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Unscientific research

If you find a study or piece of research that you feel only exists to service a predetermined outcome, please post it here!

NB: Don’t forget, we’re a consumer forum and so we politely requests that studies you post have a link to those issues, or related topics that have been discussed here in the Community.

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It would also be worth having information or links to proven facts/scientific consensus which disputed the ‘unscientific research’.

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Nothing specific I can think of right now, however there have been plenty of government announcements where you hear the minister say something along the lines of: we’re having an EIS done to show that this project wont have any negative environmental effects.

Advertising claims of: 9 out of 10 doctors/scientists/dentists etc agree/recommend…

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I’ll take this opportunity to go with one of the most well known instances of unscientific research in the last 40 years.

Ex-Doctor Wakefield had his own patented vaccine ready to replace the MMR vaccine his Lancet paper had attacked! Millions of people have been adversely affected by this “fraud” (as labelled in the below article), and many children have suffered or died from preventable illnesses because of this man’s ‘work’.

In the meantime, children with autism have suffered through attempted ‘cures’ of a condition they were born with, ranging from dietary changes to bleach enemas! All because of a condition they were born with.

By the way, that last link contains a misstatement. It claims:

Childhood rates of autism have risen sharply over the last decade

Uh - no. Diagnosis of autism has risen sharply; it is unlikely that underlying rates have changed in centuries.

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Yes

Since the causes of autism are unknown that could be anywhere across the spectrum of truth. For example and argument, if ingestion of micro-plastics by the pregnant mother, or an infant, had anything to do with autism (I do not suggest it does or does not, but for the point) the rate could well have changed.

There has been some work on associative causes and effects, one being

I cannot attest to the veracity of the study, but the universities involved are well respected.
Bottom line is until the cause-effect is known we don’t know about the historic prevalence, but do know about the diagnosis rates.

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I look at my mother and her sisters. It’s pretty obvious that autism is genetic, but she has also mentioned an uncle (would have getting on in years in the '60s/70s) who was a ‘family secret’. I suspect there were many like that in generations past, and others who were just quietly ‘done away with’.

Temple Grandin’s mother was told that her daughter would never talk, would never be able to contribute to society, and should be institutionalised.

I received speech and physical therapy as a child, but the idea of autism was never even suggested. Why not? Because doctors simply didn’t know what to look for - or know about autism and Asperger’s.

Yes, it is possible that the rate of autism (as opposed to the rate of diagnosis) has changed due to environmental factors, but those changes would probably be epigenetic and occur in the parent or grandparent rather than the person diagnosed with autism. It is also possible that the number of witches (as compared to the number of witches burned at the stake) has also changed. Then again, maybe the change has only been in the number of witches that float.

People do not become autistic - they are born that way in the same way the people are born with a particular sexual preference and are not ‘persuaded’ by their environment (as accidentally proven by religious groups that have tried desperately to ‘reprogram’ homosexuals).

As for the idea that BPA exposure is linked to autism, that study simply states that autistic children do not appear to metabolise BPA as well as those who are ‘neurotypical’ - and the article goes on to confuse correlation with causation. More broadly, there have been a lot of suggestions that the gut microbiome may be associated with autism - but again these seem to be putting the cart before the horse by confusing cause and effect. Gut problems are common in people with anxiety disorders, and the link is well known. People on the autism spectrum tend to suffer from high anxiety, as they live in a world that makes very little sense to them - hence people on the autism spectrum tend to have gut issues.

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Your response focuses picking apart details in what was clearly presented as an argument questioning your certainty regarding autism being consistent over centuries.

Your links to causes and effects, or effects from causes is right on. Whether autism is only hereditary I do not know, but I have a severely autistic distant cousin who is in a home, and no one else in the family has been known to be on the autistic spectrum. Multiple generational resurgence? Could be. Something in the mother’s diet while pregnant? Not outside the realm of possibility. And so on.

Although you clearly are not dissociated from the topic I’ll leave your authority (expertise) to the judgement of readers.

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On the definition of science:

By that definition many studies could be scientific, for example; ufology, phrenology and intelligent design.

The scientific method is more than observation and experiment. What about prediction, independent confirmation and falsifiability?

