6 March, 2008
The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate how a deceptive use of statistics and (misguided or not) opinion leaders can create “truths” that are “beyond question”, such as the current attempts by the global warming scare mongers.
For a sake of full disclosure I am a smoker in remission. There are a number of reasons why I don’t consider myself “ex-smoker”: Firstly I am ex-nothing (except perhaps to my ex-wife but yet she is an ex too), secondly, I have nothing against smokers nor do I care when they smoke near me, thirdly, I do not believe the anti-smoking “science” which is in fact the forerunner of the global warming “science” – I have no doubt that you have noticed the global worming scare mongers’ identical terminology and tactics as the anti-smoking ones.
Whilst I agree that smoking MAY BE harmful, it is certainly not as bad for you as you are led to believe, the so-called harm from passive smoking is only second to the con job of Global Warming or is it the other way around? Having defeated the tobacco industry on the issue of smoking, the anti-smoking lobby took dirty tricks that they had learnt from the industry improve on them and applied the enhanced version in their pursue of social engineering control. The tools: abuse of Statistics and “experts” opinion.
All successful propaganda campaigns start with “experts” and “opinion leader”, someone that the unsuspecting target of the propaganda trust. The medical profession was selected as the “expert” and “opinion leader” due to its respectable status and the high trust it holds with the general public. If only the medical profession join the anti-smoking campaign, the Anti Smoking Lobby concluded, they, the medical profession, will do the legwork for the social engineers. This in fact has happened.
Statistics has been used in medicine for years for two purposes, a) to test effectiveness of new medicines or other treatments and b) to establish a (mathematical) relationship between a suspected cause of a medical condition – the effect which is the resultant ailment.
Once a mathematical (statistical) relation is found, it provides a basis for a clinical tests whereby the hypothesis that the suspected cause is in fact THE cause or one of the causes for a particular condition. If and when such hypothesis is proven clinically, then there is a proof between a cause and effect, otherwise we say the the (suspected) cause has not been proven. In other words, the mere existence of a statistical relation is not a proof for cause and effect.
Let me explain this, 95% death of people occurs in whilst they are laying in bed, you cannot get a much stronger (prima facie) statistical relation than that. Does that mean that we can extend our life expectancy by sleeping on the floor? Of course not, because laying in bed is not a cause of death, the real causes of death, illness, injury, frailness etc, also cause people to lay in bed, this is the real link.
Whilst in this example it is easy to see that laying in bed is not a cause of death, in the majority of tests, it is not that clear. For example, according to Gallop Poll survey in the USA 15% of The Democratic party voters consider their own mental health “fair to poor” whilst among the Republicans the ratio is 8%, or about half that of the Democrats. The question is; does voting for the Democrats makes you crazy? Or do you have to be crazy to vote for the Democrats?
Now that you understand the concept of cause and effect, lets bring the doctor in. Until the 1960′s the collective medical wisdom was that stomach ulcers are caused by fried and fatty foods, people who were diagnosed with ulcer were place on diet of well cooked bland food to avoid further exacerbation of their condition. The reason was: studies (statistics) showed a strong relation between fried and fatty food diets to stomach ulcer.
Believe it (or not) we still don’t know what actually causes stomach ulcer but we do know that it is associated with stress – the fatty and oily foods, the fast food of the 1940′s and prior, were only another effect of stressful lifestyle, the real cause for ulcers. Had such “study” be carried out today the same relation would have been found between fast food and ulcer, I can just see the headlines: MacDonald Causes Ulcer.
If The doctors got it wrong only 40 years ago! What makes you so sure that the doctors did not get it wrong only 10 years later with (active) smoking and 20 years later, when the concept of “passive” or (“second hand”) smoking was introduced?
The success of the anti passive smoking campaign has nothing to do with science and all to do with the smell of cigarettes smoke. People who do not like cigarette smell readily accept any reason or no reason to demonise those with “filthy habit”, the “science” and the doctors were needed to get the media attention thus tip the opinion of those who did not care one way or another.
In 1999 the New England Journal Of Medicine (NEJM) published a (statistical) Meta-Analysis about “Passive Smoking And The Risk Of Coronary Heart Disease – Meta-Analysis Of Epidemiologic Studies”, by a number of researchers. By all account a respectable publication not to mention the impressive title and titles (I told you not to mention it).
In lay terms “meta-analysis” is consolidation of a number of statistical studies into one, something akin to “an average of averages”. Such analysis is as valid as the studies it is based on, the principle “garbage in garbage out” certainly apply to such studies and the implicit assumption that the parts that makes this study were done correctly is A BIG ASK without further supporting evidence that this is the case.
That said, I went looking for signs of reverse research. Reverse research is a process whereby the starting point is the “proof” from which the researchers focus only on data that support such “proof”. In plain words: fudge the data by selecting bias information that supports the desired results. Look at the data in the following extract from the NEJM:
We can see that risk was measured in ALL cases against FAMILY members, namely spouses. Think about it, tit is an identical scenario to people dying in beds. People who live together have a similar lifestyle, they eat the same food, breath the same air (with or without smoke), exposed to the same cleaning materials etc, etc. etc. … and … yes when we talk about spouses they also have sex.
Of all the possible common causes the researchers pick smoking, unless they can support their assertions by clinical research, it just as valid as to suggest that Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), lungs cancer or perhaps smoking itself is a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)? I am told by two independent medical practitioners that they are not aware of any clinical study on the cause and effect of passive smoking.
The fact that couples have so many aspect of their lives in common may be a proof that CHD, is not a result of first hand smoking (meaning that smoking is harmless to smpker) but that CHD is caused by some unknown common food or particular chemical that is hidden under the kitchen sink.
The duplicity of the anti-smoking lobby and the medical profession (on the smoking issue) is further comes to light when it was found that, statistically, smoking may prevent Parkinson Disease or otherwise it is medically beneficial – almost with the same breath as admitting the (possible) benefits from tobacco smoking the anti smoking lobby is quick to point out that statistical relation is not a proof of “cause and effect” and that “more research is needed”, isn’t it exactly what I say in relation to smoking?
OK, let’s have the “more needed research” on ALL aspects of smoking, good and bad! In the meantime, excuse me, do you have a light?