How to Spot Fake Medical / Science Claims: Episode #2 – Scientific Studies, Marketing, and Bias

You have all seen it. You are in some online venue in which some controversial topic comes up in science, health, or medicine and invariably, someone will post a link to a “scientific” article supporting their claims. How do you determine what is valid and what is not? Let’s take a look:

1.) Website Links: Web of redirection

If you are sent to a website that makes many claims but they only link back to other articles on the same domain. You are probably being scammed. Proper evidence should come from multiple sources outside of their website that corroborate the site’s claims. However, some are wising up. I have checked the site ownership of some of these companies and even though they have different domain names, they are owned by the same company. The express goal?… to get you to buy their products. Which brings me to number two:

2.) Site Selling Products

If the website you are visiting is flooded with purchasing options. You are probably being scammed. Keep in mind that their existence is predicated on you purchasing their products, they may not be as transparent and honest about what their product can and cannot do. It is all marketing. Consider: What would sell more? A: Chemical X kinda sorta does this in some situations? or B: Chemical X treats Z and fixes P? A is more truthful, but it won’t sell as faithfully as B.

3.) “It Contains Chemical X”.

This argument is used quite often in promoting a product or health food. The reality is that thousands of other products may contain the exact same ingredient. It may not be necessary to only use that one particular packaged version of the product. Worse, the chemical may not even do what they claim in the first place.

4.) No Links to Research

As mentioned in #1, proper evidence should come from external corroborating sources. If they make big claims with absolutely zero links to a scientific website, medical journal, or other scholarly resource. You cannot trust the source. Could be true, but how could you know? How can you verify? Heck! How can they know? You should always ask, “Where are they getting this information from?” Also, check for disclaimers. Some natural, herbal, and medically-oriented blog sites will inform you that they have not really vetted the claims of their authors or they are not giving you medical advice. Believe that. That should give you pause right there.

5.) Personal Testimony

Red flags should go up immediately when someone says, “Works for me!” This is not to say that this is absolutely untrue, it is just that this kind of evidence is the worst kind of evidence in science. The reason is because most people are not critical evaluators of claims and/or do not understand basic scientific processes. The cause of what appeared to work may be all in one’s head due to bias. Humans tend to forget the misses but cling on to what they perceive as hits. Did the cranberry juice cure your UTI? Or was it time (your body’s own natural defenses)? This is akin to when someone takes an antibiotic and they believe it helped with their cold symptoms.

6.) Scientific Studies – “Studies show”!

Sadly, you can’t trust these either. Rather, you must know how to discern the crap from non-crap. Here are a few tips to help you know when you have fallen upon a crap scientific research paper.

  • Exaggerates claims and uses subjective language – “Great source of X”, “Best protein..” “No other study in the world has shown…”
  • Research the authors. What University? What Company? What are their qualifications?
  • Conflicts of interest not apparent. Do the scientists that claim cloves cure cancer work for Cloves Inc?
  • Old paper. Yes, a lot has changed since 1923. Find more up-to-date resources. Scholar.google.com may help you with that.
  • Confusing format: No abstract. Not professionally done. It’s written more like an essay. Again, this not to say that the essay is false, it just doesn’t help with credibility.
  • The article refers consistently to only a few external sources to provide evidence for their claims. If this is the case, then visit that primary source. Avoid the middle folks if you can. Often, you will discover that what the biased secondary researcher is claiming, is actually NOT what the primary researcher is saying at all.
  • No citations, images, graphs, or data at all. Oddly, I have seen this a few times.
  • Check dosages of chemicals. Far too many research studies are misinterpreted or skewed for headlines and sound bites. For instance, a scientific study may reveal that phthalates cause cancer. Okay, but at what dose? If a lab experiment revealed that mice breathing 25grams of phthalates an hour died in two weeks (which is absolutely horrible) you must ask, are humans breathing nearly that much though. Probably not; but even if so, how do we know that humans would react the same as a mouse? In most cases, we don’t.

