Monday, 28 May 2007

Where does the spaghetti grow?

It seems that a debate has been brewing in blogosphere, Dr Crippen has been commenting on a certain blogger who has been expressing her worries about immunisations and giving space to some other standard scaremongering stories. This blogger says:

"It’s arrogant for us to believe that we know everything about our physiology, our environment, the chemicals we pump into the air, our bodies and into the ground and how all of these things may interact."

"Maybe all vaccines are safe, or maybe they harm people. I don’t know. Researchers don’t know, Doctors don’t know. NO ONE knows for sure. Oh….well apparently the Good Doctor does."

and she expresses her balanced view of the medical profession here:

"The medical profession has had an interesting history, at one time we believed that giving lobotomies to depressed people was a “cure” too. We believed that “blood letting” got rid of all that “bad blood” making you sick. Freud believed cocaine was a miracle drug, I guess for some it is. We thought that Red Dye #5 was safe, that smoking was healthy and most recently that our plastic baby bottles were safe to feed our babies out of. I've personally gotten to the point where nothing surprises me anymore, and am waiting for the shit to hit the fan about frankenfoods next."

It is indeed true that many medical treatments over the years have done far more harm than good. I shall not comment upon the harm that various misguided psychological theories have done over the years. The debate at the bottom of the page makes very interesting reading indeed, as Dr C explains that vaccinations are generally a very good thing indeed.

I don't want to get into a detailed scientific debate about vaccinations, as there are many more able people out there like Dr Crippen who can easily deconstruct those who base their ideas on paranoia and not the science. I also do not wish to get embroiled in an argument about antibiotics, it is fairly obvious that antibiotics are an essential part of our armoury to improve people's health and health care in general; obviously there are problems with antibiotics such as inappropriate prescribing and multi drug resistance, however these problems do not mean it would have been better to have never discovered antibiotics.

There are complications and side effects to all medical and surgical treatments. Does this mean we should never graft people's coronaries because they may die in the operating theatre? Does this mean that we shoud never operate on abdominal aortic aneurysms because of the high risk of on the table death? Of course not. Medical science continues to improve people's lives because treatment can be tailored to provide a net benefit to patients, based on the scientific evidence at hand. Things are not perfect by any means and there are still some very contentious treatments out there; while it is undeniable that drug companies have been caught fiddling results which may in turn harm patients. However these are issues that are discussed openly in the scientific press and community on a daily basis.

I found the logic used in her argument to be particularly weak. It is indeed arrogant to believe that science knows everything about our physiology, chemistry and so on. However just becuase we accept that science does not know everything, it does not therefore consequently mean that science knows nothing at all. As by following this kind of bizarre relativistic logic on, it means that we cannot assume to know anything at all, as even the most certain thing is very slightly uncertain.

This kind of extreme relativism flies in the face of progress and results in the net loss of a lot of children's lives to very preventable diseases.


Glen said...

As a regular reader of Spaghetti Harvest I have a few things to say.
Jennifer never said she was an expert, she never claimed to have all the facts nor did she say "follow my ideals to the letter." She expressed an opinion based on the information she has read at that time. Interpret it how you like. Opinions are like armpits after all, Everybody has them and they usually stink.

Your constant desire to have a "debate" belongs on a Monty Python skit. (Can I offer some "being hit on the head lessons"?) Jen says she's dropping the subject then let it lie.

It is rather bully like to keep trying to press the issue. Jennifer's Blog is her forum to express her opinions, beliefs, and views. If she is wrong then provide her with material to prove otherwise don't just contradict. (Again rather like Monty Python)

Garth Marenghi said...


your line is frankly bizarre.

if jen has the right to express her opinion, then why can I not express mine?

I have written politely and have not been offensive, I have merely pointed out some problems with a certain argument.

If someone's opinion cannot stand up to a little polite debate then it seems that that opinion is not particularly robust.

If you are going to post you opinions/beliefs/views on the internet then you should expect to answer people who politely question your stance.

I have not 'bullied' as you so kindly point out. I would suggest that you are closer to this mark than I.

Opinions do normally stink as you put it, however we are all entitled to them; your stance of the selective freedom to express one's opinion seems more than a little hypocritical.