Friday, August 26, 2005

The scientist in the magazine

Scientists have discovered that people's desire for cookies can be "cured." Don't believe it? Consider the following from Newsweek. A study has found that children who eat a diet high in saturated and trans fats are more likely to develop cancer. That's important, although not a very earth-shattering claim. But the study's author, Karin Michels of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, isn't content merely to share the findings of her research with the world. This is what she tells the magazine: "If you condition children to eat fruit and vegetables early on," says Michels, "they won't want cookies later." Dr. Michels, do you know of any evidence that even suggests this is true? Have you ever met a person who didn't want a cookie? I haven't. I think such a person would be rather odd. I certainly wouldn't want to have him or her over for dinner.

This overreaching seems typical of how some scientists relate to the public. They venture claims they would never make in scholarly writing, disregarding standards of evidence and logic, patronizingly believing that spreading a good message is more important than getting things right. (I have discussed this before and the more I read, the more I see it). When it comes to nutrition, myths and nonsense are often shouted louder than the straight dope. Scientists have a responsibility to be cautious, and they abuse our trust when their knowledge becomes the tail wagged by their righteous convictions.


Post a Comment

<< Home