7.) No Mechanism of Action

I have mentioned this in the previous episode, but if the page is chock full of science, medical, and health claims but there are no explanations for how they work, beware. It is probably a scam. If an explanation is given for how something is supposed to work, research that chemical or process at an unbiased source. For instance, if you wish to discover if tryptophan is a powerful sleep inducer, you should NOT go to: ILoveTryptophan.com/store. Visit university sites discussing the chemical. Search for these chemicals using scientific journals or journal aggregators such as: Parity.com or Google Scholar. Motherjones.com is not a trustworthy source. Even some science news websites post crap from time to time so be very careful. You must triple check their claims, even moreso, your own beliefs.

Well, that’s it for this lengthy episode. I hope you have found something of value, if not for yourself, perhaps for others.

 In Science & Reason,

No alt text provided for this image

– Reggie

#pseudoscience #science #research

How to Spot Fake Medical / Science Claims: Episode #1

Every few weeks, I’m going to post examples of pseudoscience and hyped-up claims to help the public develop the ability to recognize patterns of crap science. So, did you know?

No alt text provided for this image

Holistic Ali is apparently confused.

This is common pseudoscience that you are bound to run into especially among health conscientious groups. We should be passionate about health and the environment but not at the expense of our brains falling out of our heads.

Pseudoscience is notorious for:

#1: Tapping into the “Natural”. If it says, Holistic or Natural. Your radar should tingle. Not that it’s fake, but that you need to look deeper before accepting it as truth. Holistic is more a marketing term over providing anything of useful descriptive value.

#2: Conflating Ideas: Facts mixed with extraordinary claims: Yep, it’s a plant. Sleep better? Really? How so?

#3: Embellishment: Just because something may be able to do one thing, doesn’t mean that it is capable of everything else that is claimed. In this example: Like most plants adapted to dry conditions, succulents do indeed release some tiny amount of oxygen at night; however, a plant that size wouldn’t release enough oxygen to assist with any significant levels of oxygen intake. You’d need a room full of them… almost top to bottom.

#4: Having Lack of Mechanism of Action: How it Works is often omitted. Fake medical products and pseudoscientific claims tend to make large claims with no actual detail of how it works. Many holistic websites for instance provide no links to studies and research supporting their claims. In this case: Natural air-purifier: Purifying how? What is it taking from the air? How does that process work?

Don’t be a victim due to desperation and ignorance. This example is rather benign, but that is how it starts. Once you accept some things uncritically, it gets easier to continue to accept crap ideas. Internet herbs don’t cure cancer, glucosamine and chondroitin don’t treat arthritis, drinking cranberry juice doesn’t cure STI’s, you don’t have energy chakras that need to be aligned, and moving your furniture around doesn’t sync your energies with the planet.

Awaken.

Back in School and other things

Hey ya’ll,

Well, I’m currently back in school earning my Doctorate in Education with a focus in STEM Education Leadership. My ancillary focus will be in evolution and climate change education. I am paying my way through school so I am working hard on this multiple income stream thing I have heard so much about.

I am currently a high school science teacher, a curriculum designer, an adjunct professor (in training), an online instructor, a course evaluator, a biology tutor, soon to be a science camp instructor, and I’m a speech and book editor.  I am also working on the format for my new show. Yeah, I’m burned out already. 🙂

In my editing capacity, I am freelancing for Humanist Learning Systems. Two works I have edited are:

– How to De-Escalate Conflicts: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKN2YNJ
– Ending Harassment in the Workplace: https://www.amazon.com/Harassment-Retaliation-Workplace-Jennifer-Hancock/dp/1987765761

Well, that’s all for now. If you wish to help me through school this month, feel free to donate what you can. https://goo.gl/5DbjDX

skeletonmemetheysaid

We Are All Cousins!

