"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Thursday, August 16, 2012

On Scientific Evidence ....

Senator Sotto, in a privileged speech at the Senate, attempted to justify his position against artificial contraception by using the same words and argument posted in a blog called "Sarah, the healthy home economist". I do not know if the senator has his own speechwriter but the senator denies plagiarism, stating that it was never hidden that parts of his speech were being taken from a book written by Natasha Campbell-McBride. Campbell-McBride wrote a book that talked about the importance of bacteria in the human digestive system and claimed a connection between the use of the pill and a "gut syndrome", an imbalance in the microbes in one's system. Sotto may deny plagiarism, but he could not deny propagating myths and unfounded medical claims. Campbell-Mcbride is simply an example of quackery, one who thrives on personal testimonials and anecdotes. There have been other claims made by Campbell-Mcbride such as autism is caused by vaccines. Evidence-based medicine is published and peer-reviewed in journals. None of these claims are based on data that have been examined by other experts. These are all alternative explanations based on anecdotes which basically tell what they want to say and support what they claim.

The lack of scrutiny of claims is pervasive in a society that does not recognize the importance of peer review in science and medical journals. Publication in scientific literature submits findings to others so that these could be verified or refuted. Here is another claim from the Philippines official website:
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Local language instruction boosts new language proficiency


By Alex Romeo R. Fernandez
Thursday 16th of August 2012
DAGUPAN CITY, Pangasinan, Aug 16 (PIA) -- Instruction using native languages does not only help one in assimilating lessons but also in becoming proficient in other languages.

Renato Santillan, a teacher of Filipino at the Dagupan City National High School, said the Department of Education (DepEd) has found out that students who are taught using their native language have 80 percent chance of becoming fluent in other languages. 
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The question is: Where is the published and peer-reviewed study? The above is a huge claim. One could only imagine the impact of such results. Up till now, California, New Mexico, Arizona, and other states still deal with the question of immersion versus bilingual education. And here it is in the Philippines, it is claimed that "students taught using their native language have 80 percent chance of becoming fluent in other languages". That is almost one hundred percent.

Now, there are certainly instances when one does not need a science journal to be properly informed. For instance, one can look directly at information:

Picture taken from Dr. Tabios lecture on Ondoy flooding.
Downloaded from Mon Ramirez facebook page
Yet, even facing direct information, we choose to ignore. The problem seems not only rooted in a lack of acknowledgement of proper scientific practices or reporting. It is a simple case of choosing the truth we want to hear and see.

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