharmaceutical products.



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  • You bring up a good point, Alan. As someone trained and schooled as a laboratory scientist I took many of the same courses many of my pre-med peers did. But after my stint was done I dove in head first with self study, which I still do today. The biologic basics I learned in school gave me the foundation to use self study to buoy my own knowledge. This was particularly useful when studying nutrition. I know many MD’s but most of them, including my chain smoking brother, are retarded about nutrition. I attribute this to a few things, not least of which is having to devote so many hours to their specific training, specialty, internship, etc. But they sure can write a mean prescription…



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  • Steven007 #22
    Dec 19, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    You bring up a good point, Alan. As someone trained and schooled as a laboratory scientist I took many of the same courses many of my pre-med peers did.

    I try to post material which is evidenced or an informed opinion.
    I am not trained in medicine (apart from a family tradition – My grandfather was a pharmacist), but I think I am well informed on some aspects of doctors’ training.
    I work on university exams for various faculties, so I get to proof-read exam papers, including those from two medical schools.
    Also while supervising and running exam venues, I get to see hundreds of anatomy and microscopy projected slides, on which medical students answer short or multi-choice questions for MD or veterinary qualifications.
    Obviously this stuff is confidential, so I can’t go into details, but it does form part of my view.



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  • In summary, as I recall the old definition of an Expert: Someone who learns more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing.

    But still, I’m not with Gove on dissing experts.



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  • OHooligan #25
    Dec 20, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    In summary, as I recall the old definition of an Expert: Someone who learns more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing.

    That’s why modern scientific research is done by teams whose knowledge joins up with that of other team members at the edges!

    But still, I’m not with Gove on dissing experts.

    Gove is of the Dunning-Kruger level of “knowledge of nothing” – apart from the ability to sound confidently plausible while conning the ignorant.



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  • 27
    Pinball1970 says:

    He is on anti inflams and still exercises whilst trying to look after his back (posture weight distribution etc)

    I will ask him what the next steps are from his Drs

    I mentioned the girl dying due to chiropractic manipulation in the OP- I think he leave that option for a bit.

    @25

    I think the analogy is not correct, knowledge has depth as well as breadth.

    Quantum mechanics at A level Chemistry level was just a little bit of Einstein, some Bohr and a little Pauli because we were only interested in the rules for electron shells and some radioactivity/Isotopes.

    No scary formulae.

    I remember thinking “I thought this stuff was supposed to hard?” I got my comeuppance in applied maths in the same year when I started doing calculus.



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  • Pinball,
    Your statement resonates with me. And, to extend it, we put credence into quantifying something that really is not a sum of it’s parts. IQ is measurable — reliably measurable. But what it actually means in practice is a very elusive thing. Just how much more does a person with and IQ of 150 know that a person with an IQ of 100?

    And, the answer is….. That’s not what IQ measures. IQ is the size of the container that a person has for holding thought. It is not a measure of what is in the container. I have taught plenty of kids with giant IQ’s who are empty. Zero, nada, zilch, nothing in there. I also have seen kids with lower IQ’s who are filling their containers every day. Part of being smart is getting the right answer but another part is knowing who to solicit for help.

    I see the big issue with the Trump cabinet and extended “think tank” is that none of them get the right answer very often BUT the bigger deal to me is that they do not ask anyone for help. they are self assured in their idiocy and know better than everyone.



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  • 32
    Pinball1970 says:

    @Crooked

    Yes intelligence and knowledge two different things

    I have met some ignorant smart people and some stupid knowledgeable people

    If you are lower ability then you have to do a lot of the same things to make it stick, back to my maths reference, I had to practice.

    One guy hardly turned up, same age as us but he seemed to know everything instinctively, almost like he looking at something different to me.

    I think the speed that one grasps a concept and length of time that concept can be retained without prompting (revising) is important.

    Size of the container plus organization, storage and easy retrieval.

    No point in cramming it in if you cant it out again.



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  • O’Hooligan,

    I thought IQ was the measure of ability to do IQ tests.

    To some extent it is exactly that, especially when administered improperly or at too late an age. However, when properly testing an appropriately aged person, you can consistently generate a number that means…… very little…..that predicts future success….. very poorly….. that is reproducible and accurate and tells almost nothing about the person. Like trying to use shoe size at age 7 to predict what type of basketball skills a child will develop.