Originally Posted at: familyoriginstree.com reposted at: amazinglife.bio

Updated: 04/06/2018

 

Did you know that we are all related? Yes, we are all family. The human genome project has revealed to us long ago that there are no genetically distinct and pure groups of humans. We are all cousins.

 

The Tree of Life

The concept of The Tree of Lifein many of our world’s myths and legends, conjure symbolic imagery of a magnificent and beautiful tree. In The Bible, we are told that the first humans were disallowed to eat of its eternal fruit.

Today, we also have a Tree of Life but it is not forbidden to partake of it. It is the Tree of Biological Life. It is the only Tree that serves to show humanity’s true Earthly origins and the origins of all species on this planet.

But before we argue evidence of our global kinships, let’s talk about family trees.

 

Family Trees

A family tree shows your relatedness to others in your family. If you have ever seen a family tree, you may have noticed the branching.

Image Source: familyholiday.net

Common ancestors, such as granddad and granny, can give rise to many offspring, who then create offspring of their own. Each of these offspring share similarities because they all come from the same common ancestry. Though they have similarities, each also have various genetic mutations and variations that give rise to recognizable/visual differences. Most mutations appear benign, some are deadly but some of these genetic differences may be beneficial. These changes may decide the fate of a race or cline of humans. Example: Mutations that help some humans resist the Black Death and HIV.

 

Image Source: geneticliteracyproject.org

 

Constantly Changing and Evolving

The same pathogens that once plagued our ancestors may not affect us now due to small modifications of our genetic code. When your parent’s genetic material combined to eventually create you, some traits were lost, some acquired, and some recombined. You have become a unique individual!

Now, imagine if this mixing of genes and mutations occurred for a million years; in the end, the resulting offspring wouldn’t look very much like their Great-grandfather x 10,0000.

Image Source: primatetales.com | Hominid Skull Comparison

It’s beautiful to be able to look at your body and see the result of these slow changes. You are witnessing your evolutionary lineage. Thanks to the discovery of DNA, and more modern ways to interpret and understand our world, we now know more than ever about our evolutionary past!

 

Invasive Evidence of Evolution

Most of us have experienced a cold or flu. These are caused by viruses. Many viruses find their way into your body and start causing damage before they are eventually destroyed and flushed out of your system. However, some viruses find a way to be passed down to the next generation! How?

Within our DNA are remnants of an invasion, a viral invasion that occurred to our ancestors long ago. These viruses invaded our sex cells and wrote its code into our DNA. Luckily, thanks to the miracle of imperfection, when some of these infected cells replicate, they produce small errors in the code of the virus. When this occurs, the virus becomes inactivated and is passed down to future generations without causing harm to the host, hopefully. These are called endogenous retroviruses (ERVs).

Why is this important and evidence for evolution?

Well, ERVs are primarily passed on via reproduction. So, just like a mom passing down her blue eye color to her child, ERVs can be transmitted in the same way; thus, if a scientist finds the same “viral remnants/viral genetic sequence” in another organism it can be assured that they share a recent common ancestor and are cousins.

Imagine if you found a species of hamster in one valley and a different hamster species in another valley a hundred miles away. The question of relatedness would be easy via other genetic means, but the number of shared ERVs can assist with when the ancestral split occurred.

In Chimpanzees, we share many ERVs with them! These ERVs match almost exactly with ERVs found in us. Remember, ERVs are passed down from parent, to offspring. No! This doesn’t mean that a chimp and human had babies! But this is does conjure the question: How is it possible that many apes and humans share many of the same ERVs? The answer is simple, we must share a common ancestor that at one time contracted this virus. We are cousins, with all modern apes and primates. We share a common ancestor in the Grand Tree or Web of Life.

It has been argued that ERVs could have entered the human line through some other means. Though this is true, it’s difficult to explain away how that particular ERV genetic sequence matches human ones so closely and how the molecular sequencing matches a timeline that fits the paleontological evidence.

