Wednesday 7 March 2012

Peer Review: How Daft Headlines Are Made

William Tyndale caused a right royal stir back in the 16th century. His crime was to produce a Bible written in English ... they executed him for it.

Prior to this, the Church was the only keeper of the word of God. Bibles were written in Latin, and even members of the public who were able to read at all - not too many in those days - had no chance of deciding for themselves if they were being sold a pup by the Latin-educated clergy. Enabling the testaments to be understood in English was unacceptable, so poor William had to go, violently natch.

What the Church said went. And it was non-negotiable, anyone who attempted to do so was a heretic. They hadn't seen what the Church had seen, you see, and the Church could interpret the word of God howsoever they saw fit.

Every industry seeking to jealously guard their power must shun accountability and debate like this, and for the modern dictatorial Church - that of public health - their altar and chalice are the epidemiological study and peer review. And their excommunication is the threat of cancer and death should you disobey their word.

They talk in their own circles, only venturing out of the inner sanctum of closed discussion groups to issue press releases with their pious pronouncements; their articles invariably shun comment or debate; anyone with the wherewithal to oppose them is silenced; and they communicate even mundane information not through letters or open forums, but by way of yet another impenetrable and restricted study.

These studies are then 'peer-reviewed' (i.e. approved by their mates), which is designed to put a full stop at the end of their argument through which no-one must dare to venture. If it's peer-reviewed, you see, it's now fact in their opinion, and you must believe in a flat earth if you disagree. You will see many a public health tax leech professional fall back on this tactic when things don't look to be going their way.

"But it's peer-reviewed!", they will arrogantly declare, before ignoring all objections and scurrying back to the holy of holies with their equally shadowy colleagues to plan the next sleight of hand to enrich themselves.

Just as in Tudor times, the vast majority of the public will never see the misdirection being played upon them. The authority of the unintelligible word is all powerful. Doctors talk in English, but not in an accountable form that the average Joe would be able to interact with. They may as well be talking in Latin.

This self-protecting approach leads to daft headlines like this.
Ice cream as 'addictive as drugs' says new study
And somewhere - in fact, in many many places - this becomes a fact despite it being execrable bollocks.
"This down-regulation pattern is seen with frequent drug use, where the more an individual uses the drug, the less reward they receive from using it," said Dr Burger, the study's co-author.

"This tolerance is thought to increase use, or eating, because the individual trying to achieve the previous level of satisfaction.

“Repeated, overconsumption of high-fat or high-sugar foods may alter how the brain responds to those foods in a way that perpetuates further intake."
He added: "The data supports the theory that overeating such foods may result in changes in how the brain responds to those foods in a similar fashion seen in drug addiction."
We know it's bollocks only because their own side have mildly debunked it, probably since it is so absurd that even Mrs Prunehat and her puritan daughters would notice the nonsensical nature of the claim. That's not good for the aura of the new Church.

But this idiocy was peer-reviewed.
The study was carried out by researchers from the Oregon Research Institute in the US. Sources of funding were not clear. The study was published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Which is probably why it was published in all its glory by woeful hacks.

Likewise, Jill Pell's egregious mendacity is regularly reported by way of 'science by press release', despite having no basis in fact whatsoever. It's peer-reviewed, of course, so it must be true.

Despite being plainly false, it is also touted as fact in parliament itself, because it's peer-reviewed, innit?
The most notable health gain for members of the public is the fall in the number of admissions for acute myocardial infarction. Researchers at the university of Bath have calculated that there has been a 5% drop in the number of heart attacks in England (also peer-reviewed, also false), attributable to smoke-free legislation. The figure was higher for Scotland and it was measured within 12 months of the ban coming into force
This is how headlines are made, and how those who have no hope of seriously challenging them are mostly rail-roaded into believing just about any old crap.

It is how vested interest manufactured myth is transformed into fact, and the method has changed very little since the days of Henry VIII, only the media employed are different.

Do please remember this the next time you hear or read some public health advocate - or their eager entourage of helpful stooges - fall back on the peer review smokescreen. If they resort to the peer-reviewed close down, they're invariably rattled and unwilling to engage in debate for fear of being exposed.

End of discussion. Amen.


nisakiman said...

All I can say is, thank God for the blogosphere, and the likes of DP and his fellow bloggers. The truth will out, eventually, and it will be because of the bloggers-who-will-not-be-lied-to. This is a grassroots movement at the moment, but it will go mainstream soon. That's when the shit will hit the fan.

Expect a run on piano wire in the not too distant future.

And a website pinpointing suitable lamp posts. A sort of Google earth for the newly aware.

ChrisBro said...