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  • Not sure what everyone’s problem is with Gove. His point was that experts demand to be believed because they identify as experts even when they talk shed-loads of nonsense. Experts collectively and individually warned the public sternly that western civilisation was going to end if the UK voted for Brexit, the economy would crash, WW3 would break out, etc., etc..
    So many were absolutely agreed on this that they and backed each other up, adding juicy detail from their own speciality subjects to generate a collective hysteria — and still do. Gove’s crime was to ask “how”, “why” and “where’s the evidence”, point out that the arguments were not convincing, and state the obvious — a large chunk of the population has become sick of “experts”.



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  • Kay #34
    Dec 22, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Not sure what everyone’s problem is with Gove.

    Gove has the UK record for a government minister who has had more votes of no confidence in his capabilities as a minister than anyone else! Even Teresa May sacked him!

    His point was that experts demand to be believed because they identify as experts even when they talk shed-loads of nonsense.

    This is of course gutter-press nonsense!
    Experts expect people to believe the evidence and the expert interpretation of the evidence they have carefully assembled because they have spent time studying the issues and spent years training in the specialist subjects. – Unlike Gove – who just makes it up as he goes along!

    Experts collectively and individually warned the public sternly that western civilisation was going to end if the UK voted for Brexit, the economy would crash, WW3 would break out, etc., etc..

    According to the fiction writers of tabloid comics like the Sun, the Mail, and the Express.

    So many were absolutely agreed on this that they and backed each other up, adding juicy detail from their own speciality subjects

    Yep! They identified real problems of Scotland wishing to remain, cross boarder access Irish issues, internation co-operation between, companies, universities, multicomponent manufacturing using parts from different European countries, and the serious risk of companies relocating elsewhere if tariff barriers make them uncompetitive with European producers.
    Many of the reports contained technical details that thickie tabloid writers can’t understand! – but like Gove – they just make stuff up!

    to generate a collective hysteria — and still do.

    According to thickie tabloid propagandists!

    Gove’s crime was to ask “how”, “why” and “where’s the evidence”,

    Nope! Gove’s crime was to make up “Emperor’s new Clothes” style fairy tales, about the “wonderful benefits of brexit”, when he had carried out no proper investigation of the consequences, and had no plan as to how brexit would happen.
    The only “plan” was “Let’s all jump overboard and we are bound to get a better cabin on some other passing ship”!

    point out that the arguments were not convincing,

    No arguments will convince self deluding Europhobic twits like Gove, and nobody can criticise his “plan” – because months after conning many voters, he still doesn’t have one!

    and state the obvious — a large chunk of the population has become sick of “experts”.

    The know-it-all tabloid journalists have always flattered their uneducated gullible readers, by telling the that swallowing tabloid tripe makes them cleverer that expert specialists!

    However, if I want medical advice I ask a doctor, to fly I expect to have an airline pilot at the controls, and running a nuclear power-station requires nuclear physicists- an exit poll at a football match does not give competent answers on how to do these things –
    Specialist subjects or skills need trained specialists!

    Brexit has not yet happened, and yet may not happen if MPs look at all the problems and down-sides it will bring! The 27 other states in Europe who would have to agree this, have made it perfectly clear, that the UK and wish-thinking brexiteers will NOT have their cake and eat it!
    However the value of the pound dropped putting up import prices, just on the threat of brexit, and as many imports were on one year fixed price contracts, much of the damage from increased costs has not even started yet, but will start when the contracts come up for renewal!



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  • The problem is, no one identifies social policies as experiment. These are experiments. Brexit is an experiment. What the talking heads push out is self-serving for-profit bullshit. And the point that resonates with me is that an actual “expert” in the topic would simply say that the outcomes are unpredictable because there are too many moving parts, variables and most importantly, the results will vary depending on your perspective and vantage point.

    In order for someone in society to “gain” usually someone else has to “lose”. So, for all these reasons, there are NO experts. Period. None.

    Now, when we leave the mush of societal topics, there are actual experts in specified fields. For example, I am an “expert” at molecular genetics because I have a Master’s degree and Bachelor’s degree in the subject. I actually do not think of myself as an “expert” because the degrees were earned so long ago that I’d probably be wrong over and over again in a discussion with someone who has earned similar degrees but more recently. I think Richard is an expert in the topic of evolution and would love to have conversation with him regarding the topic. I’d LISTEN. I’d LEARN. I’d relish the conversation and remember it for a long long time.

    Anyone feel that way about Gove? About any politician or newsreader? They are experts in nothing more than the money/power grab.



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  • crookedshoes #36
    Dec 23, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Anyone feel that way about Gove? About any politician or newsreader? They are experts in nothing more than the money/power grab.

