Organics on Skeptics network

Thoughts? Is organic truly healthier? Worth the price difference?

Not a simple question.
Seems to me that it would be something that depended very much on the individual circumstances.
There are certainly risks from pesticide residue, and there are also risks from bacterial and viral contamination.
Every individual has different susceptibility profiles, which are actually hugely dimensional topologies, rather than any sort of simple set of numbers.

So for some people, in some situations, organic may be worth it.

I certainly went organic when given a terminal cancer diagnosis, and I have been tumour free for over 4 years. I suspect that the organics was a small contributor to that outcome, and I have insufficient data to put any sort of hard number on that contribution.

I strongly suspect most of it came down to high dose Vit C and attitude (which has many impacts on the biochemistry of body).

If one is considering living a very long time, then it probably pays to reduce exposure to all toxins with relatively long half lives (which includes many of the polycyclic aromatics in most insecticides).

If you are short of cash, then there are probably other things you could more effectively spend what you have at this stage in our techno-social evolution.
And generally speaking, we need to reduce our use of such chemicals, and find healthier ways to control pests. And that will probably happen, provided we can get over using markets as our prime valuation tools.

[followed by]

Hi Rosalind
I had 4 different operations to remove tumours, and each of them came back with the same histology. That gives me quite high confidence in the diagnosis.

I am very skeptical of any claims made by any organisation with a financial interest in an outcome. I trained as a biochemist, and have spent most of my 60 years on this planet exploring various claims for myself. I’ve been prepared to give most things a try, provided I was reasonably confident they were safe. That has meant I have accumulated a rather broad and eclectic experience set.
My last undergrad year at Waikato University was spent mostly playing around with neurophysiology, so I am very aware of the many potential levels of feedback between the software of our minds and the hardware (wetware) of our biochemistry. Many thousands of experiments have demonstrated that the belief that something will work is often as much or more of an influence on the systems that are us than any effect of the chemistry alone (called the placebo effect, and the fact that it is not more actively used is to my mind criminal).

As to Vit C, it is an amazing molecule, involved in so many metabolic pathways. A 70Kg goat produces about 10g per day under normal conditions, and can produce 100g per day when under stress. Our species lacks a key enzyme in the synthesis pathway, so we have to get it from diet.

It is almost impossible to do a double blind trial of Vit C, the taste and the effects are so distinctive, that if the person has any significant levels of self awareness, then they will know if what they have been given is vit C or not. The much reported Mayo study purporting to disprove any link between Vit C and cancer recovery is a mostly deliberate half truths supporting a lie. The major reports all simply say they used 10g per day in their trials, but one has to do a lot of digging to find that what they actually did was administer 4 by 2.5g doses at 6 hourly intervals, thereby staying below the minimum serum threshold levels that Pauling establish for most people at 5g per dose. I’ve been on minimum 7g twice daily for 4 years and 4 months, with no further tumours. The histology from my last operation stated that the tumour had not been fully excised, and wider excision was recommended. I decided to test what had by then become a very strong hypothesis, and just go with the vit c. No further tumours.

I fully grant that a sample of one is not conclusive, and when one compares it to the rest of the literature (which I have actually read myself), then it does become more significant. I made tumours shrink on Vit C 5 times, and had them surgically removed 4 times (for histology). The last time I reduced the vit C I got a tumour (removed it surgically and sectioned), and since then I have not missed a twice daily dose and have not had another tumour. Four and half years.

I did everything my doctors recommended, except die.
When I was told that medical science could do nothing more for me, I was skeptical of that claim.
I went to the scientific literature myself, and started reading.
I read a lot, very quickly.
I made my own assessments of experimental design and my own interpretation of the claims of experimenters. I didn’t discount their claims, and nor did I believe any of them. I assessed each claim in skeptical fashion.

The more I found out, the more clear it became that the medical system (viewed as a system of strategies and incentive structures) is much more about making money from sickness than it is about ensuring wellbeing. And there are many great people within that system who are there for the highest of personal motives.

So I am a skeptic.
I am particularly skeptical of the sort of skepticism that refutes hypothesis without personal examination of the data.

Sure there are heaps of psuedo-science and woowoo claims out there. Lots of people trying make money by any means, including deliberate deception. That is happening at many levels.

I am definitely advising everyone to be skeptical, to question, everything, all levels, all assumptions.

And I have been doing that for over 50 years now. And the more I question the less certain I become about many of the things I was once very certain of.

It now seems very probable to me that the incentives of a market place economy are actually the greatest single threat to us, both individually and collectively.

