Enough With Anecdotal Evidence

Wed, 12/11/2013 - 3:27pm
Mike Auerbach, Editor in Chief

There’s a great commercial on television in which one person asks another, “Where did you read that?” and the questioned person responds, “On the internet. They can’t put anything on the internet that isn’t true.”

That simple exchange typifies what I’m seeing as a growing trend – if you have a point of view, and you need some sort of citation, footnote, or endorsement for your position – just look to the internet and you can find it, because, after all – everything on the internet is true.

Which leads me to the creation of my first meme – partially stolen from Family Guy – but a perfect expression of what I mean:

But Mike, you ask, what is the cause of all this hand-wringing and consternation? Can you give us an example?

Why sure! Let’s start with the uproar over childhood vaccinations and the claim that they can cause autism. Let me put this out there right now: There is no scientific evidence that any vaccine has ever been linked to vaccinations – it’s all anecdotal. Almost every major scientific organization around the globe has studied vaccines and all have come to the conclusion that there is no link between them and autism.

But many people look to Jenny McCarthy and her education from “The University of Google,” which as she said to Oprah, “is where I got my degree from,” as proof enough for them.

So what else?

Let’s take a look for moment at the over-abundance of ads for everything from weight loss, to lowering cholesterol, to eliminating joint pain. Did you ever notice how, in tiny print at the bottom of every ad, there is that disclaimer: ““These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” Any claims of therapeutic benefit are purely anecdotal. If these products actually had any therapeutic affects why don’t these companies submit them to the FDA for testing and approval? And let’s not cite another internet source that the pharmaceutical industry and the FDA and the rest of the government are all in cahoots and laughing all the way to the bank because they have the entire population hooked on needless remedies while they have the cure for cancer safely tucked away in the same government warehouse where the Ark of the Covenant is stored. (You do remember that scene from the end of the first Indiana Jones movie – don’t you?)

Finally, if you have read this far, you might be wondering – why all the venom Mike? What has caused you to have such strong opinions on this subject?

Well, I’ll tell you.

When my son was born, a little over 19 years ago, he barely slept, he cried almost non-stop, he would clench his hands into little fists and arch his back in pain. We were told it was colic, one doctor even said we were just “nervous parents”. People said the scent of lavender oil would calm him down. Nope. People said try soothing music. Nope. Take him for a ride in the car. Nope. All of these anecdotal “remedies” turned out to be a waste of time. Finally, FINALLY – we found a pediatric gastroenterologist who diagnosed him with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and prescribed an FDA approved medication – at the time it was liquid Tagamet that we had to administer with a syringe. And guess what? It helped. It helped a lot.

So for now, and for the future, I’m coming down on the side of science. Please keep the anecdotes on the web.




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