    You have expertise in education –
    Gove (Dunning-Kruger style) THINKS he has expertise in education! Experts disagree!

    Michael Gove attacks headteachers over no confidence vote in him as education minister and his policies

    The UK’s three biggest teachers’ unions, plus the Head Teacher’s Association passed votes of no confidence at the annual conferences!

    If you think the 97% professional consensus on global warming is a high percentage:-

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/10066144/Michael-Gove-attacks-headteachers-over-no-confidence-vote.html

    18 May 2013 The UK’s three biggest teachers’ unions, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT passed similar votes at their Easter conferences.

    The NUT and the NASUWT are already planning regional strikes in the North West next month in a continuing row over pay, pensions and workload with the prospect of a national walkout looming in the autumn.

    The latest vote of no confidence is a further sign of the worsening relations between the Government and the teaching profession.

    The resolution called on the NAHT’s [National Association of Head Teachers] executive to ensure that the government is left in no doubt that that the union represents the “serious concerns” of the profession.

    It was passed with 99.3 per cent of the vote.



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  • Experts in the softer (and softer) sciences of economics, social and political science exist and are to be listened to. Complexity is the challenge for them, but increasingly the use of better and better data coupled with the development of analytical tools (like those of epidemiology), affordable truly complex modelling, data mining and a burgeoning science of complexity allow real causal associations to be established (for example between inequality and a wide variety of social outcomes expressed statistically). The previously erratic path of evolving economic, social and political need no longer be selected by prevailing political dogmatic whim, but could become more Intelligently Designed, a little more effectively purposeful.

    The tragedy is, this stuff is rather more detailed and sometimes counter-intuitive than the opposing dogmas of progressivism and conservatism, neither of which have a full tool kit of solutions and the media and politicians alike cleave to the simpler narratives, it seems particularly so in the US. In the UK the centre party (whose voters display an IQ eight points above the average of left and of right) whilst occasionally topped up by disgruntled thinkers from left and right always steadily shimmer out of existence as their more complex, less dogmatic stories turn the media off.

    Time to ditch the dogma of dogma.



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  • Phil,
    Your post is both hopeful and inspired. BUT, it seems none of the people you allude to are being solicited by politicians nor the news. I am certain that you are correct in your assessment of the softer sciences and their evolving and developing better and better prognostication models. I’d also hazard to guess that they have a long way to go and that these models need tweaking and real time updating “on the fly”.

    I’d probably pass out if I had to track and quantify the myriad variables that these models must incorporate. But, i still think it is instructive to draw a clear delineation between the things that are actually “model-able” and understood, and the things that are, in fact, giant experiments and we literally have to watch and see what occurs.



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  • crookedshoes #36
    Dec 23, 2016 at 9:35 am

    The problem is, no one identifies social policies as experiment.

    That is probably in many cases because their ideological proponents have no idea what a scientific experiment is!

    These are experiments. Brexit is an experiment.

    It may be at some time in the future, but at present brexit is an “Emperor’s New Clothes” style fairytale, which the brexiteers refuse to define, and for which, months after a vote, they still have no plan on what it is supposed to do, or what the likely outcomes are supposed to be!

    Various warnings about negative effects to specific businesses, research institutions and trade agreements have been given by professional bodies and industry leaders!
    If brexiteers had done ANY homework, they might have noticed, that brexit would require new trade negotiations with the EU and 50 other countries.
    They might also have noticed that several hundred specialist negotiators in business and international law, would be needed for this, – and at the time the UK used EU negotiators – and had NONE of their own!
    The Canadians have just completed such a trade deal with the EU – It took 7 years of negotiations.

    Brexiteers, however (according to brexiteers) are “brilliant negotiators” who can have their cake and eat it – so (allegedly) all 27 of the other EU member states who have to agree on new trade proposals (or not) are going to rush to agree UK proposals in the 2 year negotiation window, to give the UK outside of EU membership, a better deal than they already have as members, and a better deal than other members!

    The brexiteers having failed to bypass parliament, now hope it will be nodded through parliament, in a similar way to it being nodded through the referendum by voters who had no idea what they were voting for – but quite fancied a media promised utopian fairyland, where everyone was “FREE” from regulation, free from contributing taxes to joint ventures such a research, and free from supervision, letting them do whatever they liked!
    Of course you don’t have to be very clever to work out which sections of society the right wing plan to FREE from EU health, safety, and employment regulations, during these negotiations!