Said by Liam Donaldson in evidence to the Health Committee regarding the Enstrom/Kabat study --- "Quite honestly, I do not think that study stands up to any scientific scrutiny whatsoever, leaving aside the conflict of interest in the funding which to me is tantamount or comparable to a research study on organised crime being funded by the Mafia."
I seem to remember anti-smoking 'peer study' being described as valid as a class of 6th. formers marking each others A level exam papers. Yet these people have the nerve to publish total crap believed only by politicians and those wishing to feed from Government and pharmaceutical troughs.

Rob F said...

It's odd, but I get at least as much satisfaction from eating ice cream three times a week (someone in my household bought a tub of Neopolitan recently), as I do from eating it, say, once a month.

I haven't eaten any for at least a week, though.  I'm probably an atypical user of Ice-C, however;  my dopamine receptors perhaps haven't had enough time to adapt yet.

If I'd been a mainliner of Luxury Choc (sorry - I never reveal drug sources) though, I might well have found myself in dire straits.

I would have had to visit a registered pharmacy in order to swallow a glass of milk, under supervision, in case I sold the milk on to persons of possibly nefarious character.

Bring it on, I say - the next target should be chocolate bars.  Has no-one heard of pieces of insects being found in them?

Malaria, people.  The high you get from the dairy products doesn't justify the risks that you uneducated proles put your children through.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

"leaving aside the conflict of interest in the funding which to me is tantamount or comparable to a research study on organised crime being funded by the Mafia"
That'll be the study financed by the American Cancer Society. I kinda agree. ;)

Mag01 said...


The question that is typically not asked is how this
agenda-driven trash passes for scholarship? Pell occupies a professorship at a
university! In typical scientific/coherent enquiry, erratic claims immediately
attract peer scrutiny and critique; baseless and over-interpreted conclusions
are quickly brought into line. In “lifestyle epidemiology” and pet issues in
contemporary Public Health, e.g., anti-tobacco, this self-correcting scrutiny
is non-existent. Peer review is useless when all the “peers”
are equally daft, where incompetence, lack of integrity, and agenda are
endemic. The conduct is anti-scientific and anti-scholarly. Particular university
departments with direct access to public policy formulation have become
manufacturers of agenda-driven propaganda.


This is not a recent phenomenon. It has been occurring for
decades and getting worse. We have Glantz’s, Crapman’s, Daube’s, Banzhaff’s,
and a string of others occupying senior university positions that have
published agenda-driven trash for decades and that typically attracts no official
critique whatsoever. How many critiques in the peer-reviewed medical literature
are there of Glantz’s “heart-attack miracles” study? It is this failure of
academia that is the lead point in this unfolding insanity.


If Public Health has no coherent self-correction, it would
have been expected that other disciplines may have recognized by now that
something is terribly astray, e.g., statistics, psychology, philosophy, ethics.
Surely there must be some smoker academics, in particular, in other disciplines
that would have taken time to examine what is occurring in Public Health, given
that the antismoking bandwagon would certainly be affecting their movements. If
there are such individuals, they are not making their thoughts known in the
mainstream, i.e., published literature. The few critiques that exist are
occurring in the blogosphere by people that are not typically in the
mainstream. The few others that have voiced concerns are retired from the
mainstream, e.g., retired academics, retired physicians.


Consider for a moment that in all the published literature,
this long-term, serial assault on scholarship, as is the norm in Public Health,
has not been identified/highlighted. Given all the universities around the
world, there are no current academics that have come out in force scrutinizing
the conduct of Public Health researchers in detail. This is
extraordinary. It is catastrophic failure. Academia, on a global scale,
repeat - on a global scale, is dangerously lame. Academia
has been taken over by the very mentalities that genuine scholarship is
supposed to guard against, e.g., fanaticism, superficiality.

Mag01 said...


The critical problem in Public Health is its domination by
physicalism and the medical model. Health has again been perversely reduced to
only a physical phenomenon, e.g., absence of disease. Assaults on
psychological, social, moral, and ideo-political health – and their
consequences – through agenda-driven propaganda do not register as health issues
in physicalism. Medicos, dieticians, and the newly-created “personal trainers”
are the “oracles” of the time. Immediately post-WWII, it was this sickly,
reductionist definition of health that was identified as the foundational idea
of the eugenics madness of Nazi Germany (and America).
And, yet, here we are again having learned nothing from very painful lessons of
only the recent past.


