[2014-05-31] The Pony Thread

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[2014-05-31] The Pony Thread

Postby Space Hominid » Sun Jun 01, 2014 4:02 am

This strip got me curious about its possible roots. Does anyone know a real-world example of when science gets something wrong and a culture runs with it despite contrary evidence?
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Re: [2014-05-31] Noses in Psychology

Postby Liriodendron_fagotti » Sun Jun 01, 2014 4:25 am

Vaccines causing autism.

e: To be fair, that was one crooked doctor and not a group of scientists. But people sure did keep it alive.
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Re: [2014-05-31] Noses in Psychology

Postby ReasonablyDoubtful » Sun Jun 01, 2014 4:28 am

Space Hominid wrote:This strip got me curious about its possible roots. Does anyone know a real-world example of when science gets something wrong and a culture runs with it despite contrary evidence?


Every time someone links me a study, this is pretty much how it goes. Nutrition is chock-full of this sort of stuff. I can think of two examples:

Ancel Keys. He published a study that seemed to damn saturated fat. Looking back through the study, however, it's pretty obvious that he cherry-picked data (from an epidemiological study, to boot), and a shitton of people did, in fact, point out that he cherry-picked data. Time didn't care. He became famous, and saturated fat was held in such low esteem that anyone with any sort of health consciousness stayed away. So, naturally, all observational studies afterwards "proved" that this was true... in spite of clinical trials showing that replacing carbohydrates with saturated fat increases HDL and lowers triglycerides more than unsaturated fats.

And, similarly, vegetarianism. It's become so ingrained in our society that vegetarianism is the way to go that the most health conscious individuals began adopting vegetarianism into their lifestyles. They stayed away from all animal flesh... in addition to exercising more, sleeping more, taking multivitamins, etc. Observational studies, which can't account for the effects of health consciousness, once again "prove" that vegetarianism is healthier. Clinical trials, on the other hand, show increased deaths from all-cause mortality, including heart disease and suicide (this one by a lot), and the same results are found when studying vegetarians whose lifestyles are not that much different overall from their neighbors (religious vegetarians, for example). It's no wonder that so many would die, considering the fact that observational studies that examine blood tests show extremely high homocysteine levels in vegetarians and vegans, even amongst those that take supplements. Vegetarians just manage to outweigh the damage their diet does by living healthier in other ways.

Speaking of living healthier in other ways, that brings us to exercise. To lose weight, people are often told to run. It's good for the heart anyway, they say. Both are false. Well, the first is semi-false. The latter is absolutely false. Running might help you lose weight, but it'll be muscle. Long-distance runners are very often "skinny-fat," where they're at the "healthy" BMI, but their body fat percentage is incredibly high. This is because they've spent that running time burning muscle and putting away central body fat. How a person is affected by cortisol depends how this happens, certainly, but for the most part, running is bad for fat loss. Oh, and as for hearts? Marathon runners have more damage to their hearts as well as increased rates of heart attacks than not only people that live sedentary lives, but also people that are considered high-risk for heart problems.

So what I want to say about this comic? So. Fsking. True.
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Re: [2014-05-31] Noses in Psychology

Postby Kaharz » Sun Jun 01, 2014 2:33 pm

I've heard a lot recently about the problem with the anti-fat campaign in the US in the 90s and the resulting problems of replacing that fat mostly with processed carbohydrates. However, I haven't heard the two claims about running and vegetarianism. Do you have sources on those and something to back up what was wrong with studies that found other results? Everything I've seen on vegetarianism finds no significant difference except maybe heart disease at younger ages. That is after controlling for exercise and smoking. As far as the running goes, I doubt you can generalize that much. Most elite runners actually have unhealthily low body fat. But most people that run are no where close to elite runners and exhibit a fairly wide range of body shapes.

Nutritional studies are incredibly problematic because they are almost impossible to control and nutrition is a very complex and still fairly underdeveloped field.
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Re: [2014-05-31] Noses in Psychology

Postby ReasonablyDoubtful » Sun Jun 01, 2014 4:37 pm

Kaharz wrote:Most elite runners actually have unhealthily low body fat.


You asked me for sources... where's yours?

