Day By Day

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Tyranny of Scientific Consensus

The corruption of scientific authority is widespread, but most marked in the fields of medical and environmental science. Consider the response to the findings of two researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Katherine Flegal and David Williamson, who suggested that the death toll attributed by the government to excessive weight was greatly exaggerated.
In a 2005 study published by The Journal of the American Medical Association, Flegal, Williamson, and two other researchers reported that people the government considers “overweight” have lower mortality rates than people with supposedly “healthy” weights. They were criticized not so much for being wrong as for being unhelpful. “Your patients likely did not read the original article,” said an editorial in the journal Obesity Management, “but they did likely hear about it in the news and the message they got was not to worry so much about overweight and obesity. I do not think this is the message you want them to have.” That response was typical, Flegal tells Kolata: “Everyone thinks they already know the answer.…All these people who just know weight loss is good for you. It’s just taken for granted regardless of the evidence.”
Read about it here.

This is why the pronouncements of scientific authority must be taken with several heaping tablespoons of salt. This does not mean that scientists should be ignored, but they should not be blindly followed either.