Bad Science; Lack of Expert Peer Review
|September 10, 2008||Posted by Dave S. under Culture, Science|
This isn’t intelligent design, per se, but just something that popped up on the Drudge Report and caught my attention. It’s about a research article that appeared in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry where the researchers conclude that marijuana use causes earlier onset of psychosis.
This is a wonderful demonstration of how crap science that supports something politically correct is used and abused all the time.
The gist of it is that people who become psychotic at some age tend to become psychotic years younger if they are marijuana users and further that increasing amounts of marijuana used causes increasingly earlier onset of psychosis.
Immediately obvious to me is the possibility that voluntary marijuana use is a symptom of an underlying problem that has nothing to do with marijuana use. People often resort to recreational drug use to escape and/or ameliorate some underlying problem. Alcohol abuse is a classic case of being symptomatic of some other problem. These researchers had no control group to rule out the very likely possibility that people who tend toward psychosis are unconsciously or consciously attempting to self-medicate. The medication isn’t the cause, in other words, its a symptom. What you need to discriminate between cause and symptom is take a randomly selected group of people who aren’t marijuana users and administer marijuana to half the group and monitor all of them for onset of clinical psychosis. If marijuana is a cause then the marijuana user group will have a higher percentage of psychotics or if the same rate then earlier onset. If there is no difference in percentage or age of onset then marijuana use is simply symptomatic. If they’d done that they might even find that the non-user group has the worse problem with subsequent psychosis and the self-medication is actually effective to some degree.
But no, the researchers in fact did nothing at all to discriminate between cause and symptom and it’s obvious in seconds to even a casual observer such as myself that the study and its conclusions are flawed. Where was the peer review that should have prevented this junk science from reaching the pages of the Journal of Clinical Psychology without correction of obvious flaws?
The answer here is that when something is politically correct, like blaming marijuana for early onset psychosis or blaming CO2 for global warming or blaming religion for Darwinian skepticism, it gets funded easily and flies past peer review easily. If something isn’t politically correct funding is denied and publication refused.
Is that how science works now? Amazing. Perhaps we shouldn’t be focusing so much energy on the crossroads of religion and science but rather on the crossroads between politics and science, money and science, fads and science, fashion and science, fame and science, and so forth.