TIME Has A Science Article Based On A Yogic Flying Instructor: Here Are More Ideas They Can Use

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The anti-science army in the war on common pesticides like glyphosate (and adjacently GMOs, those groups don't know enough science to know they are different) is having a Gettysburg moment.(1) They are out of options so they are making a desperate charge but they are in an open field a long way off and opposing them on the other side is every legitimate science and regulatory body.

Yet supporting their war on evidence-based decision-making are journals like JAMA, which now seem to do editorial review of "Letters" rather than peer review, and journalists at partisan publications like the New York Times. Rather than names like Early and Heth and Pender as in the Army of Northern Virginia, names mobilizing the troops for the anti-science movement are Eric Lipton and Danny Hakim and Joel Rosenblatt. Now, providing some ideological artillery support, is Alice Park in TIME.

Just after calls began for the head of IARC, Chris Wild, to resign due to the worldwide attention Chairman of the IARC Working Group Dr. Chris Portier (2) received after being revealed as a paid activist for Environmental Defense Fund and having signed a huge contract with one of America's elite litigation attorneys to take Monsanto to court (3), Park writes about a bizarre "letter" in JAMA which was written hoping to scare us with the knowledge that a group did an analysis and found more glyphosate in urine samples than they expected. (4)

Her primary source: A guy with a "Ph.D" from an unaccredited institution who writes about yogic flying and ghosts.

Obviously she didn't know that, she was just rewriting a press release - "churnalism", we call it in the science and health community - which is why she called it a "study" rather than the letter it is.(5) If she had done journalism she would have learned that Paul Mills bills himself as Professor at UC San Diego, but is instead a "Professor-In-Residence", which is a fancy way of saying he is an untenured adjunct. Part of the trade-off for the low pay and not getting tenure is he can shorten his title to "Professor" when he is talking to journalists. So all you post-docs who will never get tenure jobs, people like this swami undercutting you on wages are why. 

If she had wondered about his background at all she would have learned that, like Chris Portier, he uses his title to make money as an "expert witness". And she would have looked at his bio and discovered his degree in "neuroscience" is from a transcendental meditation and yoga school, the Maharishi University of Management in Iowa.

Unaccredited.

If you aren't familiar with MUM, it was founded by that Indian guru who hung out with the Beatles and parlayed the resulting fame into a $5 billion alternative medicine empire. MUM is not accredited by the American Psychological Association or the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education so he might as well have gotten his neuroscience Ph.D. in the mail. Maybe he did get it in the mail. It was the 1980s, after all, and that explains how UC San Diego still lets him sit "in residence" there. He was grandfathered in, no one without a valid degree could last so long now. In a modern world where Dr. Oz gets nationwide attention after a call to remove him from the faculty at Columbia (that was us, you're welcome America) for being an anti-science huckster and professors are being vilified for any inconvenient belief, Mills has stayed under the radar despite the fact that there is no science he believes in. He instead claims organic food will make people live longer.

So to help Park with inspiration for her next science article, here are other papers Mills has written:

"Electrocortical activity associated with subjective communication with the deceased" - like with homeopathic traces of glyphosate in urine being risky, he thinks ghosts are real.

Epigenetic Mechanisms of Integrative Medicine - epigenetics can be almost anything and integrative medicine used to be called folk medicine, then it was called alternative medicine and now it is integrative. It's the same stuff - yoga and food to provide confirmation bias for healthy people to believe for why they are healthy, but doing nothing at all for people who need actual medicine.

The Effects of Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi Program on the Paired Hoffman Reflex - TM-Sidhi is what that MUM place calls yogic flying. Here is another practitioner from MUM, Jeffrey Smith, claiming to practice it:

In 1996, gullible people were convinced by crappy manufactured pictures like this, which Smith claims happened during a Natural Law Party press conference in Springfield, Illinois on Oct. 22nd. No one seems impressed, mostly because none of this ever happened in the real world. (Image freely licensed and released for public use.)

Beta-andrenergic receptor sensitivity in subject practicing transcendental meditation - your heart will literally be more sensitive if you close your eyes and breathe.

Effects of Singing Bowl Sound Meditation on Mood, Tension, and Well-being - no comment needed.

Clinical Studies of Biofield Therapies: Summary, Methodological Challenges, and Recommendations - I wonder what kind of Kirlian photography pictures they got?

The Self-Directed Biological Transformation Initiative and Well-Being - bonus co-author and science legend Deepak Chopra!

I could go on but there is no need, TIME can write plenty of science articles using these incredible claims.

The war on science will go on but the "generals" anti-science activists in this battle use, from Seralini to Portier to Mills, are being mowed down. And there is no cavalry that is going to save them.

***

Finally, before the notes, here is how Twitter responded to news that Mills, like Portier, was being considered an expert on glyphosate despite having no expertise in biology or chemistry or toxicology or anything more than massaging statistics to get media attention. To the science community, this is not just a journalism fail, it is a failure of editing at JAMA also. 

NOTES:

(1) My friends criticize me for being too esoteric in my references. Like the Army of Northern Virginia, the anti-science movement has no shoes and are desperately scrambling to get some, and as with J.E.B. Stuart and his cavalry, part of their army is involved in a pointless skirmish elsewhere, like against CRISPR and GMOs. Like in the Civil War, one side,in this case science, is trying to protect minorities while environmental groups clearly want to oppress them. You'll see how the analogy all comes together.

(2) To environmental activists and attorneys, he is worth every penny. Dr. Portier even got his brother Kenneth placed on the hastily-called EPA glyphosate Scientific Advisory Panel, created after IARC declared it a carcinogen. However, his effort to shore up his work on IARC failed, EPA exonerated it yet again.

(3) He signed that lucrative contract with the environmental litigators just before his work made sure glyphosate (Monsanto makes 40 percent of it) was declared a Class 2A carcinogen, a "Probable" cause of cancer.

(4) If you know any science, your obvious question is 'so what?' Almost anything can be detected now. This is like the anti-science group that paid a "lab" to find glyphosate in breast milk. It has no biological relevance, unless you believe in homeopathy or its more science-y sounding equivalent, endocrine disrupting chemicals.

(5) A portmanteau of "churning" and "journalism", which is when a writer gets a press release and writes an article about it without actually doing any fact-checking. You know how the saying used to be 'you'll never get fired for buying IBM'? For editors, that goes for science publications like JAMA and PNAS, even though they have really declined in quality. PNAS has gotten a little better. After my Wall Street Journal article criticizing the ability of NAS members to hand-walk articles past PNAS peer review, which they did when activist Tyrone Hayes claimed a (different) pesticide was basically changing boy frogs into girl frogs but refused to show any data, even to EPA, they changed that policy.