The Citrus Problem

In another example of obvious descent with modification, is the fact that humans and apes both cannot produce Vitamin C naturally. Most other mammals can produce Vitamin C on their own, (accept the Hamster and some other rodents). As a result, Apes and Humans have to acquire Vitamin C from outside sources, fruits, etc. What happened? Why would apes and humans have this same problem? It turns out, that when we look at the genes, that not only has something gone wrong with producing Vitamin C, but that our Ape cousins have the same broken gene as humans. Our common ancestor at one time lost the ability to produce Vitamin C, and passed that trait down to us. Our hamster cousin? Well, the genes that would help him manufacture Vitamin C have changed and are broken too, non-functioning for the task of Vitamin C making. But, the hamster’s Vitamin C gene is broken in a different place. Exactly what evolution would predict!

Okay, but what does this have to do with cousins and families and all that?

Image Source: familyoriginstree.com

We are getting there. The pic above shows a Tree of Life, using DNA relationships only. This is significant because if we had these samples and were completely ignorant of their origin, the tree would still be represented this way. The evidence speaks for itself. We share a common lineage with all Great Apes and each other. Humans then, of course, share many more ERVs, which matches evolutionary theory perfectly.

The relationships should be clear at this point, but let us look at one of my ancestors, David Day, in another Tree of Life depiction.

Image Source: familyoriginstree.com

 

Notice that it’s the same pattern. It’s the same distribution you’d expect in a ‘modification with descent’ scenario. David is the root and the children are the branches, different from him, but similar. Those children then start their own branches, their offspring are also different yet similar as well. It never ends! Allow a few million years of this branching and voilà, different but similar looking creatures result. Give another 10 or 100 million years, organisms begin to look hardly related to their ancient great-grandparents. (As evidenced via the fossil record)

Image Source: https://hcnaturalselection.wikispaces.com

Family

All life on Earth is part of an amazing evolution that goes back 3.5 billion years. Millions of Earth’s creatures all descended from one or two primitive forms generating the variety we see today. For humans, our evolution is relatively recent. This is why we look very much alike. We have a few regional differences but we are still very much the same species. As we all have descended from a common ancestral line, ipso facto, we are all cousins!

I wish humanity would realize that, in comparison to the vastness of the Universe, our home is just a tiny speck of dust floating in space. All of the people and creatures that live here are our family. Yet, we fight as if we have no other recourse. We hate as if hate is something to value. We kill as if life means nothing. We despise knowledge as if it’s a virtue. We love, only when convenient.

I think. We can do better. We must be better. We are one global family. We Are All Cousins in this Grand Tree of Life.

2008: The Great Tree of Life, Leonard Eisenberg

 

References

  • Li, Y., Shi, C.-X., Mossman, K.L., Rosenfeld, J., Boo, Y.C. & Schellhorn, H.E. (2008) Restoration of vitamin C synthesis in transgenic Gulo-/- mice by helper-dependent adenovirus-based expression of gulonolactone oxidase. Human gene therapy. [Online] 19 (12), 1349–1358. Available from: doi:10.1089/hgt.2008.106 [Accessed: 31 December 2011].
  • Montel-Hagen, A., Kinet, S., Manel, N., Mongellaz, C., Prohaska, R., Battini, J.-L., Delaunay, J., Sitbon, M. & Taylor, N. (2008) Erythrocyte Glut1 Triggers Dehydroascorbic Acid Uptake in Mammals Unable to Synthesize Vitamin C. Cell. [Online] 132 (6), 1039–1048. Available from: doi:10.1016/j.cell.2008.01.042 [Accessed: 31 December 2011].

New Platform to Broadcast

regstudiotwitch1

I have been experimenting with a new streaming media and community platform known as Twitch.tv. I have decided to use this platform to broadcast my new program. Again, the quality will suffer for a while until I can gather the funds to get better equipment but it’s a start. Visit my channel and follow me. When I start going LIVE I will update all of my social media pages so you can have a listen in real-time: https://www.twitch.tv/reggiefinleysr