This one is for Shannon
I’ve gone from a cautious maybe to “fuck no” on the rumored pick of Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the span of 48 hours. To understand why, we need to know two things: First, the views of other liberals; second, Clever Hans and Autism.
Starting with the former, I’ll quote Jane Hamsher via Firedoglake » In Defense Of the Sanjay Gupta Appointment.
I believe Gupta would perform that task really well, and do a lot to redeem public health issues from the savaging they’ve received from the anti-science crowd for the past 8 years. But if he does nothing more than help keep public opinion about the health care plan favorable long enough for it to pass, he’ll be worth it.
This was part of my cautious optimism. Gupta could help the Obama administration get real health care reform passed. This is something the country desperately needs. For the past 8 years our country has been anti-science. Bush & Co has even censured Nasa, the former Attorney General and the NOAA. We need to get to have a more open and honest debate where science isn’t shut out because of twisted ideological views.
But the science needs to be good science. This is where we met Clever Hans, a horse that was perceptive enough to pick up on the nonverbal cues of his handlers and answer math questions by stomping his hoof. It turns out that his handlers would unconsciously provide certain clues as to what the proper answer would be. If the handler didn’t know the answer to the question, then Hans would only determine the correct answer by chance.
I first met the horse who could do simple math in college during one of my psych classes–my experimental design class–where we learned about pitfalls of certain experimental designs. Blind and double blind experiments are clearly the way to go.
Which leads us to Facilitated communication (FC), a clearly bullshit method of “helping” children with severe developmental disabilities communicate:
From Wikipedia ((I did add the link from the ABA):
Current position statements of certain professional and/or advocacy organizations do not support the use of Facilitated Communication due to their objections that it lacks scientific validity or reliability. These organizations include the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Association for Behavioral Analysis (ABA), American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Association on Mental Retardation. ABA calls FC a “discredited technique” and warns that “its use is unwarranted and unethical.“
The Surgeon General of the United States needs to be above board and not support pseudoscience such as FC. Before posting a blog post on CNN, he really should have looked into scientifically based evidence. Hell, he could have fucking googled it.
This fundamental error makes me question his ability to be a proponent for any evidence based solution to the health care crisis.
If one looks past the FC, we also see that Gupta is a proponent of the “Obesity Epidemic.” Junkfood Science has (another) fantastic article on Gupta’s views on health and wellness. Here’s a snippet, regarding Dr. Gupta’s belief on living a longer, healthier life:
His other lessons for living a longer, healthier life, include unorthodox ideas on “healthy” eating and weight management. These include: eat seven colors a day, along with vitamins and fish oil; stay away from fatty meats and processed sugar; focus on water-dense produce and drink water before eating other foods to fill you up so you’ll eat less; eat slow and eat 20% less so you’re always a little hungry; drink antioxidant-rich green tea for benefits that include lowering cholesterol, improving bone density, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits [the FDA has found no credible scientific evidence for such claims]; and amp up your exercise because there’s no reason you can’t do what you did 20 years younger.
In short, in his role as Surgeon General, Dr. Gupta may be promoting policies that have no basis in actual science. We just had eight years of zero to shitty science. It is time to move on. We, as a country, need to use real science, not pseduoscience, to solve our myriad issues. Gupta maybe a fantastic neurosurgeon , and most of us have seen him on TV; however, the positions he is backing (FC, unorthodoxed “healthy eating,” practical immortality) clearly make him the wrong choice for Surgeon General.