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As an addition to your posts there may be some evidence that antibiotic use and also very importantly gut biome may also be linked to autism and possible treatments. It is of current interest and studies are being undertaken. While there has been evidence that there may be no linkage there have also been studies which do show linkage. There are also other studies which have shown possible links with diabetes and other diseases and disorders that gut biome may have influence on.

and from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/healthcare/biotech/healthcare/india-gears-up-for-rs-150-crore-microbe-project-to-uncover-links-to-diseases/articleshow/67397830.cms

" Mind & Microbe
The other area where a lot of research is focused is the relationship between microbiome and mental health. In a 2013 study by scientists from the California Institute of Technology and Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, they found that when mice with symptoms similar to autism were given the bacterium Bacteroides fragilis, their microbiomes changed and they became more communicative and less anxious.

The American Gut project also observed that some types of bacteria may be more common in people suffering from depression than those who are not. It also found in an assessment of the gut microbiomes of 125 people — who claimed to have a mental health disorder, like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder — that their microbiomes had more in common with each than with that with someone of the same age, gender, country and body mass index."

I am not advocating ceasing to use antibiotics, but certainly their usage needs to be more carefully controlled. Multi resistance is also becoming a huge issue and WHO has warned of the hidden pandemic of Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) https://www.sbs.com.au/news/invisible-pandemic-who-offers-global-plan-to-fight-superbugs

And we even have a Govt Dept responding to the issues https://www.amr.gov.au/about-amr

ABC The Drum on 19 June 2019 had a very good discussion about AMR, Antibiotics, Vaccination, & the anti science sector of the world population. The discussion occurred in the first 25 minutes of the program and if you can watch it I do recommend taking the opportunity to do so. The link follows:

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I’ll nominate the one who inspired this thread: Bjørn Lomborg.

I’ve heard the Lomborg school described as the denialism that you have when you deny that you deny. 'Twas not always so:

His attitude to global warming has changed gradually over the years (see here on Lomborg-errors) , but there is something common to all his statements on CO2 emissions over the years. It is common that the conclusions are the same - namely that we should make no efforts to seriously cut back CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.

The arguments have shifted approximately as follows:

1) There is no problem
2) If there is a problem, it is only minor.
3) If it is not minor, it will pay better to remedy other problems that are even larger.
4) If it pays to resolve the climate change problem, this should not be done by reducing CO2 emissions, but rather by adaptation and by applying geo-engineering.
5) If adaptation and geo-engineering is not enough, then reductions in CO2 emissions should be very modest, and the main emphasis should be on research to find better alternative energy sources, rather than those that could be implemented right now.

These shifting arguments over the years look like a tactical retreat. In every case, the conclusion is that which is the best that the fossil fuel industry could obtain, given the premises. At any level of public concern, always choose that solution which interferes the least with the industry´s economic interests and maintains the maximum rate of profit for as many years as possible.

I’ll refine my nomination to Lomborg’s output from 1997 (when he was evidently bought) onward. Trolling through the work of reputable scientists to work out how best to misrepresent it could be considered research. The predetermined outcome is: whatever’s in the interests of short-term profits (namely delay in action).

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A example of unscientific research which I personally find inspiring, which ended up turning into proven science was the work of Australian Dr. Barry Marshall and Dr Robin Warren.

Even though conventional thinking and the remainder of the medical fraternity believed that the stomach was too acid to support bacteria, Drs MB/RW believed that some gastric/peptic ulcers were caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. At the time these doctors were ridiculed by their peers who thought that they were unprofessional through to outright crazy.

While the evidence was not overwhelming about the causal link between Helicobacter pylori and ulcers, the Drs MB/RW thought that there was potentially a sufficient evidence that a link may exist and it was worth testing. As part of testing, Dr BW chose be the subject of his own experiments and decided to consume an elixir containing Helicobacter pylori. He became very unwell and developed the early stages of an ulcer infection.

As it was also known at the time that Helicobacter pylori could be controlled using conventional antibiotics, Dr BW treated himself to cure the emerging ulcers.

Drs MB/RW unscience ended up becoming renown and celebrated science, which may have been the precursor to the discovery that viruses and bacteria can cause human ailments, such as heart conditions and cancer.

The cure for forms of peptic ulcers was a significant medical discovery because previously the symptoms of the ulcer could only be treated and the ulcer being managed. The cure provided a permanent relief for those who has been struck down with the debilitating condition.

The Drs have also won a Nobel Peace prize and are also recognised as some of the top influential people in the world. With persistence and challenging the norm, they also managed to change the views and opinions on many on the medical fraternity.

