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The Last Contrarian
 
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Shall I or shall I not eat this chocolate bar?

27 January 2014, 10:08

Having nothing worthwhile to do, these popinjay journalists trawl the depths of speculative scientific research to—as is always the case—tell you how to live your life in minutia of suppositive detail.

Who has not seen some family member or coworker merrily chomping away on slabs of chocolate while they excuse their gluttony with a priceless reference to a magazine headline stating that ‘new research’ shows that chocolate is good for your heart.

Whenever I see this scene (and I do quite often) I am reminded of an old joke about statisticians:

A statistician, a physicist, and a biologist went out hunting together. As the trio chanced upon a trophy buck, the physicist discharged lead, but missed to the left of the deer; then the biologist took aim and fired, but missed to the right of the deer; the statistician paused for a moment … and yelled, “That’s a dead-center hit! We got it!”

(With the South African education system being the pristine global example of excellence that it is, I wonder how many matriculants got the joke.)

But then suddenly a week later, the chocolate-muncher drags themself into the home / office with a look of soulful regret on their face. The latest edition of their favourite magazine highlighted another study, this one done in Australia, which found that eating more chocolate actually caused weight gain as well as increased people’s risk of developing diabetes and / or getting a heart attack.

None the wiser from their experience, they heed the latest update (or rebel against it in childish spite) . Come next week they will start guzzling red wine because study X said it is good for your health, only to dejectedly shun the bottle again after reading yet another study claiming it’s contains a bottled demon that sucks out your life force with every cup consumed.

Such is the yo-yo life experienced by people who do not think, can’t read statistics, and have no comprehension of anything scientific. To be at the beck and call of every sloppy piece of journalism is a fitting punishment, I’d say. Sadly, most prefer even the punishment over the only effective cure, which is to LEARN to THINK (two things becoming hugely unfashionable in our time).

The fact is that— statistically speaking—EVERYTHING causes cancer. That is because solar and cosmic radiation is incessantly bombarding every cell in our bodies with radiation that in time WILL cause a cancerous development.

Old age causes cancer. So does abstinence from or overindulgence in any number of foods, cause cancer. That you will get cancer, eventually, is a certainty, and getting nervous or excited over the latest (usually methodologically flawed or grossly misinterpreted 'scientific' study) is not going to help you evade cancer.

Genetic variations and extremities of diet may (that’s a nice way to say ‘we actually don’t know for sure’) increase your risk of getting some cancer, but you could also consume all the things you are supposed not to and still live to be 90+ years old and die from slipping in the shower.

Statistics are marginally more valuable than opinions, which, as most people know, mean nothing at all unless they reference facts, in which case an opinion can no longer be described as such.

For anyone who wants to start to truly understand how scientific studies are performed and how to read the data of such studies (so as to make informed, not implied lifestyle and behavioural decisions), I would highly recommend a book by Dr. Ben Goldacre called Bad Science.

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