Sunday 10 February 2013

Canadian Minimum Pricing Advocate Is A Serial Bullshitter

Dr Tim Stockwell is a Canadian with a bit of a beef about alcohol. You may remember that he was behind the BBC's heroic claims about minimum pricing earlier this week.

Snowdon described it as "lying with statistics".
It is a bald-faced lie to say that there have been any "significant changes in alcohol-related deaths observed in British Columbia".
Well, via Crampton, it appears this was no fluke. Stockwell turns out to be a serial abuser of evidence and data.

Despite the absurd contortions he was forced to perform in order to reach a pre-determined result on minimum pricing, he has gone on record criticising other researchers who found that moderate consumption of alcohol is largely beneficial.
[...] in a letter to Addiction, he keeps wondering if it's possible ever to derive any evidence of protective benefits from population epidemiological studies because of potential uncontrolled confounding.
His targets have responded by pointing out that Stockwell really should take that plank out of his eye before accusing others.
[...] we sense a desire by some in the field to apply tough standards on protective effects and more lenient standards on other effects, where sometimes the responses to very simple survey questions such as ‘Did your partner’s alcohol consumption contribute to your marriage problems?’ are accepted as causal evidence.
So, it appears he doesn't just lie with statistics. He also lies by emphasising research - however dubious - which agrees with his agenda, while dismissing other research - however strong - which doesn't.

Another dangerous, dishonest crank gets through the BBC's {cough} rigorous, {cough} world-respected health team, then.


Eric Crampton said...

The folks critiquing Stockwell in the letter are only critiquing him on cardioprotective benefits rather than the aggregate J-curve; I'm not sure where they'd stand on it. But it is a beautiful glove-slap.

Ivan D said...

In fairness Dick, on this occasion it was not the BBC health team. They were too busy pushing the English smoking ban asthma miracle based on a paper authored by subjective activists and of a standard that would disgrace a 15 year old. I do take your point however. The BBC is obviously supporting minimum pricing and is guilty of basing its news output on press releases from public health that would fail even basic checks for quality and objectivity. The public are being misled, It is that simple.

Junican said...

A very strange thing has happened over the last several year. Private health has become public health. This aberration has been allowed because of carelessness and self-interest among certain people who should know better.

Public Health concerns used to relate to those dangers which are common to ALL the population, whether they be rich or poor, young or old, etc. The obvious examples are the water supply and sewerage.

If individuals decide to enjoy tobacco, regardless of the perceived effect on their health, it is a matter for each individual to decide. Therefore, the State has no right whatsoever to interfere. It is not a matter for 'public health'. Only the matter of the effects of 'smoke' is a matter for public health, and that includes ALL smoke. 'Smoke' would include the smells of cooking, since those smells are caused by heating foodstuffs to a high level, and consist of molecules of heated stuff freely moving around in the air. Even then, if people decide to frequent a restaurant with this smoke in the air, that is their right. It is still not a matter for public health.

Public health is about those matters over which the public have no control at all, such as factories belching sulphurous compounds and diesel engines belching diesel fumes.
Until the Public Health Industry is curtailed, there is no chance that the persecution of smokers, drinkers, fatties, etc will end. Only a statesman of the calibre of Churchill will have the courage to do it.

The reason that we have the enormous, expensive, destructive Tobacco Control Industry is that no one had the power to call a halt to it very early on. Or rather, no one was allowed to have the power.

Sam Duncan said...

Exactly what I've been saying.

I'm not sure something has to be universal to be a public health issue, but it does have to have the element of unwitting risk. The current worries over vetinary drugs making their way into the food chain is a good example: the public, acting responsibly and buying from trusted vendors, finds that its food might nonetheless be contaminated. The public's health is put at risk through no fault of its own.

On the other hand, if someone makes an informed choice to partake in a dangerous activity, that's his own lookout. As is his weight, the amount of excercise he takes, or how much food he stuffs down his cakehole. It's notable that the TC industry still likes to pretend that smokers don't make an informed choice despite decades of its propaganda, paying lip-service to the true concept of public health even as they run away from it at breakneck speed. But the health of the public is not automatically Public Health, any more than the public interest is always what interests the public.

By the way, is it any surprise the BBC supports price controls for alcohol? They've made sure there's a minimum price for television for years.

CrazedWeevil said...

Serial Bullshitting. I thought that was the general requirement to get your voice heard on the BBC...

Radical Rodent said...

Here’s a good one for you to peruse:

“Science Is True Whether You Believe It Or Not.”

My own take is: Wrong. Science is the investigation of observable facts.
Theory is an attempt to explain an observable phenomenon. Science produces theories. Both science and theories can be wrong. To think otherwise is to remove “science” from its scientific basis into religious ideology.

Apply that to the logic of these folk, and you will realise that the human race is doomed. Really, really doomed. With people like this allowed to roam the streets without an entourage of minders, let alone allow them to speak in public, our species will be extinct soon.

Junican said...

My mistake. I should have said that 'a population' could be a small group, such as the people might live in the vicinity of a factory which belches fumes all the time.