Average Jane Science Junkie

I’m not a doctor or scientist, just a science junkie and have been ever since I picked up a Scientific American in 1983. As a result, I’m slightly better equipped than the average Jane when it comes recognizing woo.

About this same time, a co-worker gave me a book on homeopathy and well… you know at the time, parts of it almost made sense? A good background in English helped me out there as much as any knowledge of science. Bad writing often equals bad logic.

I was also influenced by my family doctor – John Ellis. Whether his research on B6 is worthy, I honestly don’t know, but he was a good GP. He didn’t prescribe B6 for anything I ever went to him for. He was basically a country doctor in a small town, who people called on for advice about their cattle as quickly as they did their children.

I wanted to believe that everyone promoting a vitamin or herbal remedy was the same kind of person — well-intentioned at the very least. That is simply not a workable everyday ideal. Some people are out to make a buck by selling you worthless concoctions or contraptions. Unfortunately some may even be harmful.

I have a nephew with severe autism and developmental disorders. He’s a beautiful boy and I was well aware of the anguish my brother-in-law and his wife were going through trying to help their daughter raise him. After seeing Jenny McCarthy on TV, I emailed them about her book. I didn’t research it, I was grasping at straws for them. While they may have read the book, they stuck with their doctors and never mentioned it to me. For that reprieve, I’m grateful.

Do you see how even a not really quite completely stupid person can be so easily taken in? I swear I’ve learned my lesson! I question everything now and try to apply what little learnin’ I’ve got. I thank Orac and PalMD (and others) for the lessons. In my defense, the episode about Jenny McCarthy I saw concerned restricting gluten, not blaming vaccines.

I remember waiting in line in the 50s for my polio vaccine. I remember older relatives who got the disease instead of the vaccine. No one has to convince me that vaccines are worthwhile. But gluten restriction? To a layman, that sounds like something sort of reasonable.

What do you do about people like me? I’m not an enemy of evidence-based medicine (though I am leery of government bureaucrats deciding what evidence is worthy) and I’m certainly not a believer in something as silly as crystals and pyramids. How do you get the word out to people who are basically like me, but not necessarily science junkies? Look how long, how much it took, for me to really learn to discern. (I must add that it’s anthropology that really grabs my interest.)

Most of the stuff on HuffPo that Orac and PalMd post about would not fool me. My goodness, these people are not only scientifically illiterate, but also logically illiterate to the point that anyone with a minimal understanding of the logic of language should be able to see through their non-valid arguments.

I should also point out that I don’t necessarily agree with scientists about everything. I often wonder how their superior abilities at logic lead them to lean strongly toward the left politically. This doesn’t mean I’m right wing (because their logic is also less than superior, IMHO). Basically, I can’t find a political ideology that fits my ideas. Perhaps I’m a centrist, if that can mean I find both “sides” equally unappealing.

This post is probably no help at all in the quest to find a way to present evidence-based science to the general public, but I hope that it will give the scientists some idea of how at least one small part of the public reasons.

5 thoughts on “Average Jane Science Junkie

  1. LOL! I am right there with you. “I’m a centrist, if that can mean I find both “sides” equally unappealing.”

    This pregnancy has opened my eyes to a number of widely accepted medical practices that claim to be science based that are just a crock. Where is the middle ground in it all? Does it really ahve to be one or the other?

  2. Donna, sorry to go off topic here (I’m not too smart on the science front) but I have a question. Is it you commenting on my blog under the name “D”? Just curious because it sounds like you yet you had always checked in as “Donna B” in the past. No biggie but if it is you I was wondering why you changed names.

  3. Not me scribbler! I’ve been away from home for several days and haven’t been online much. I’m trying to catch up today!

    Talina, I know what you mean in that what is the best for the average one is not the best for every one.

  4. I’m scandalized, but not really surprised, that HuffPo runs that kind of stuff. They’re really tabloid. They were all over the Octomom, for Chrissake.

    On the other hand, I subscribe to a commercial alternative-health newsletter called HSI E-alert that’s very skeptical of drugs, and at least open-minded toward nutrition and supplements. Of course, that’s the side their bread is buttered on. But people can be credulous towards big pharma at least as much as toward vitamin pushers and conspiracy theorists. This one cites studies you can track down and read.

    I follow a support-group e-mail thread for and by people with J’s disease, and I’m sort of horrified by the almost automatic resort to drugs and other interventions for every problem. But I’m also aware that maybe they or their family member are sicker than J is. Not that he doesn’t take medication (L-dopa) or that it hasn’t helped, just that I try to avoid piling on more of them for every little thing, for better or for worse.

    Miss you! Now that I’m not writing an obligate blog maybe I’ll have more time to read them — and will need to to see my friends. By the way, the Ambiance design continues to be very satisfying. Good choice.

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