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organic foods

Organic foods — are they safer and healthier?

Organic foods have been increasingly popular these days moving from local co-ops and farmer’s markets to large retail chains that specialize in organic foods (such as Whole Foods) to general large retail chains. More and more stores dedicate portions of their produce sections to organic produce, usually at significantly higher prices.

Even dairy and meat sections of most supermarket chains have sections that contain organic products. Again, at significantly higher prices (so, you’ll see a trend here).

But there is a simple question that needs to be asked — are organic foods worth the extra cost? Are they healthier? Are they safer?

Read More »Organic foods — are they safer and healthier?
cranberry juice UTI

Does cranberry juice really treat a UTI? Let’s check the science

It’s that time of year when Americans have cranberries and turkey, which made me wonder if the belief that cranberry juice could treat a UTI (urinary tract infection). Now, I love cranberry sauce — yes, I love the stuff that comes out of the can, and I will die on that hill, though I’m not a fan of the juice version. But I’ve had girlfriends who swear by cranberry juice for treating a bout of UTI.

I kept hearing about this magical curative power of cranberry juice for decades. So much so, that I began to wonder if it was just one of the myths that are repeated so often that we think they are a fact. Or is it supported by real science? You know, like the old adage that sugar causes your children to be hyper, which proved to not be supported by any science.

Well, your cranky old dinosaur wanted to find out whether it was a myth or science, so I jumped into cranberry bog with both feet.

Read More »Does cranberry juice really treat a UTI? Let’s check the science
marijuana cure cancer

Does marijuana cure cancer? Robust scientific evidence is lacking

Subjectively, one of the wilder claims one can find on social media is that marijuana can cure cancer. Or cannabis prevents cancer. It doesn’t matter what form – smoked, eaten, hemp oil (which is manufactured from the seeds of cannabis plants that don’t contain much THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the active hallucinogenic agent of cannabis) – some advocates for cannabis will try to make the argument that it is some miracle drug for cancer.

But is it? Yes, there are systematic reviews that indicate that cannabis may be effective in reducing nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy. But research has generated negative results in some well-done clinical trials and some positive results in others. But that has nothing to do with actually curing or preventing cancer itself, just dealing with the effects of the treatment.

Furthermore, a 2022 systematic review (again, the pinnacle of the hierarchy of biomedical research) showed that “evidence from RCTs (randomized clinical trials) that medicinal cannabis increases appetite in people with cancer is limited.

However, this article isn’t about appetite or nausea related to cancer, it’s about whether cannabis can cure or treat cancer.

So what has real clinical and scientific research said about whether marijuana can cure cancer? Well, not to give away the conclusion, but not very much. Let’s take a look.

Read More »Does marijuana cure cancer? Robust scientific evidence is lacking
intercessory prayer

Intercessory prayer in medicine — systematic reviews say it does not work

Intercessory prayer, where people pray for the health of someone in a hospital, has been studied for a while to determine whether it is effective. I keep reading that people believe it has been “proven” to work, but I have always been skeptical.

I didn’t realize that there are published studies about intercessory prayer, but I shouldn’t be surprised. There are even systematic reviews that examined the body of research — spoiler alert, there isn’t much evidence that it works.

If intercessory prayer works, I would want to rely upon that famous Carl Sagan quote — “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” The indisputable medical evidence supports real medicine, not prayers. The prayer supporters haven’t even been able to provide ordinary evidence.

So let’s take a look at some of the science supporting or refuting the effectiveness of intercessory prayer.

Read More »Intercessory prayer in medicine — systematic reviews say it does not work
glyphosate cancer

Glyphosate is not linked to cancer — examining the systematic reviews

I keep reading the claim that somehow glyphosate is linked to cancer, despite numerous large epidemiological studies that have yet to provide evidence of a link that would convince us that the herbicide has any link to any cancer.

One of the major issues with the tropes and myths about glyphosate is that many anti-science liberals tend to conflate glyphosate with genetically modified crops. This leads to a lot of unsupported hatred of GMO plants, despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that says that GMO agriculture is safe for humans, animals, and the environment – a consensus as broad and powerful as the one that states that climate change is caused by humans. Glyphosate is used as a strawman argument to stigmatize GMO crops.

Glyphosate is so hated, I don’t know how many times I write that GMOs are safe, and they are safe — then someone will write back, “yeah but Monsanto is killing us with their cancer-causing glyphosate.” It’s frustrating, but that’s the usual state of my mind when dealing with pseudoscience-pushing people.

But I have actual scientific evidence that supports the claim that there is no link between glyphosate and any of the 200 or more types of cancer. I know some people, especially greedy attorneys, will cherry-pick poorly designed primary studies and ignore the larger systematic reviews and meta-analyses that show no link.

I’m going to give you a brief review of some of the most powerful studies, which are at the top of the hierarchy of biomedical research, that reject any claims that glyphosate causes cancer.

Read More »Glyphosate is not linked to cancer — examining the systematic reviews
COVID prognosis pregnant

COVID-19 prognosis between pregnant and non-pregnant women – get the vaccine

I keep pushing that pregnant women should get the COVID-19 vaccine because of the disease’s poor prognosis. A recent meta-review clarifies that pregnant women have worse outcomes and prognoses from the disease than non-pregnant women.

This morning, I read a heartbreaking story of a 30-year-old woman who died from COVID-19 within a week after giving birth to her baby girl, Summer Reign McMullen. The mother, Kristen, was only able to hold her newborn for two minutes before she had to be moved to the intensive care unit.

