Posts Tagged ‘bad science’

Vitamin E and scar formation

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

I recently acquired a pretty good scrape on my wrist. Not wanting it to scar, I bought a little bottle of vitamin E to rub on it. I got to wondering (long after I’d made the purchase and made a habit of rubbing the greasy slime on my wrist) whether there’s any science behind my notion (and the bottle’s claim) that vitamin E can prevent scar formation. In short: no. It is also powerless to remove existing scars.

I ran across suggestions to use aloe vera or onion extract, but I found those claims pretty easily debunked. The New York Times article linked to above recommends Vitamin C, but I wasn’t able to find any studies to either confirm or refute those claims.

Review: Micro Eco Farming

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

I recently checked out Micro Eco-Farming by Barbara Berst Adams from the library. Although I liked it overall, the following review is not going to give that impression. There were a few passages that really got under my skin and I’m going to spend the majority of this post making fun of them. I want to make it clear, before I focus exclusively on the mockably negative, that it had quite a bit of interesting things to say and I’m glad I read it.

I think I was looking for this book to be a little how-to book, but it did show how little land you need to constitute an mirco eco farm (most farms it profiled were about a half acre) and give general strategies for how a tiny little farm can compete against much larger farms (greater flexibility).

Unfortunately, the number of dubious claims made it a less-than attractive starting point for further research. The most comical appears on page 75:

Dr. Norm Shealy, M.D., a world-famous neurosurgeon who gave up that practice for holistic medicine, states that every known illness is associated with a magnesium deficiency. And magnesium, like all the others, works in conjunction and must have its counterparts beyond its commonly known calcium relationship. When plants then get their supply of magnesium and pass it on to animal and humans in a form we can digest and assimilate, health can be restored.

It’s possible illness has a more specific meaning than the one I have in mind, which I as a layperson consider an umbrella term for any disease, syndrome, infection or other ailment. That possibility not withstanding, I find it very hard to believe that human health is so simple that all ailments stem from the lack of one nutrient. Especially when one can fatally overdose on it – an ailment I can be reasonably certain isn’t caused by magnesium deficiency.

Earlier in the book, page 62, it actually managed to made me angry:

Revenue comes for farms and riches that find humans healing from their interaction with tamed horses, llamas, bunnies, and other creatures. “Our ranch is really profitable,” said a manager of a children’s horse farm, “Parents tell me they’re glad to support our farm instead of spending money on drug and alcohol rehabilitation for their kids.”

I found the ignorance regarding substance abuse and its treatment amazing and offensive until I realized: why should they pay for rehab when parents can just give their addicted kids magnesium supplements and health can be restored? I’m going to stop by an oncology ward and spread the good news. Then I’ll stop by a hospice with my newly cancer-free friends and we’ll cure those people with magnesium. Then we’ll form a gang and take over the world by controlling the planet’s magnesium supply.

The only way the above passage makes any sense at is by assuming author and farm owner and parents mean that by exposing their children to the natural world, the children will develop a sense of belonging in the natural universe such that they won’t develop substance abuse problems, and the parents won’t have to shell out for rehab later. Unfortunately this passage doesn’t give any indication that it ought to be interpreted that way.

On page 135, the author writes:

It’s been said that the greatest scientist of all is the earth.

This answers some questions. Apparently our author doesn’t know what a scientist is. The earth, being a lovely planet but not a conscious being, is unable to formulate a hypothesis, one of the primary steps in the scientific method.

As I said earlier, it was overall an interesting book, and it’s certainly not my intention to hurt the author’s feelings by only selecting passages that contrasted sharply with my world view. I appreciate that she and the people she interviewed took the time to share their lives and experiences with the world at large.