The 3Rs, “Reading, (w)riting, and ‘rithmetic”, may be what every child should learn, but learning shouldn’t of course stop there. And as “we” — humankind — keep learning, so the things everyone should know (but doesn’t) keep changing.
A continuing revelation for me is the importance of the bacteria in our gut, which I first learned about from Tony Lance [What really caused AIDS: Slicing through the Gordian Knot, 20 February 2008]. Apparently I’m not the only one for whom this was a revelation, because the media keep mentioning pertinent new aspects, all of which have so far confirmed and extended Lance’s insights about the connections between the gut microflora and “AIDS” (in particular the original 1980s “AIDS”) and testing “HIV-positive”.
Not all news items seem as convincing, though, like the recent speculation — drawn to my attention by a Facebook friend — that obesity might stem sometimes or in part from some characteristics of bacteria in the gut:
“Gut bacteria may affect your weight
Don’t go searching for a bacteria shake just yet — scientists are still investigating which bacteria do what in humans” (Amber Dance, Los Angeles Times, 21 June 2010).
Significant points in this piece:
→ The microflora influence “how many calories we extract from our food and whether we make or burn fat”.
→ The typical bacteria in humans have changed “through antibiotic use, improved hygiene and cleanliness in the food supply”; which might be one environmental cause for obesity and diabetes.
→ “[O]ur gut bacteria are beneficial . . . . ‘You might just generally be sicklier without them’”.
→ “Babies are born bacteria-free but start to pick up bacteria during and after birth. Infants mostly collect bacteria from their mothers and others around them; in a sense, the gut community is inherited from family members” [emphasis added]
— which could also explain instances of apparently hereditary obesity, but it also has obvious implications for “mother-to-child transmission” of “HIV”.
→ Some Japanese carry microflora that digests the seaweed covering of sushi.
Naturally, the first tentative academic reports have already been exploited commercially:
“This month, . . . the Japanese company Snow Brand Milk Products reported that people who drank a probiotic milk drink for 12 weeks lost weight. . . . Over the course of the study, people drinking the probiotic lost an average of 1.5% of their BMI and, on average, 1.4% of their body weight. That’s about 2 pounds for a 150-pound person”.
Other things — beside the importance of gut microflora — that everyone should know, and that I wish had been drummed into me in school or college:
→ Real science isn’t news: the latest “breakthroughs” are not to be trusted.
→ A contemporary mainstream consensus in science is just as prone to be wrong as a contemporary mainstream consensus in economics.
→ There’s no formula for identifying “pseudo-science”: every assertion that something is “not scientific” needs to be based on an examination of the specific evidence in detailed depth; and “not scientific” doesn’t necessarily mean wrong, just as “scientific” doesn’t necessarily mean right — the history of science is a story of continuing trials and many errors that were acknowledged or recognized only after a long period of regarding them as sound.
→ “Statistically significant” does not mean true.
→ Statistical correlations do not necessarily signify causation.