So, I’m going to write about the difference in COVID prognosis between pregnant and non-pregnant women. Maybe what I’ll write here will cause one pregnant woman to get the vaccine – saving her life and allowing her baby to grow up with a mother. I hope someone will listen. I hope someone will take what I write and show it to a friend, sibling, daughter, or mother who has avoided the vaccine. Hope isn’t scientific, but that’s all I’ve got right now.

Read More »COVID-19 prognosis between pregnant and non-pregnant women – get the vaccine
scientific consensus

Scientific consensus – collective opinion on vaccines, evolution, climate change

In the hierarchy of scientific principles, the scientific consensus – that is, the collective opinion and judgment of scientific experts in a particular field – is an important method to separate real scientific ideas and conclusions from pseudoscience, cargo cult science, and other beliefs.

I often discuss scientific theories which “are large bodies of work that are a culmination or a composite of the products of many contributors over time and are substantiated by vast bodies of converging evidence. They unify and synchronize the scientific community’s view and approach to a particular scientific field.”

A scientific theory is not a wild and arbitrary guess, but it is built upon a foundation of scientific knowledge that itself is based on evidence accumulated from data that resulted from scientific experimentation. A scientific theory is considered to be the highest scientific principle, something that is missed by many science deniers. In addition, a scientific consensus is formed by a similar method – the accumulation of evidence.

I have written frequently about the scientific consensus because it is one of the most powerful pieces of evidence in a discussion about critical scientific issues of our day – evolution, climate change, vaccines, GMOs, and many other areas of science.

This tome has one goal – to clarify our understanding of the scientific consensus, and how we arrive at it. Through this information, maybe we all can see the power of it in determining what is real science and what are policy and cultural debates.

But the most important thing is that the scientific consensus (and theories, for that matter) are not opinions. They aren’t random thoughts pulled out of the ether. Scientific consensus is based on overwhelming scientific evidence published in respected journals.

Read More »Scientific consensus – collective opinion on vaccines, evolution, climate change
scientific consensus

Scientific consensus – collective opinion on vaccines, climate change, evolution

In the hierarchy of scientific principles, the scientific consensus – that is, the collective opinion and judgment of scientific experts in a particular field – is an important method to separate real scientific ideas and conclusions from pseudoscience, cargo cult science, and other beliefs.

I often discuss scientific theories which “are large bodies of work that are a culmination or a composite of the products of many contributors over time and are substantiated by vast bodies of converging evidence. They unify and synchronize the scientific community’s view and approach to a particular scientific field.”

A scientific theory is not a wild and arbitrary guess, but it is built upon a foundation of scientific knowledge that itself is based on evidence accumulated from data that resulted from scientific experimentation. A scientific theory is considered to be the highest scientific principle, something that is missed by many science deniers. In addition, a scientific consensus is formed by a similar method – the accumulation of evidence.

I have written frequently about the scientific consensus because it is one of the most powerful pieces of evidence in a discussion about critical scientific issues of our day – evolution, climate change, vaccines, GMOs, and many other areas of science.

This tome has one goal – to clarify our understanding of the scientific consensus, and how we arrive at it. Through this information, maybe we all can see the power of it in determining what is real science and what are policy and cultural debates.

But the most important thing is that the scientific consensus (and theories, for that matter) are not opinions. They aren’t random thoughts pulled out of the ether. Scientific consensus is based on overwhelming scientific evidence published in respected journals.

Read More »Scientific consensus – collective opinion on vaccines, climate change, evolution
MMR vaccine systematic review

MMR vaccine sytematic review – science finds no link to autism AGAIN

With so much sense and nonsense about coronavirus, I set to the side an important MMR vaccine systematic review that I’ve been wanting to review for a few weeks. Well, it’s time to focus on that.

Ever since MrAndrew Wakefield published his fraudulent, and subsequently retracted, study that seemed to show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the anti-vaccine crowd has embraced it as if it were a scientific fact. Of course, they ignore over 150 published scientific articles that show that there are, in fact, no links at all.

This Wakefield chicanery has spawned a cottage industry of other anti-vaccine zealots like Del Bigtree and his fraudumentary Vaxxed, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Christopher Exley, Christopher Shaw, James Lyons-Weiler, Tetyana Obukhanych, and many others. 

And now we have a new, large, impressive MMR vaccine systematic review that once again provides affirmative evidence that there are no links between ASD and the MMR vaccine. None. Read More »MMR vaccine sytematic review – science finds no link to autism AGAIN

vaccine adverse events

Vaccine adverse events are rare – vast benefits outweigh small risks

Like all medical procedures, devices, and pharmaceuticals, vaccines are not perfect – there are rare vaccine adverse events. What matters is that the benefits, not only medically but also economically, outweigh any risks. As far ask I know, no perfect medical procedures, devices or pharmaceuticals, none, that are perfectly safe or perfectly effective. Sometimes the ratio is small. For example, there are chemotherapy drugs that only add a few months to a patient’s life, usually with substantial side effects to the medication.

Yet, if you ask a patient whether it was worth it, to spend just a few extra months with their children and loved ones, the value becomes nearly incalculable. But mostly, the FDA and other regulatory agencies demand that new products and procedures must meet or exceed the safety, and meet or exceed the financial and health benefits of currently acceptable versions. Actually, the FDA examines a lot more than that. They check the packaging, shelf life, instructions, manufacturing practices, and so much more, it would take a book to explain it (and there probably are several). It may not be a perfect process, but it’s better than what we had 100 years ago, and it continues to improve every single day. People tend towards a form of confirmation bias where they remember where a drug may or may not have been found to be dangerous (best example is Vioxx).

But they forget about the millions of medications and devices that save lives or measurably improve the standard of living. Read More »Vaccine adverse events are rare – vast benefits outweigh small risks