News and Views

The war on expertise is not a new phenomenon. Nearly 60 years before Tom Nichols published his bestselling book, The Death of Expertise, author C.S. Lewis wrote about it in an essay titled "Screwtape Proposes a Toast," a follow-up to his internationally renowned book The Screwtape Letters.

In the novel, a senior devil, Screwtape, writes a series of letters to a junior devil, Wormwood, on how to be a good tempter. Thus, every moral pronouncement in the book is precisely the opposite of how humans ought to behave. The Enemy, to whom Screwtape refers constantly, is God. 

In his toast, Screwtape explains to a large gathering of "gentledevils"...

Last October, following the UN General Assembly, we wrote of the urgency needed for the global health crisis occurring in Haiti. At that time, the former Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, admitted the role of the UN in starting the cholera epidemic in Haiti in 2010 and spoke directly about the need for a new strategy to aid the country. 

He said, "A new strategy is needed to alleviate their distress and improve their living conditions. We are firmly resolved to fulfill this moral responsibility." he said,  "Later, I will give you details on this strategy. Let us work together to meet our obligations to the Haitian people." 

And, like a fool...

Rural America is facing an existential crisis. As cities continue to grow and prosper, small towns are shrinking. That fundamental divide played itself out in the recent presidential election.

Consider this shocking chart produced by the Brookings Institution. It shows that, in 2000, George W. Bush won 2,397 counties (compared to Al Gore's 659), and those counties represented 46% of America's GDP. Fast forward to 2016. Donald Trump won an even larger share: 2,584 counties (compared to Hillary Clinton's 472). Yet, counties that voted for Trump accounted for only 36% of the nation's GDP. Since most Bush counties also voted for...

Undoubtedly, you have heard dozens of pieces of advice, telling you how to lead a healthier and potentially longer life. You know you have - even if you don't follow them: exercise and sleep more, eat less, but add in more fiber and vegetables, etc. The list goes on and on. 

And, perhaps like most things, those same messages have grown tiresome over the years. Because people like Sara Gottfried keep taking the old standards, repackaging and reselling them (in hardcover.) She re-gifts them, so to speak.

And, that would be fine if it were not based on a premise that does not exist - that we know how to turn our genes off or on (or 'reset' them, as she says) through our activities. But, who cares if the scientific community is lagging behind her advice when there are books...

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of traveling to Washington, DC to film on set at Al Jazeera for a live television program that engaged a global discussion on sickle cell anemia, its perils and the advances in gene therapy that are showing great promise for this genetic disease. 

The host of the program is Femi Oke and the digital co-host is Malika Bilal (pictured with me). Questions were fielded from around the world utilizing various social media platforms as the show was not only streamed live on The Stream and Al Jazeera English television, but is re-aired on Al Jazeera media networks worldwide.

You can check it out above...

When you write about science and health, it means you spend a lot of time defending safe food, harmless chemicals, good drugs, etc. And that means there are going to be people out there, like supplement peddlers, journalists who are in bed with sleazy environmental groups, and just plain loonies, who insist that someone must have paid you off because you have the unmitigated gall to say that something is safe when it is, and they say it's not. People and companies make a lot money when you're scared, and don't like anyone defending something you're supposed to be afraid of. Then, they start the name calling. It's almost always the same—corporate shill.

Well, am I? I didn't used to think so until recently, but then I had to stop and wonder. I recently wrote about two issues that...

We all remember Rebecca Black. Oh, do we remember. She sang "Friday," that awful but irresistibly catchy tune (viewed 105 million+ times on YouTube!!), which will forever be a part of our culture. Had she sung about Pi Day, however, perhaps the song would have had a more positive reception.

Today, March 14th (3/14), is Pi Day, because the mathematical number pi is rounded off to 3.14. Pi is an irrational number (meaning it cannot be adequately expressed as a fraction of two whole numbers) that is derived by dividing the circumference of a circle by its diameter. 

Pi: Not Just Another Number

Pi is much more than a mathematical curiosity. The number comes up over and over again...

As a pediatrician, I always advise don’t be fooled by the cuteness. Urging parents to stay strong --especially in those vulnerable moments. See the big picture. Follow through with consequences for bad behavior. Easy to do in an office visit, but hard to achieve day in day out for twenty years— even with the best of intentions.

Sadly, the concept of withholding a lollipop for bad behavior isn’t necessarily transferable to media organizations when they under, over or inadequately inform the public with respect to science and health claims. Even though heightened public anxiety and co-opting of physician office visits to debunk medical myths perpetuated by such imprecise information are very tangible adverse effects, somehow the messenger continues to go unscathed.

Instant...

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes it clear that their regulations on our foods, drugs, cosmetics, etc. are not created in a vacuum, rather they are "formed with the public’s help."

The mainstay of this public interaction is through providing an open comment period. The FDA states, "By law, anyone can participate in the rule-making process by commenting in writing. FDA routinely allows plenty of time for public input (typically 60 days) and carefully considers these comments when it draws up a final rule." 

But, who are the "public" that provide comments on these issues?

From the looks of it - not scientists. 

One month ago, we wrote a story "...

According to Reuter’s World News, “Panamanian former dictator, CIA spy and convicted cocaine trafficker Manuel Noriega was in a coma on Tuesday after suffering a hemorrhage from an operation to remove a benign brain tumor, representatives for the 83-year-old said.” 

Here, we will address some basic tenets in neurosurgery (aka brain surgery) and how operating in this area of the body is often a delicate dance. It all comes down to real estate.

First, it is important to understand that tumors in the brain can be benign or malignant (aka cancerous). It is the location and ease of accessibility that dictates the level of surgical resection complexity. A benign tumor tickling the brain stem, for...