Science & Society

This morning I was on the nationwide agriculture radio program, AgriTalk, hosted by Mike Adams.

This is the rational Mike Adams, not the "Health Ranger" conspiracy theorist. Mike brings up all of the key points - that people simultaneously say they want to embrace science but then pick and choose the science that matches their other cultural beliefs, that over-regulating food in ways that don't impact safety are a slippery slope to damaging the engine that drives the country, and that we're in danger of being spoiled a little by cheap food, to such an extent we might start to think it is okay not to have domestic food regarded as vital.


In 2009, a report on the state of forensic science by the National Academy of Sciences noted the lack of sound science in the analysis of evidence in criminal cases across the country.

You wouldn't know it from television shows, but even the most common and long-standing forensic techniques such as fingerprinting are considered questionable - and defense attorneys have a field day promoting fear and doubt about science in the best of circumstances. 




Though numbers are difficult to estimate, advocates believe one in three women around the world have experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner.

It's difficult to be sure so a few countries, notably the United States, have introduced screening program in healthcare settings to try and see what works. The results in BMJ found no evidence to support domestic violence screening.


What percentage of plants in the world are woody?


States can pass all of the laws they want but a US Army soldier, active duty or otherwise, is going to be in serious trouble if there is evidence they have used marijuana. It does not matter if you claim to have pain or get a note from your doctor, the Army has its own standards above and beyond what Washington, D.C. mandates and states have no more jurisdiction than foreign countries do.

Yet some soldiers are reckless and risk their careers and among that group, many think Spice - synthetic marijuana - will be harder to detect. Social workers from the University of Washington have found that among active-duty Army personnel they surveyed, Spice is the most abused substance.


A statistical modeling paper has projected rates of obesity and overweight status in both male and female Europeans for 2030 and found that, when it comes to being fat, not all 53 Euro-region countries are equal.

The statistical model incorporated all available data on body mass index (BMI) and obesity/overweight trends in all 53 of the WHO's Euro-region countries. Their model "enables obesity trends to be forecast forward providing estimates of the dynamic epidemiology of the disease".

Definitions were based on the WHO's standard cut=offs - healthy weight (BMI ≤24.99 kg/m²), overweight and obesity combined (BMI ≥25 kg/m²) and obesity (≥30 kg/m²).


Can hurricanes cause stillbirths to rise sharply or is it epidemiologists torturing data until it confesses again? 

A paper in the Journal of Epidemiology&Community Health says that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are responsible for up to half of all recorded stillbirths in the worst hit areas and the  true fetal death toll may even be higher because of the displacement of people whose homes were destroyed. Well, they use the weaseling "may have been" that has become famous in advocacy claims for meaning 'we are claiming causation but we can't prove it so we will hint at it'.


Would reducing smog lead to higher earnings?

Yes, say Columbia University professor of Environmental Health Science
Frederica Perera
 and colleagues. They correlate reduced air pollution to higher IQ. When two curves need to match to create causation and correlation arrows, it's easy to do. What started going up in the early 1960s? American Nobel prizes. What went down? Air pollution. You can make the same argument with organic food. Kids of organic farmers have lower IQs than kids in Manhattan.


Media has always been partisan but when it was only partisan one way, that was the norm. It was considered objective and impartial. In the US, there were social conservative Democrats who believed in national defense and liberal Republicans who supported labor. Who can really remember whether Thomas Dewey or Harry Truman was a Democrat or a Republican? They weren't very different, really. The media were conservative.