Friday, November 06, 2015

The Nobel Disease With Dogs

Quackery and dogs
"I'd often noticed that many people who knew absolutely nothing about dogs were highly educated types who knew a lot about everything else and consequently assumed that they knew a lot about dogs, too."
The character Holly Winter in Susan Conant's mystery book, Animal Appetite

Skeptivet is very good blog that is in my feed, and I particularly liked this post about Jean Dodds, who has done some very good work only to fall down the rat hole of quackery in arenas she should have best stayed out of.

In Science as Windowdressing Skepvet author Brennen McKenzie (MA, VMD) talks about the "Nobel disease" where someone who has some expertise in one arena (say physics and transistors) is assumed to, or assumes, they have expertise in others (such as population genetics). He writes:

I have written about Dr. Dodds before.(12). She is a prime example of a variety of the ailment sometimes called the Nobel Disease. She is obviously a smart and confident person who has made real contributions to veterinary medicine outside of the conventional academic career path. Unfortunately, she has come to embrace a variety of pseudoscientific views, and she has such confidence in her own talents and beliefs that she does not feel obligated to subject her own theories to the usual sort of scientific testing and critique. Her ideas about allergies, thyroid disease and, as we shall see, nutrition, are widely viewed as unproven, unlikely, or outright factually incorrect by experts in these fields, but Dr. Dodds has moved forward with not only books of advice but commercial diagnostic tests without apparently feeling any need to demonstrate her ideas are correct through scientific research....

.... The problem is that she does not provide evidence that actually supports most of what she claims, and often there is plenty of evidence against it. When she cites papers to support her arguments, they are often not scientific research but opinion pieces by her or other alternative practitioners and advocates. And when she does reference research papers, they are often in vitro or lab animal studies that don’t actually support the strong clinical claims she makes. The superficial appearance of science is everywhere, but actual science is scarce in this book.

In general, the aura of nutrigenomics is used in this book to support a laundry list of alternative nutrition clich├ęs: organic produce is healthier than conventional produce; GMO are dangerous, gluten is harmful; common ingredients are unhealthy (corn, chicken, soy) and exotic ingredients are healthier (bison, goat, venison); “artificial” flavors, colors, and preservatives are dangerous; raw food is better than cooked food; magical “superfoods” or supplements can have powerful health benefits. The evidence for these claims varies from weak to non-existent to clearly showing the claims to be untrue.

Read the whole thing

1 comment:

jeffrey thurston said...

Not a Nobel guy but Ben Carson has the same problem. Hard to believe such a moron can be a surgeon. Kinda scary...