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  • crooked

    BUT, it seems none of the people you allude to are being solicited by politicians nor the news.

    True. There are many academics starting to do this work. Universities are full of them. But it is only recently that they have started to make a bit of noise for themselves, because so few of their findings are finding a clear way out into policy.

    I, many times, have recommended the work of epidemiologists Wilkinson and Picket and the Equality Trust. Targeted for a pounding by ideologists who want their solutions despite evidence, they present their data to all party politicians and business folk alike. They fight off adoption by the partisan selling simple-minded stuff.

    They demonstrate for instance that more rational pay scales however got to can be equally helpful in companies and countries. For the least equal some improvements for everyone will be got by a smidgen more equality. More progressive taxation or simply greater diligence from investors wishing to improve the performance of their own investments by rational control of corporate officers’ remuneration.

    There is a long way to go. But there are facts about the effectiveness or otherwise of policy increasingly to be had and we must increasingly demand future policy to be more constrained by this knowledge.

    Betterism, not Idealism.

    This trope saw the light of day here on RDnet from posters like Alan Wort and Quine ten years ago. Alan now works for the Equality Trust. We need to do what we can also.



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  • Phil,
    It sounds very promising, but I am so so so far out of my comfort zone that I feel embarrassed by my ignorance of the topics you present. I am gonna read up on some of the points you raise and maybe, just maybe i will understand the stuff enough to form a cogent opinion (don’t get your hopes up on this one).



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  • crooked

    This is a very long term plan, based on the deep analysis of massive amounts of data. If we had (if we collected) such large amounts of data about our lives, our health our wealth our satisfactions with this and that we could far better correlate public policy with its effects.

    Our ability to collect data and process it on a continual basis has never been so high. Whilst it is exciting to have this used in formulating new policy, more exciting for me is to imagine how this can inform the voters about how specifically particular groups were potentially helped and harmed and notice the consequences of their own (sometimes thwarted) voting actions.

    I’ve posted this often enough, so forgive this repetition, but this use of massive data gives an idea of how, high quality data clearly presented can be hugely changing of much received wisdom.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usdJgEwMinM

    The long term plan in my mind is that political parties are closer to publishing houses gathering together compatible sets of policies for implementation. The policies for this and that are formulated by single interest political groups using big data to help them form costed policy based on historical data. The big data on outcomes is collected by civil servants and is available to all, also with first order processing like Rosling, but with further inferencing by the single interest groups themselves and by third party think tanks. This encourages the accumulation of expertise that can of itself be tested in application and judged by folk.

    The measured parameters of health and wealth and well being by group should change only slowly to preserve maximum continuity, but it will need to evolve as needs and cultural profiles change and in response to voter pressure for parameters that are meaningful to them.



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  • The seasonal quackery seems to have surfaced again!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-38495088

    Doctors have issued a warning about the potential harms of undertaking a radical new year detox.

    They highlight the case of a woman they treated last year who became critically ill after taking herbal remedies and drinking too much water.

    The 47-year-old needed intensive care at Milton Keynes hospital.

    She recovered with treatment, but her story is a reminder of the dangers of drastic detoxing, the medics say.

    While it may be tempting to cleanse yourself of the excesses of Christmas, the concept is not necessarily healthy and is not backed by medical science, they report in the British Medical Journal Case Reports.

    The woman they treated had taken a cocktail of herbs and alternative remedies including:

    milk thistle
    molkosan
    I-theanine
    glutamine
    vitamin B compound
    vervain
    valerian root

    Her partner said she had also been drinking lots of water, green tea and sage tea over the few days before she became ill.

    Shortly before being admitted to hospital, the woman collapsed and had a seizure.

    Medical tests revealed she had dangerously low levels of salt (sodium) in her body.

    Researching the herbal remedies used by the patient, her doctors discovered the case of a man with a history of anxiety who had had seizures due to a low sodium level.

    His symptoms developed after consuming a large amount of a herbal remedy that contained:

    valerian root
    lemon balm
    passion flower
    hops
    chamomile

    “The complementary medicine market is very popular in the UK and the concept of the new-year ‘detox’ with all-natural products is appealing to those less concerned with evidence-based medicine and more with complementary medicine,” say the medics in their write-up.

    “Excessive water intake as a way of ‘purifying and cleansing’ the body is also a popular regime with the belief that harmful waste products can thus be washed from the body.”

    However, they warn that “despite marketing suggesting otherwise, all-natural products are not without side-effects”.

    The British Dietetic Association says the whole idea of detoxing is nonsense.



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