There also also many other examples in history where unscience has been eventually proven to be science, and some which have not been proven to the case. This is one historical strengths of the scientific and research community that one can table different views and opinions, test those views and see if the hypothesis can be proven. If such had no been done for some hypotheses, many of the scientific and engineering advances of the modern world would not have occurred as one would have been reluctant to voice a differing view to consensus, with fear of being ridiculed and ignored.

Challenging the norm, whether based on evidence or a ‘hunch’, drives innovation and the testing of theories or solutions which may otherwise been the case. It also leads to changes in opinions and thoughts.

There is a role for unscientific research in the scientific community, but when this leads to conspiracies or blatant falsehoods (e.g. antivaccination groups and @postulative example above), they should be challenged with appropriate evidence.

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How is that unscientific? They had an hypothesis and ran with it in a scientific manner, did they not?

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Here is an article from Dr Mercola, a natural healing proponent and a qualified MD.

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/06/22/gardasil-hpv-vaccine-hoax.aspx?utm_source=dnl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=art1&utm_campaign=20190622Z3&et_cid=DM295532&et_rid=644482371

Except that they were scientists with a scientific hypothesis that they had worked on for many years, and then tested. There was nothing unscientific about this, though it would not pass an ethics board.

Fixed that for you.

Mercola is a qualified osteopath(!), well-known for his untested, unscientific ideas.

https://www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/mercola.html

http://www.skepdic.com/mercola.html

The ‘fact box’ shown just after the summary of that article to which you link does not disclose the fact that Mercola has been forced by courts to put that information on his stories given the falsities they contain. The links in his story are largely to his own website or to other quackery sites, and unfortunately while he has a popular name Robert F Kennedy Jr fell off the rails years ago.

Finally, while Mercola’s screed rails against the HPV vaccine’s ability to prevent one type of cancer, that’s not its only purpose!

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You might be aware of this link @postulative included, or not? Do such reports cause you concern about your sources? Note there are specifics and citations on this site, not idle commentary.

https://www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/mercola.html

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Because it was not in accordance with scientific principles at that time…and lead to their ridicule by and being ostracised by the establishment.

It was in accordance with scientific method principles.They had a hypothesis, they tested it and found confirmation. They made predictions and the predictions were validated. They published and eventually peer review agreed with them. This was all very scientific. Perhaps what you intended was that it wasn’t in accordance with received wisdom of the day.

This is the situation every starry-eyed teen with a scientific bent longs for. To be an Einstein to overturn sainted Newton, to lead the revolt that establishes the new paradigm.

Ultimate science uses data to rewrite dogma but then in time it too becomes dogma. We humans are weak and fickle, that’s life.

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phb many new hypothesise are ridiculed. It’s very common. A proposed mechanism for the development of a problem became a hypothesis. A method to test that experimentally was identified. The experiment was performed. The data collected and analysed. The results including the methodology and the data were published. The experiment is replicable and falsifiable. How is that not scientific?

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While the process was a scientific method, listening to interviews of Dr BW it could easily been seen that the scientific community at the time thought they were crazy and potentially dealing in pseudoscience. I recall Dr BM indicating that they were severely ostracised for their opinions and views, even after their initial papers were published.

The unscientific comes from the reaction when their results were published as no one believed them nor their research findings.This view was later changed when others also started finding the presence of Helicobacter pylori in those who had fallen ill to ulcers. If others hadn’t independently stumbled upon this, Dr BM/RW may have been not celebrated and then importance of their work recognised as they are today.

It is possibly different to the Wakefield example as this was seen as science when the paper was published, only to be proven to be false through replication experiments/surveys by others.

This is an unusual situation which is why it sticks on my head.

Also, it would be interesting if the natural remedy industry marketed their products as being ‘this product has been tested using scientific methodologies’ without providing the results. To an average punter, this indicates authenticity to any claims which may exist elsewhere on the product such as 'has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicines for the treatment of…". BTW, I have noticed that such claims about some TCM or other cultural based treatments are being used by natural remedy industry to try and substantiate their unproven claims.

A scientific testing regime doesn’t not legitimise science as seem in the Wakefield case and other proven fraudulent scientific research.

It happens all the time, the Establishment of science defends itself just like any other. It takes some courage to risk all and publish. If you’re right you get fame, if you’re wrong catastrophe.

Pseudoscientists, crazy people and the bewildered take comfort in such stories, it means there is hope for them. They love accounts of struggles such as Wegener had with plate tectonics. He was pooh poohed for years until the confirming data became available, now his work is canon.

Sadly this will never happen to 99.9% of his fanboyz , they will always be pseudoscientists and crazy people because the data just doesn’t support them.

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