Edit: By the way, keep in mind that your argument is not based on the average, but rather the top-class. In other words, your claim is that people with less fat will run faster. Yes, thanks. That's... obvious. The question, though, is what does, say, a half hour of running every day do to a person's body fat? Here's a study for you, by the way. It's not about running for a half hour every day, but rather the elite Kenyan marathon runners (again, less fat = run faster issue). It shows them not having unhealthily low body fat. In fact, according to ACE, they're about mid-tier in terms of athletes for body fat. And remember, these are the "elite" marathon runners. In other words, this is an observational study where the participants were cherry-picked from the start and it still failed to produce anything near what you describe.

Kaharz wrote:Nutritional studies are incredibly problematic because they are almost impossible to control and nutrition is a very complex and still fairly underdeveloped field.


It's more than that. The US Government doesn't fund studies from people whose studies go against their official stance. One researcher was even blackballed after he published a book detailing the issues with the official stance not long after the official stance became official.

And I do have sources for these, but I'm a bit busy right now, so I'll have to bring you the sources later. Some... might be a little difficult to find, as the links I used to access those sources are no longer there, even if the sources are.
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Re: [2014-05-31] Noses in Psychology

Postby Kaharz » Mon Jun 02, 2014 12:16 pm

ReasonablyDoubtful wrote:You asked me for sources... where's yours?


Here are some I grabbed at random:
Studies showing vegetarian diets may reduce incidence of mortality for ischemic heart disease (mostly in cohorts under 65), but otherwise are no better or worse
http://journals.cambridge.org/action/di ... aid=814540
http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/70/3/516s.short
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1 ... 4xkVyjc-Ms (this study also shows a reduced risk for cancer, but most others haven't.)
There are other studies that may indicate the effect is not due to the meatless diet, but due to the intake of healthier foods in general. Such as this one:
http://www.bmj.com/content/313/7060/775

What I can't find is anything that indicates that a proper vegetarian diet is actually less healthy than a non-vegetarian diet.

As far as running and body fat goes, that is a bit trickier. Most studies involving just running focus on elite runners or ultra-high endurance runners. In the case of ultra high endurance running, it does result in little to no change in body fat while reducing skeletal muscle size like you said. Studies like this: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3794477/ But these are people who were running over 65 km per day for five days and it was just measured over that five days.

There are however studies that track aerobic exercise, including running. And they show an reduction in body mass and body fat:
http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/1838100 (meta analysis)
http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/17581621 (exercise alone does not produce much weight loss, but is key to maintaining it and is good for reducing body fat)
http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.asp ... eid=372953 (supervised study with control)
http://journals.cambridge.org/action/di ... OCSession=

Edit: By the way, keep in mind that your argument is not based on the average, but rather the top-class. In other words, your claim is that people with less fat will run faster. Yes, thanks. That's... obvious. The question, though, is what does, say, a half hour of running every day do to a person's body fat?


I wasn't making an argument based on elite runners. I was pointing out that they typically have low body fat, but most people who just run a bit every day or two for exercise have a variety of body shapes and that I doubted you could generalize that they had high percentages of visceral or central fat and that running made it worse.

It's more than that. The US Government doesn't fund studies from people whose studies go against their official stance. One researcher was even blackballed after he published a book detailing the issues with the official stance not long after the official stance became official.


This does happen of course, but there are a lot of other governments, non profits and organizations that fund studies. And the government does not always defund studies that go against their stance. But I guess you are right and anything that goes against what you say is part of the conspiracy.
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Re: [2014-05-31] Noses in Psychology

Postby alvysinger » Mon Jun 02, 2014 2:14 pm

Frontal lobotomies would be a good example. There was originally one case of recovery and then pshciatric practices ran with it based on this evidence. When the first patient who the operation was performed on died they found that the operation had completely failed, and that his prefrontal cortex was still in place. He had recovered through means of normal therapy. By this time hundreds of frontal lobotomies had been performed.

You get dodgy science justifying stuff all the time. In many ways science is the religion of the West in terms of the culture that surrounds it, and the fetish for something that purports to have scientific evidence or a scientific basis.

Not knocking science, just the culture that surrounds it. Really I think few people really understand what science is supposed to be about and the problems it's supposed to address.
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Re: [2014-05-31] Noses in Psychology

Postby Casey » Mon Jun 02, 2014 4:52 pm

skinnyfat


Stopped reading there.
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Re: [2014-05-31] Noses in Psychology

Postby smiley_cow » Mon Jun 02, 2014 4:56 pm

It's actually currently inconclusive whether antioxidants prevent cancer but I still here it every time I see people selling you on any food with antioxidants in them.