It seems that we are very close to technology that can deliver universal abundance of all the material needs of survival and self-actualisation, but the incentives of the market are (and must always be) to deny that, and to maintain a level of scarcity required to generate a non-zero market price.

It seems that one of the greatest illusions delivered to us by culture is the very notion of truth.

[followed by]

Hi Daniel

It is a kind of yes and no answer.

I read the David Gorski link, and he starts out writing using evidence, and the evidence he gives is consistent with evidence I have seen elsewhere, then as the article progresses he switches from evidence to interpretation, and starts making a lot of errors.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. He criticises the statistical techniques of experimenters (seemingly quite accurately), but then admits his own lack of knowledge of statistics and uses that as evidence. Actually, at that point he doesn’t have evidence, either way. He has evidence of a lack of knowledge of statistics on the part of the experimenter. In my years of involvement at university, to a good first order approximation, all experimenters were ignorant of statistics – which is not to say all were. What it says is very few people understand statistics well enough to use statistical methods entirely appropriate to their specific situation.

In respect of pesticides, I have a bit of an idea of the sorts of orders of complexity that exist in biochemistry.
Yes, certainly, many of the molecules used do in fact occur in some organisms.
And there are several factors to think about.

One factor is the idea that there is no such thing as a poison.

No material is poisonous without reference to concentration and means of application. And while some things are better at a concentration of zero, many things have optimal concentrations for particular organisms under particular conditions. Oxygen is a prime example. For human beings, take the partial pressure of O2 below 1 psi and most human beings are in serious strife. On the contrary to that, take the partial pressure above 30psi and you get conformational changes in haemoglobin that prevents release – so tissue concentrations drop and once again we suffocate at the tissue level.

So I fully get that terms like “natural” can be and often are abused, and are used to support lots of woo-woo nonsense.

And there is something else to look out for.
Just because the explanatory framework someone is using is inadequate, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a real signal in their dataset.
Strip away all the interpretive stuff, and look at the data as objectively as one can manage (acknowledging all of the inherent sets of biases that comes with being an artefact of a neural network {human being}).

We have lots of evidence of concentration specific toxicity of many chemicals (that is the desired attribute of poisons sold as such). Most toxicity studies use LD50 on 90 day studies (dose that causes the death of 50% of the individuals over the 3 month period) of single molecule toxicity. Very few people do lifetime studies. Even with rats that takes too long. For humans it takes a very long time. So we use animal model studies over quite short terms (3 months typically) to determine risk. Even fewer studies have been done of long term effects of many different chemicals (the numbers of animals required rapidly escalates as one adds extra molecules). So the only study we really have is the reality we live in.

Let’s just say there is a lot of margin for error (of the worst kind) in such studies.

And life is dangerous.
We all must face risk, that is part of living; and being as aware as possible of the cumulative, associative and long term consequences can be important if one actually plans on living a long time.
And sometimes short term risk (like rapidly spreading and growing invasive tumours) outweighs all other considerations of longer term risk. Sometimes, reality is harsh.

Our immune systems are fundamentally based in probability and randomness. They require randomly generated variation to provide the source material that can then be selected for effectiveness.
Providing an optimal environment for one’s immune system is not a guarantee of survival, and it does greatly improve the probabilities.

Very little in biology is 100% effective.
Life has been surviving for a long time, and cells have developed many strategies that allow survival of a lot of low frequency high impact events.
We are really complex, in ways we are only beginning to get a handle on.

[followed by]

Hi Nathan – agree – the original video is largely hype and misinformation – I ought to have explicitly agreed with that, but it was so obvious I didn’t think it necessary – I just addressed the substantive issue behind the video.

We live in a system where market values rule.
Markets over value scarcity and undervalue abundance.
No market based system will ever of its own internal incentive structure deliver universal abundance of anything. Yet all most humans need is universal abundance of a few basic goods and services – which we could easily develop the technology to deliver.

Be skeptical of everything culture has taught you. (All those unquestioned assumptions masquerading as self evident truths.)

I’m not asking anyone to believe me just based upon what I say.
I am suggesting strongly that people look very closely at the evidence, and at the available interpretive schema, and make up their own minds.
Don’t completely trust anyone else, nor completely distrust anyone else. Have a spectrum of trust levels that is domain specific and assign trust values to sources of information based on your own assessments – and be prepared to re-evaluate if necessary.

I’m not asking for any money.
I am freely giving of my time.
I am quite explicit in my desire and intention to create systems that empower everyone (me included) to live as long as possible with as much freedom as possible. (Have been thinking about that for over 40 years.)

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
This entry was posted in Nature and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comment and critique welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s