Public Health and government health bureaucracies have long
been dominated by physicalism and the medical model. Newly appointed Health
Ministers meet with their health bureaucracy and within days are turned into
rabid antismokers able to parrot the standard antismoking rhetoric. There is
now an established, entrenched infrastructure from the WHO to countries/governments
the world over that forms a closed propaganda loop. The major agent of this
network in transforming society is the Health Officer that has typically been
trained in some Public Health course. These Health Officers are everywhere;
they are in governments and in corporations, small and large. It is these
Officers that institute “initiatives”. They have been trained that they should
be changing culture (to the edicts of physicalism – whether they know it or not),
e.g., anti-tobacco. This social-engineering within physicalism is eugenics,
where the major target over the last few decades has been behavior rather than


Following the eugenics of America
and Nazi Germany, if it was openly proposed immediately post-WWII that the
State would sponsor behavior-modification initiatives such as antismoking,
there would have been utter outrage, if not more. Yet, whatever was understood
then is now gone. Over the last few decades there has been a collective loss of
insight, a sort of amnesia. The worldly framework is heading again for disaster
– the cost of superficiality – and this time on a far grander scale.


We are now even seeing denial of medical treatment – another
eugenics favorite - for the medically-defined “undesirable” and “unworthy”,
e.g., smokers, the obese. Again, this conduct could not have been openly
advocated/instituted until recently. The conduct is so contrary to the
Hippocratic Oath that an outcry would be expected. But there is no outcry.
There has been an assault on the Hippocratic Oath for decades similarly to what
occurred in the German medical establishment in the lead-up to Nazism. While
there is copious [questionable] research on antismoking, little attention is
given to the attack on the Hippocratic Oath or, say, iatrogenesis. While
certain social groups are declared as “costly” to the system, there is
essentially no scrutiny of the squandering of taxpayer funds by the medical
establishment that is typically lucrative for those who run the medical
production-line: The health budget is a constantly growing “black hole” that is
certainly profitable for particular medical groups. While the medical
administration demands that all lead a medically/statistically scrutinized/led
life, it avoids scrutiny like the plague. These are all terrible, terrible


Mag01 said...


Just an example on the influence of Health Officers. Over
the last few years I’ve kept an eye on antismoking policy at holiday resorts
(not that I could afford to attend such). The larger resorts have at least one
Health Officer. Smoking bans were first instituted in some 5-star resorts.
Smoking was banished to the outdoors generally, then to designated outdoor
areas, then to a complete ban indoor/outdoor ban for some resorts. Most 5-star
resorts now have severe smoking restrictions. Then the antismoking trickled to
the 4-star resorts with the same progression. Now even some 3-star resorts have
severe smoking restrictions.


Cruise lines for a time seemed immune to the antismoking
madness. But they have caught up quite quickly. And it is the Health Officers
that set the policies in motion. They follow the propaganda protocol, e.g.,
conduct their “polls” that indicate that 70% of travelers don’t want to be
exposed to smoke, and the usual inflammatory antismoking rhetoric. So, now, the
major cruise lines all have severe smoking restrictions. For some, smoking is
not permitted even in cabins and on balconies, and is only permitted in
designated outdoor areas. On one major cruise line, smoking is permitted in the
cigar lounge, cigarette/pipe smokers not welcome.


The Health Officers are in many, many other corporations.
The larger corporations even have on-site gym facilities. The message is
constantly reinforced that health is only a physical phenomenon.

The major theme that emerges is that antismoking is elitist as it was
earlier last century. It is the wealthy and “educated” that are most prone to
medical faddism and supremacism while the poor are little moved by the
self-serving propaganda? It is the wealthy and the “educated” that are prone to
starting destructive “society/world-fixing” bandwagons?

Consider the eugenics of America
and Nazi Germany earlier last century. Eugenics was embraced/funded by the
mega-wealthy (e.g., Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie), the wealthy, and the “educated” in
their well-intentioned, albeit terribly misguided, quest to “fix” society; it’s
what “proper” people did. While the “educated” snobs sneer down their noses at
the poor and their “bad habits” (e.g., smoking) viewing them as burdens to
progress that must be “fixed up”, it is the upper classes, when they venture
into social engineering to quench their thirst for importance, that pose the
greatest danger to society, and only recently helped produce utter catastrophe.
And the “proper” people are well on their way again.

It’s not the poor that create social-engineering catastrophes; it’s not the
poor that create economic catastrophes due to endemic fraud and greed; it’s not
the poor that create political decisions with disastrous ramifications. It’s
the white-collar, well-educated folk that are the greatest danger to society. It
is they that need constant scrutiny. It’s the poor that usually bear the brunt
of the “good intentions” of the educated.

Legiron said...

I always like to mention 'memory of water', the original paper on which was not only peer reviewed, but was published in Nature.

Thoroughly debunked later, but peer reviewed nonetheless.