Also the 'glass of wine a day is good for you' study has been debunked and I still hear people cite it every once in a while.
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Re: [2014-05-31] Noses in Psychology

Postby Nerd » Tue Jun 03, 2014 7:20 pm

Space Hominid wrote:This strip got me curious about its possible roots. Does anyone know a real-world example of when science gets something wrong and a culture runs with it despite contrary evidence?
The entire fields of sociology, criminology, women's studies and climate science; most parts of psychology (though I would dare to say all); most parts of astrophysics; half of biology; aristotelian physics; phrenology; phlogiston theory; theory of humours; æther theory; spontaneous generation; theory of the classical elements; marxism; Keynesian economics (like most of its field); string theory; direction of current; cold fusion; Evolution (as depicted in pokemon).
What passes for science is usually so bad, that from time to time there is a need for people like Descartes, Kant, Popper or Houdini to get it back on its tracks.

In fact, it's very appropiate that Zack chose psychology instead of biology when he copied XKCD's joke, as psychology is 2nd in the ranking of sciences that are likely pseudosciences, alongside with economics (3rd place) and sociology (1st place). Never, ever trust anything written by one of those "scientists".
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Re: [2014-05-31] Noses in Psychology

Postby Nerd » Tue Jun 03, 2014 7:26 pm

I also forgot to add everyone's favourite pseudoscience: homeopathy. Currently teached on my country's humanity courses alongside with Reiki, marxism and social pedagogy (the same one that preachs that little girls shouldn't be playing with dolls even if they like them, as they would become alienated otherwise). :P
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Re: [2014-05-31] Noses in Psychology

Postby Apocalyptus » Wed Jun 04, 2014 7:04 am

Finally, I was waiting for an expert to weigh in!
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Re: [2014-05-31] Noses in Psychology

Postby Kaharz » Wed Jun 04, 2014 10:55 am

Apocalyptus wrote:Finally, I was waiting for an expert to weigh in!


Yea, silly me. I keep forgetting social sciences are completely worthless because they can only make imperfect predictions and should therefore be lumped in with something as ludicrous as determining someone's health and personality based on the dimensions of their head. Clearly the only thing that is true is standard model physics and chemistry.
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Re: [2014-05-31] Noses in Psychology

Postby GUTCHUCKER » Wed Jun 04, 2014 12:44 pm

I don't know if social sciences are completely legit but I'm under the impression that they can make useful predictions.
Hold on, that means I think they're legit. Yeah, I think social sciences are legit. A lot of people seem to disagree though, and it's very tempting to think of them as wishy-washy and not hard science like physics, or biology.
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Re: [2014-05-31] Noses in Psychology

Postby Nerd » Wed Jun 04, 2014 2:21 pm

Being useful or making useful predictions doesn't make it a science. Astrology was full of bullshit but at one time it used to get some things right, things which are no longer part of current astrology but of other science fields. Same with alchemy. The best some of those social "sciences" aspire to become is a form of art, as arts with a lot of discipline have the potential to produce useful predictions and work most of time, while still failing from time to time.

Psychology as a science fails everywhere and has already done as much harm as phrenology; very tiny aspects of psychology could be salvaged into an art. However, it is expected that as real science advances, psychology will become more and more relegated to oblivion and pseudoscience. For example, when it was discovered that ulcers were produced by bacteria, or when female hysteria stopped being recognized as a medical condition.

Sociology, however, is not even an art. It is fiction written by very bad writers that cannot differenciate their writings from random output generated by a computer. The only constant in sociology is the rebuttal of previous studies and previous rebuttals. It's just marxist propaganda trying to disguise itself as science because they've seen that gullible people have blind faith in it and anything that poses as one (following the example of Freud, who is nowadays totally debunked). Sociology keeps preaching myths that have been debunked since the 70s, has yet to produce any useful result, and on the other hand has produced a lot of damage to public education and society. It's truly the worst of the worst pseudosciences, and what saddens me is the corruption implied by the existance of a succint pact between scholars NOT TO expose it due to the ramifications that discrediting it would bring to public universities. (o~o)

Speaking of public education, it still teaches wrongly that taste buds in the tongue are separated in regions (wrong) for each one of the 4 main flavors (also wrong), and also teaches you calligraphy as if you were still using a quill instead of a ballpen. :P
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