Did you hear what the latest study says? You didn't?
The dictionary defines a "study" as: "a careful examination or analysis of a phenomenon, development, or question."
As an experiment, I Googled "a study says" and I got 801,000 results.
A study says...
... A giant wave of plastic garbage could flood the US.
... Cannabis compounds could affect developing babies.
... Eating too close to bedtime increases your risk of cancer.
... Ohio is more fun than other places.
... Staying up late can lead to higher mortality rates.
... Sleeping in a less than totally dark room can lead to depression.
I did not make any of those up.
Someone, somewhere persuaded someone-- at a charity, at a corporation, at a university, at a cocktail party-- to bankroll "a study" that sought to determine how fun Ohio is or just how big that wave of garbage is and how soon is gonna get here or what are you doing with that chicken leg, it's almost eleven o'clock and for God's sake get to bed and close those curtains, for cryin' out loud!!
Someone, somewhere wants to tell you what to do or how to do it. And they want-- No, they need-- to have the muscle of Science (that's "Science," with a capital "S!") to back them up. Sometimes there won't be any real scientists involved, but there will be... "authorities" or "experts." Rest assured, if they issued a "study," it cost a lot of money and it is all kinds of science-y and authoritative-like.
And it works! People buy this! We change our behavior! We stop doing some things and start doing others!
If you don't believe me, NPR said:
In the 1960s, the sugar industry funded research that downplayed the risks of sugar and highlighted the hazards of fat, according to a newly published article in JAMA Internal Medicine.
So, in 1967, a study on that tainted research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine that said, and I am paraphrasing, "Sugar Good; Fat Bad." It was an influential study. And the questionable advice it contained remains ingrained in our habits and the way we think about food to this day.
Sure, medical science cured polio and rocket science put a man on the moon. But "researchers," and "experts" and "authorities" who conduct "studies" have given us a bunch of speculation, alarm and uncertainty.
And news anchors love studies! They can't get enough of studies!
But we're tired of being whipsawed by the study that contradicts a previous study. How many of you were taking fish oil pills, based on information you read about a previous study? Now how many of you saw the report on the study last week that said that fish oil pills don't do any good at all?
How many times will we fall for this? And, more importantly, do I save all my fish oil pills for when the next study comes along that negates the previous study?
After prolonged exposure to these practical jokes, we begin to look funny at scientists and other experts and authorities. The credibility of journalists and politicians is at an all-time low. Over the past 50 years, only about 40 percent of us trust the folks in charge of "Science." The alliance of science and politics and media is not helping anyone's reputations!
Speaking of reputations, where does the egg go to get back his reputation?!
Remember when "scientists said" that eating eggs will raise your cholesterol and turn your heart into a baseball glove by your 39th birthday? NONE of it is true! "But, the science is settled, right?" WRONG! The science, some say, is NEVER settled.
The poor "Incredible Edible Egg!" Some scientists in the '70s picked him out of a lineup and he ended up on nutritional WANTED posters all over town! Now we're all "Come back, Egg! All is forgiven!" And Egg is in no mood to forgive. And I can't blame Egg.
What's that? Scientists have since discovered that not only is eating eggs NOT all that harmful? It might even be... beneficial? What? Were I egg, I would retain the services of a sharp attorney.
Even the United State Department of Agriculture can't get it right.
Since 1894, the busybodies at the USDA has been telling Americans what to eat in order to be healthy. They started out slow and sensible. Then, in 1992, they gave us... The Food Guide Pyramid!
And we've never been fatter! Is there a connection? Correlation is not causality! Is everyone fatter because they worshiped the pyramid? Or is everybody fatter because they told the pyramid where to get off? That is the 64,000-lb. question.
The Food Pyramid was, according to Wikipedia, controversial because , "it featured fruits and vegetables as the biggest group, not breads. This chart was overturned at the hand of special interests in the grain, meat, and dairy industries, all of which are heavily subsidized by the USDA." Great moments in Food Science!
So now we pay taxes to have the USDA hector us with continuously evolving, USA Today-ish, sixteen-color charts that whack the food kingdom up into seven (or five or six or four) groups in an effort to make us healthy. And we just melt down because, well, graphs were never really our thing. But we trust that all the nutritional info is all based on several thousand meticulous studies.
And now, they wanna smack that fake cigarette outta your mouth!
The push is on to outlaw vaping. Even though the studies(!) indicate that vaping is an effective way to quit smoking cigarettes and avoid nearly all of the harmful chemicals that accompany that nasty habit. JUUL, the biggest e-cigarette maker, says that 2 million smokers have quit tobacco using their product. Why would anyone want to regulate and tax it like a cigarette?
A City-Journal article somewhat convincingly makes the case that Big Public Health is mounting an effort against a smoking cessation mechanism that has, by some reports, a 66 percent success rate. It doesn't make much sense unless you see it as a threat to tobacco profits. JUUL makes an e-cigarette so successful at helping people quit tobacco that they sell nearly two out of every three e-cigs sold.
It seems there are some... studies that back up the tobacco lobby.. I'm sure they're very reputable! NBC News told me in March that:
Teens inhale cancer-causing chemicals in e-cigarettes, new study shows
It's a study. And it's new. So it's true, right? But, in the study, they cite the dangers of secondhand cigarette smoke... and, well I hate to be a party pooper, but I just read about a study that said that secondhand smoke studies were a bunch of hogwash.
If you don't like those studies, there are always more!
No less an authority than CBS News is on the case! They say that the regulation of vaping is important because we're doing it for the children. Studies say there's an "epidemic" of teens who have taken up the sport of "JUUL-ing" as it is called. And it is now Public Health Enemy Number One, guys!
"...anti-tobacco groups also point to Juul's early social media marketing, that they say echoed prior big tobacco campaigns with youthful images and bright colors."
You mean, like, in Tide Pod commercials? Yeah... Teens gonna teen.
Hey, when you think about it, kids who JUUL are way better off than the ones who eat Tide Pods. And, by golly, they're better off than kids who smoke real cigarettes! Where, exactly is the harm? (Aside from nicotine addiction, of course.) Trust me, when they get tired of JUUL-ing, they'll move onto something we can't even imagine. I mean, who could have predicted children eating Tide Pods? On purpose?! (What do the studies say about that?!)
Scientists have done a lot of great things, but there are too many people willing to believe something just because someone slapped a thin coat of science on it.
This is a real tweet:
Sarcasm? Who can tell any more? We can only get punked so many times by science before we lose faith in science altogether. That would be tragic.
Experts and authorities are working on multiple studies on that very topic, at this very minute.
A reminder: Those laws that they're passing to ban the use of plastic straws? The statistic the Anti-Straw mob uses came from a school project by a nine-year-old boy who asked a bunch of straw manufacturers about production and sale of their product.
NPR did a story on him, now that he's all growed up. Here's how Minnesota Public Radio promoted that piece, via Twitter:
A "study." One that was "conducted."
Don’t despair. Be skeptical.
Note: This piece was updated 7/23.