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October 17, 2002
Not Even Funny
I'm late to this particular party - see Charles Murtaugh and Medpundit for the low-down on a particularly irritating LA Times column. (It requires registration to read, which is fairly irritating all by itself.)
In a nutshell, the writer attempts to blame environmental factors for many cases of breast cancer, specifically chemicals produced by the very companies that are working on treatments. This comes very close to one of the things that will set off even the most mild-mannered pharmaceutical researcher: the conspiracy theory that says that They're Making Us Sick Just So They Can Sell Us Their Drugs. (That one's right next to They've Really Got A Cure, But They're Just Waiting Until More People Are Sick.)
Well, I'm not exactly the most mild-mannered pharmaceutical researcher, myself. And this stuff makes want to throw a one-liter filter flask at the person who espouses it. If the author wants to indulge in stupid breast cancer etiology, why not go for the deodorant theory? That one's even more mindless.
I understand the human tendency to look for a proximate cause for everything, and to search for patterns even in random noise. It's even more tempting to think that the answer's been right under our nose (or under our arms!) the whole time. "Aha! We should have known!"
But this is offensively foolish stuff. I don't have the time to dismantle it thoroughly enough tonight, but perhaps I'll give it another kick in the shins next week. We'll talk about real epidemiology instead of inflammatory guano.
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