I am consistently amazed by how entrenched some people can get in their positions. I’ve had a “cell phones cause cancer” proponent posting on an older post about a local garlic farmer that impeded the erection of a radio tower because he had a gut feeling it would cause mutations. This troll points out they’ve actually studied garlic mutations in 1959 in the presence of a high-radiation field — I can’t find this study specifically, nor has the troll any intention of ever posting it.
The point is, every study that’s been posted claiming there’s no statistical link or even correlation between cell phone usage and cancer rates, every study that claims such radiation can’t even harm DNA to begin with, is dismissed out of hand as invalid by this guy, without citations. Why I’m countenancing putting him in his place is wholly beyond me. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s relatively local to me, or the fact that he’s spent hours posting his pseudoscientific claptrap to try to “convert” me. News flash, pal: you can’t just cite studies with science whose conclusions agree with you, without also explaining away the science that doesn’t. Especially not when the balance of that science weighs against you. I am convinced by evidence, not by people really, truly, and dogmatically espousing viewpoints then building “evidence” to corroborate.
When someone stays within an echo chamber for long enough — especially one that claims there’s a vast conspiracy to protect industries that stand to lose too much money if the truth were to get out — you really have to step back and look at the sources for all the science done. This is a job well beyond the average layperson, explaining why so many average laypeople come down on either side of a debate, no matter where all the evidence falls. Don’t get me wrong — there are indeed such conspiracies. Companies have historically been very good at drumming up fear, uncertainty and doubt about proven science by fabricating scientific studies that fudge the data to benefit themselves — including the tobacco industry so famously compared to the telco companies as of late.
But sometimes the conspiracies just aren’t where you think they are — take, for example, the global warming cynics that believe there’s a vast conspiracy of scientists trying to make money off of book publications and green technologies. The much more likely possibility is that the oil companies that stand to lose so much money over switching off of fossil fuels are responsible for creating the uncertainty, despite the science all pointing toward AGW as not only plausible, but actually happening.
I am not a scientist. I have a deep and abiding love for science, and the people that implement the scientific method. The closest thing to such that I can manage, is implementing Carl Sagan’s baloney detection kit as much as possible. This helps sort out ridiculous claims from claims with actual merit. Our troll’s last comment is mostly the former.
I have to get this out of the way first. I found this post at greenfacts.org showing that extremely low frequencies (e.g. living in a power station) have been found to be potentially carcinogenic. And we already know gamma ray bursts can rend living tissue. But what about mid-range radiation? I found this image at the same site to illustrate:
This is apparently a logarithmic graph — the higher you go, the faster X increases. Visible light is midrange. We are bathed in radiation every moment of every day — if not from anything else, then from the cosmic background radiation from the Big Bang, the same radiation that makes the random patterns on a TV not tuned to a particular channel.
That radiation can cause cancer in megadoses is proven. Ultraviolet light from the sun can cause melanomas. Extremely low hertz radiation is probably a carcinogen as well. But midrange radiation has absolutely no proven, empirical evidence saying that it’s definitively harmful. For every study saying it’s possible, there’s another showing no statistical correlations between cancer incidents and mid-range radiation exposure. So, I trust real scientists with no ties to Big Telco to interpret the results of the studies and weed out what’s valid from what’s invalid, because as a layperson, I’m as likely as our troll to completely misinterpret the science.
I will post only those parts of the troll’s comment that require a direct response.
Bizarre way to get “serious”, to purport to diagnose confirmation bias. And your’re an arch-skeptic?
No, when someone ignores the fact that every scientific study indicates that the radiation from even cell towers cannot damage DNA enough to cause it to mutate, and that cancer rates did not go up when cell phones gained prevalence 20 years ago, you can tell that they’re ignoring those facts because they’ve already decided on what the evidence should say. Either that or they’ve latched onto the first hypothesis they came across and have been reinforcing it out of a sunk cost fallacy, in that you’ve already invested so much in your chosen viewpoint that to admit that you’re wrong now would be tantamount to admitting all the effort you’ve put into it thus far is wasted — and no human being ever wants to admit they’ve wasted time, energy or money on anything.
What kind of evidence could you possibly have first hand? Or rather, you almost certainly know many people stricken with the effects of cell phone & masts, wifi, cordless phones &c, but know not how to recognize the problem.
The plural of anecdote is not data. I’ve lived next to power lines and converters, I’ve had cell phone towers within 1km. I’ve had wifi routers pretty well since they first became commercially available. I’ve had cordless phones about as long. I’ve never had sleep problems that couldn’t be attributed to other reasons — e.g. too much coffee, injuries, stress, etc. And I do not have cancer. At least not now. And even if I do get cancer one day, I’d be more likely to blame environmental pollution or my own poor eating habits before I’d go chasing ghosts or drawing conclusions without any evidence. Or I might just be mum about it unless the doctor can blame any specific variable with any degree of confidence. And I would probably praise the radiation treatment that helps kill said cancer, unless I die despite access to 21st century medical technology and despite living in a country that prioritizes health over profits (despite your aspersions on Canada’s EMF guidelines).
