Another 'Scientific Consensus' Bites the Dust

The favorite cudgel of leftist climate change fear mongers is the appeal to authority, as in that there is “a scientific consensus” that the earth is warming and that changes over the last century are due to human activity.   The problem with appeals to authority on extremely broad scientific topics is that they are not subject to easy proof by experimentation, and are quite often wrong.  Here’s a list of ten popular theories ultimately proven false, and it omits some major howlers, like therapeutically bleeding people or the geocentric theory of the solar system.  Now we can add to that list the “scientific consensus” that diets rich in processed foods and fats lead to heart disease.  This idea, which has dominated medical thinking for at least the last half-century, and led to all manner of government policy making, regulation and just plain tsuris over finishing the brisket, is now in doubt. 

New studies of pre-modern humans, dating back many millennia, demonstrate that arteriosclerosis (the hardening of the arterial blood vessels that causes blockages and heart attacks) afflicted people who (by necessity and not choice) followed that most rigid of diet and exercise regimens -- hunting and gathering.  The mummified remains of Neolithic era humans from around the globe demonstrate that arterial disease was about as commonplace in those ancient populations as it is today.  Despite the fact that these people had diets low on saturated fats, high in proteins, vegetables and fruits, and engaged in regular and strenuous exercise, they still suffered from heart disease as they aged at about the same rates as modern humans.    

We have heard for a long time now that the so-called “caveman diet” rich in lean meat and low in carbohydrate is a good heart disease preventive.  Well throw out the ground buffalo and kale and make up a plate of spaghetti carbonara -- it’s not likely to make a big difference in your susceptibility to heart disease.  The same thing is true with the fish oil theory, which is bad news for the diet supplement industry.  Neolithic people with diets rich in aquatic fats still suffered from heart disease. Which means that I can now only justify eating sardines because I like them, rather for medicinal purposes.  In fact, it appears that there is little significant difference in heart disease rates across the millennia, which means the prevailing scientific consensus, which has dictated dietary health for several decades, was very probably wrong. 

I am not a climate scientist, but I am a historian, and one thing that is certain is that the earth’s climate has obviously undergone dramatic change in both historic and prehistoric time frames.  In historic time (that is in the last 5000 years or so) there has been massive desiccation in northern Africa and the Middle East (probably due to long term warming) interspersed with mini-ice ages (countervailing periods of cooling especially in northern latitudes.)  On balance, at least for people in the northern hemisphere (which is where most of the human population resides) warming has been a good thing, while cooling (with associated famines) a bad thing. 

What’s pretty clear is that any scientific consensus on broad and dynamic processes that are not subject to experimental verification is a highly questionable proposition. The idea, expressed by President Obama and his allies on the left that we ought to restructure the international economy to accommodate this consensus, is dicey at best, just plain foolish at worst.   Now excuse me while I lick the cheese doodle dust off my fingers and grab another caffeine and fructose laden Mountain Dew.   

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