From the Editor: December 2011
November 30, 2011
By Ralph Pearce
A story about Dr. William Davis recently caught my attention, and it is one worth sharing.
A story about Dr. William Davis recently caught my attention, and it is one worth sharing. Davis, a physician from Wisconsin, has written a book titled Wheat Belly, explaining why wheat is bad for human health (so bad, he insists, it should carry a surgeon general’s warning) and how people can lose weight if they shun the grain, entirely.
Now, free speech is a wonderful thing; and I honour and defend Dr. Davis’s right to express himself.
However, I question the validity of any piece of writing that is presented as a factual rendering on a subject, but has not been peer reviewed, and according to several sources I’ve corresponded with, is highly subjective in its findings and statements.
It is also sad that Maclean’s, like most media outlets, no longer employs science or farm writers who can lend credibility to the task of telling Canadians about this book, or better still, challenge or deconstruct some of the statements made in it.
Science no longer theoretical
Early in November, the Conference Board of Canada issued a report that, on the surface, appeared to be great news for the bioenergy sector. The document concluded that corn-based ethanol was good for the ag-economy as well as the environment. Great news! But at the bottom of the news release on the report was the paragraph that led me to question its validity: it was funded by the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association. Is it a surprise to learn the CRFA would fund a report that favours renewable fuels?
When I think back to my early high school years, I remember the headings we included in our lab reports for physics and biology. They put forth a “theory,” detailed the “apparatus” and “procedure,” followed by our “observations,” all leading to a “conclusion.” Seldom were we expected to prove our theory was correct: that is what makes it a theory and not a “goal.” Instead, we were expected to make unbiased observations and conclusions and keep our opinions to a minimum.
That is the problem with a lot of research being conducted in the past 10 to 15 years. We have heard about this with climatology and global warming, and it was there in the late 1990s with genetically modified potatoes and Bt corn killing lab rats and Monarch butterflies, respectively. The principles used in both studies were so flawed as to render their findings utter nonsense, and peer reviews of both showed that, conclusively. That is where peer review has its place: to ensure that researchers remember that science should be about determining outcome, not proving someone or something, right or wrong.
I encourage you to read the Wheat Belly article for yourself, at www2.macleans.ca/2011/09/20/on-the-evils-of-wheat-why-it-is-so-addictive-and-how-shunning-it-will-make-you-skinny/ .
Do not take my word for it, because the more we accept these kinds of articles, without question, the more we contribute to ignorance on a large scale.
Not to get completely lost in the seriousness of the subject, Merry Christmas, Season’s Greetings, and the very best in the new year, to you and all you hold dear in your heart.
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