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Memories of the 28th Century

Ignorance Over All Else

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I was going to write about the predilection of people in scientific positions to ignore facts and follow things that were common beliefs before the science was discovered. Then I saw a column from the Boston Globe regarding a push to change the name of George Washington University, because George Washington had owned slaves, and that reminded me of the move by ignorant bigots to give “reparations” to people whose ancestors may have been slaves.

I understand the disapproval of slavery, but slavery was quite common until a few hundred years. Your ancestors were slaves, and my ancestors were slave, and your ancestors owned slave, and my ancestors also owned slaves. George Washington happened to have been born in a time and place where slavery was legal, and no one can be blamed for where and when their own lives began; they had nothing to do with that. He never went out and enslaved anyone; he inherited some land and some slaves.

That was a common and legal situation, at that time. Hundreds of years later, some people came up with the idea of paying people “reparations” for what their ancestors experienced back then, and they didn’t even suggest that the people who did the enslaving, or their descendants, pay. They want people whose ancestors in most cases had nothing to do with enslaving anyone pay.

An analogous situation would be for people to bring legal action to pay the victims of abortion for their pain and suffering. But that is patently absurd, because the victims of abortion never lived. Well, the victims of slavery in the U.S.A. haven’t lived for a number of years.

Rather than flog a dead horse too much, I will switch back to what I was originally going to write about: Some people in the medical field have not been reading the research journals for the last few decades. At least as far back as 1988, There have been peer reviewed articles about research that has failed to show any causative link between dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol levels and heart disease. There is a causative link between low serum cholesterol levels and strokes, but that is another matter, and recently I read that a causative link has been found from platelets leading to arterial plaque.

The idea that high cholesterol levels might cause heart disease was a conclusion from a correlation seen in the Framingham study in the 1950's and 1960’s. That idea caught on, and there have been many research studies since then that tried to prove it, but there was a problem: there is no proof. The closest that anyone has come have been a few studies with ambiguous results, but there is no causative link.

This recently became an issue for me, because a physician prescribed a statin for me. It is well known that statins have serious and unpleasant side effects, and all they do is reduce cholesterol levels, and high cholesterol levels do not cause plaque to develop in arteries; therefore, the use of statin drugs is not an effective treatment for heart disease caused by plaque in the arteries. That is old news. The relatively new news is that the plaques are caused by platelets acting on other blood components resulting in accumulations of cells and other materials in arteries. MR antagonists stop those platelet activities, and may be effective in stopping the development of plaque. It isn’t a simple situation, so it isn’t surprising that it took so long for it to be discovered.

We should be happy that medicine has come as far as it has. I spent a couple of days last week in hospital having a procedure. During prep, which required getting rid of some of my body hair, I mentioned that is only a couple hundred years since surgeons were barbers. It was more like four or five hundred years ago, when barbers and surgeons split into different professions. When I think about the origins of the medical professions in ancient times with people such as Thales, etc., five hundred years is a short time. But modern medicine is only a couple hundred years old. The germ theory of disease was developed in the mid-1800’s; although it started being developed a couple hundred years before that.

I am glad that the profession has developed as much as it has. If someone had the problems that I have three hundred years ago, he would have died with palliative treatment only.