Friday, 15 January 2016

Mad Stan And His Agnotology

"There's your Minister of Science; honor-bound to expand the frontiers of knowledge, except that he's also chief Defender of the Faith!" - George Taylor, Planet of the Apes, 1968
On Wednesday, Clive Bates alerted us to the imminent publication of a piss poor review of e-cig studies by Mad Stan the wobble-bottomed aircraft engineer. Entitled Who will be duped by error-strewn ‘meta-analysis’ of e-cigarette studies? (since updated), Bates mused in the article as to which medical journal would be naively credulous enough to publish such a load of scientifically-illiterate garbage which had been floating around for a while, thereby strongly suggesting it had been rejected elsewhere.

Well, the gullible journal turned out to be The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, and it may not have been such a good idea on their part. Because being up to Mad Stan's usual standard - as in absolute codswallop - the meta-analysis was immediately ripped to shreds. Here are some rave reviews from his colleagues in tobacco control.
“Publication of this study represents a major failure of the peer review system in this journal.” 
"Its conclusions are at best tentative and at worst incorrect" 
“This review is grossly misleading in my opinion" 
“This review is not scientific"
Now, I'll stick to the point here and not muse as to how many of those detractors have cited Mad Stan's science-phobic policy-driven wibble in the past and probably still would when it comes to tobacco, but instead wonder how such a world-class crank is still taken seriously by anyone at all considering he produces 'research' which is about as reliable and trustworthy as a knitted condom.

This is because, you see, Glantz the aeronautic spanner-monkey is still - incredibly - a bit of a God in tobacco control industry circles and one which many will not be able to touch. He is the go-to man for e-cigs advice according to the WHO - his previous review of e-cigs was heavily relied upon by the WHO when recommending vaping bans everywhere in 2014 - and therefore ASH will have a difficult time if they criticise him considering their prominent role in the WHO's Framework Convention Alliance.

Yet all he does these days - in fact all he has ever done - is produce garbage to prove a pre-conceived policy recommendation, and he's not afraid to corrupt evidence and misreport genuine researchers in the process.

Just a thought, but it's easy to conclude that e-cigs don't help smokers to quit when you deliberately exclude smokers who have successfully quit using e-cigs, and it's difficult to see how this is supposed to be remotely considered 'science' or even believable research that The Lancet should be publishing.

But then tobacco control has long since departed from having anything to do with science, it is in fact anti-science and its journals are increasingly also of the same mindset. It's a cult to which you are either within or without. Glantz is one of the cult leaders so is duty-bound to promote whatever quasi-religious anti-nicotine hegemony that his colleagues wish him to, and at the moment in the US it just happens to be an ignorant and quite absurd dislike for e-cigs based on no reasonable foundation whatsoever.

Therefore he lies. He is the Defender of the Shonky Faith and also the chosen one, installed by the WHO as Minister of Dodgy Science.

Now, in the very recent past we have seen quite a lot of this anti-science from 'public health'. On e-cigs especially they have become the "merchants of doubt" they have long-accused the tobacco industry of being.

A merchant of doubt explains merchants of doubt
From deliberately misrepresenting their own studies and refusing to apologise when they get found out, through making up demonstrably false assertions to what Glantz is doing here, purposely perverting evidence to suit an agenda designed to blur the truth and to create confusion. The Chief Morality Officer has done precisely the same with alcohol guidelines and abandoned science in favour of a religious approach to drinking.

So it was quite timely that the BBC recently came up with a word for such deliberate misinformation, ironically from a career tobacco control buddy.
How do people or companies with vested interests spread ignorance and obfuscate knowledge?
Proctor had found that the cigarette industry did not want consumers to know the harms of its product, and it spent billions obscuring the facts of the health effects of smoking. This search led him to create a word for the study of deliberate propagation of ignorance: agnotology. 
“We live in a world of radical ignorance, and the marvel is that any kind of truth cuts through the noise,” says Proctor. Even though knowledge is ‘accessible’, it does not mean it is accessed, he warns. 
Proctor found that ignorance spreads when firstly, many people do not understand a concept or fact and secondly, when special interest groups – like a commercial firm or a political group – then work hard to create confusion about an issue.
How ironic is it that someone still banging on about the behaviour of tobacco companies in the 1960s can so brilliantly encapsulate the actions of tobacco control doubt-spreaders in 2016?

The tobacco industry have long since abandoned any pretence that their product is harmless, but some in tobacco control are employing exactly the same doubt creation methods now towards e-cigs! They have become everything they have spent decades condemning. They propagate ignorance; they obscure truth in the noise of purposely-created media headlines based on junk science; and they deliberately create confusion.

When science is handed over to the Defender of the Tobacco Control Faith, when headlines are created by an aircraft engineer who is quite willing to lie and undermine colleagues, when medical journals are so gullible as to publish quite risible bullshit, and when the world's health overseer actually trusts pretend scientists over sound objective evidence, they have spectacularly abandoned the moral high ground.

Or, as one of their own repeatedly points out ...
I don't recall any previous tobacco-related public information campaign as dishonest and deceptive as this one since the tobacco industry itself battled to undermine the public's appreciation of the health hazards of smoking.

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