Pseudoscience / Science Criticism / Science Education

What Is Cracked Science?

Neoplasm. Gefitinib. Mesothelioma.

Today’s hospitals can be scary places. Hearing doctors talk amongst themselves can make one wonder if a whole new alien language is being taught in med school. To a degree, there is: the language of science, with which most people are forced to flirt in elementary and high school, only to leave it behind after graduation, like an unusable, unpronounceable foreign tongue. Which is a shame, really, because this lingo is probably the most useful and informative “second language” one can learn. Unfortunately, this realization often comes when one is burdened with the news of a disease, such as cancer.

Modern medicine can be understood by the public. The problem lies in translation. Physicians in our public health care system—this writing is coming to you from the world’s second largest country in total area—are often too busy to properly explain conditions and treatments to their patients. Some may even be ill-equipped to deal with the pedagogy required. This leaves patients to turn to websites which, while offering a wealth of information, can sound dry. I would like to change that.

Part of the mission of this blog is to “crack” the code of modern biology and medicine so that members of the public can gain a better understanding of these mythical-sounding entities I mentioned at the top of the post. I will be focusing mainly on cancer, as most of my experience so far has been in oncology. I must specify, though: I am not a physician. My background is in the biological sciences, namely genetics, molecular biology, and molecular pathology. I cannot answer medical questions; what I strive to do, instead, is to make sense of the basic concepts in oncology, medicine, and biology in general. I want to help anyone with a curious mind but a lack of scientific knowledge decipher the words and ideas behind cancer care, human genetics, forensics, and any aspect of the world touched by the life sciences.

Beyond “cracking” the language of science, I also want to look at “cracked” science. Even though science is the best way we have of gaining knowledge about our world, it is still practised by flawed human beings. Not all reported science is perfect. Not all reported science is true. I want to bring a critical eye to recent claims, exaggerated conclusions, and false journalistic reporting, because even science should not be believed in blindly.

Finally, parallel to the solid tracks that science has been laying for centuries is the often-tempting path of pseudoscience, always rumoured to be faster, safer, and more pleasant. Energizing bracelets that realign your magnetic field. Homeopathy, which claims that diluting a substance increases its potency. Chiropractic, which a poster I witnessed claimed to be the only 100% safe treatment for babies. These pseudoscientific claims have been debunked time and time again, yet their peddlers remain in business because of wishful thinking on the part of their clients. It is not enough to inform patients on what medicine is; it is also necessary to educate them on the truth behind the claims of alternative medicine. As a wise man by the name of Tim Minchin once said, “Do you know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work? Medicine.”

I hope you keep coming back to Cracked Science. Do not hesitate to bring my attention to inaccuracies in the comments section and leave feedback on any topic you would like to see discussed here. The more we know, the better decisions we can make, not just for ourselves, but for the world in which we live.

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