With massive increase in the past few years of dependency on wireless applications, there is an acceleration of dire problems surfacing, thus the publicity — the kinds that were predictable had extensive research from E. Europe not been ignored for decades, and had Western research such as Frey’s, Lai’s, Bise’s & so many others not been buried or muscled aside. It is sick and sickening, and anyone interested in dispassionate “science” should be aghast.
Yes, we’ve been dependent on wireless applications for many years. The Scandinavian study that showed no statistical increase whatsoever in brain cancers despite a sample size of 16 million people, conducted over 30 years, overlapping the wireless explosion, is very telling.
Claiming that your pet theory is being “muscled aside” is the Galileo gambit. I have to tell you — the Galileo gambit only works if you’re right, and being muscled aside by dogma. It does not work when you’re being muscled aside by higher-quality science.
Someone close to us suffers seizures when exposed to tiny doses, far below Cdn. standards. This person’s life & career, and that of very many we have become acquainted with, has been overturned. Read first-hand accounts, not way-too-late cancer studies.
Sounds like a claim that can be scientifically proven to me. Every person that has claimed ill effects from nearby radio towers has been scientifically proven to have no ill effects from EMF fields in double-blind experimentation. It seems relatively easy to prove whether a person’s mini-seizures are caused by EMF — simply by having them sit in a room for an hour a day for a week, exposing them to EMF fields during two or three of those days (unknown what days to the scientist), and recording when they have seizures. Do it again for another week, this time telling them when they’re being exposed. Then as a control, tell them they’re being exposed to the radiation when they are, in fact, not being exposed through the entire week.
Get back to me once you’ve proven this person is actually experiencing EMF-related seizures.
Or it could be a phenomenon similar to that experienced by these supposed electrosensitives who had experienced a great many maladies living near a radio tower during the six weeks that it had not even been switched on. As in, psychosomatic. That’s not to say “made-up”, that’s to say your brain can cause you to become sick when you think you’re supposed to be sick, as these “electrosensitives” certainly did.
Khurana and another Aussie brain surgeon, Teo, know what they see and are a braver lot than sheepish North Americans.
“Those that agree with me are right. Those that disagree are cowards and sheepish.”
The Scandinavian study has been shown to be deeply flawed.
FFS, this isn’t that hard — if you have the evidence to prove me wrong, you wouldn’t have people like Orac completely owning your heroes time and again! And not just Orac, either. You have to contend with Mark Hoofnagle, Martin Rundkvist, GrrlScientist and the folks at Effect Measure — and that’s ONLY looking at ScienceBlogs.com. There are hundreds of other respected and published scientists calling your heroes to the mat time and again over your favorite piece of pseudoscience on which you drum with as much fervour as the anti-vaccination crowd drums on the now-discredited “science” of Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Frankly, I’ll throw in with the scientists that have correctly identified pseudoscientific nonsense time and again, rather than your “vested interest” scientists who have decided on a result and manipulate the evidence to fit their chosen answer.
Protection from Alzheimer’s — never check who’s saying what and who’s behind whom?
Because anything that disagrees with your chosen thesis must be part of the conspiracy. I wonder when I’ll be getting my huge kickbacks to which I’m entitled from Big Telco…? Which reminds me, I have a letter I need to write.
Dear Corporate Paymasters,
Please contact me directly, so I can provide my home address and you can send me my royalties. I could really use the money, as I’m in the middle of trying to marry my beloved Jodi and make a trip to CONvergence, so your fat paychecks would be really helpful since I’ve already sold my soul to you.
Love and snuggles,
He then quotes me thus:
“science has no authorities, only experts” — that’s a very, very naive view
However, this is something I had internalized from Carl Sagan’s aforementioned The Fine Art of Baloney Detection: “Arguments from authority carry little weight — ‘authorities’ have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.”
Surely it’s a matter of opinion to call Carl Sagan naïve, but it’s a grossly misinformed one. In my view, he’s absolutely correct. One should not consider one or even a few experts’ personal opinions as the only valid one just because they’re an expert. They can be wrong. But when MOST experts (in the specific field) agree on something, the chances of it being correct are exponentially higher.
Honestly, the remainder of his comment is nonsense. What I replied to is only marginally less so. If there’s a valid argument made out of anything other than his strong emotions, I missed it completely. And it’s a shame, because he’s obviously passionate about the topic.