Beware of Quack Internet Articles on Medical and Agricultural Issues

Chandre Dharmawardana

An article that begins with a scientifically false statement, viz.,
“They talk of how our bodies run on carbohydrates (sugar) but can also run on fat: we are dual fuel energy burners. Medical researchers call this our “metabolic flexibility.” is being circulated in the internet and the email circuit.

Who are these medical researchers?
What are their credentials?
Where have they published this claimed research?
When fake news or pseudo-science is published it is common to give a vague reference to some unknown, unidentified “researchers”.
Don’t fall for such reports They may contain half truths that may seem real truths.
 Even if there are researches behind the report, who have published their “research”, check that the material is in a well established medical journal and not in a fake journal.
Valid journals are backed by a professional body or university. Fake journals are profit making tabloids without any scientific oversight usually run by businessmen.
It can be extremely dangerous to use medical or even agricultural,   legal or  engineering advise from the internet.
Before you are allowed to practice medicine, a student has to get a certain number of A levels, and follow 5 years of hard study at a medical college (usually hard to enter), and then further work as an intern in hospitals. Then only, i.e., after about 7 years, that you are allowed to give medical advise.
Unfortunately, the internet has allowed anybody with a computer or even just a cell phone to become experts in health, engineering, or agriculture or what ever.  Also, various quacks who have a good capacity for the gab, e.g., tuition masters and confidence tricksters have also taken to the internet and U-tubes, so that they can make money easily. A famous internet quack is known as Dr. Mercola, and he writes “medical advise” where he finishes by advising you to buy alternative therapies from him for everything from cancer to Covid while rejecting mainstream science. He makes money.
Dr. Stephanie Seneff is another such quack.

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It is exactly these quacks who also wanted people to reject standard agriculture and go to organic agriculture claiming that standard agriculture using agro-chemicals will put toxins into your food and so you will become sick. Some political doctors like Andurddha Padeniaya and Channa Jayasumana also picked this up as it is a way of frightening people and getting to them the “good name” of those who fight for the masses in opposing the “fertilizer mafia”.  Many Buddhist monks too, using their (proud but mistaken) belief that Sri Lanka was the “granary of the East”, and their ignorance of agricultural science needed to make good agricultural judgments, jumped on to the movement for banning fertilizers. Misguided “green” Marxist movements” like MONLAR, or US funded “Environmental Justice” (EJ) NGOs also joined the anti-fertilizer movement lauding organic food and the use of “traditional” varieties of rice. When fertilizers were banned by the government last year, EJ, MONLAR etc applauded.
It was their thinking, ultimately promoted by the internet, and in the political hustings that led to the Fertilizer Fiasco that is now threatening Sri Lanka with collapse.
During Covid times, various people who opposed vaccines claimed that vaccines were dangerous, and that instead various kola Kaenda, Dum Hattiya and other herbal medications like “pas panguva”, or various magical “paeniya” should be used. They claimed that these indigenous cures work by “boosting the immune system”. Dr. Ivan Amarasinghe used to write email messages supporting indigenous medications and running down the Western scientific approach, saying that “Dr. Jayasumana will have the last laugh”. In reality, after Jayasuman became a minister, he fully embraced the vaccine approach, fortunately for Lanka!
It is not only in health advise and agriculture that quacks have entered the public news media and began to propagate false information and fake news based on pseudo-science.
Only a few months ago the then energy minister Gammanpila was claiming that there was enough oil and gas at the bottom of the Mannar sea and Sri Lanka does not have to worry about energy supplies!
Then other persons were claiming that Lanka has enough thorium and SL can make any amount of energy all that is needed is to figure out how to weld the steal drum where the thorium is going to get converted! All these statements have an ounce of truth and a many tons of falsehoods.
Let the public discuss good governance, and they should ensure that pseud-science and fake news are not pushed forwards. They should ensure that the politicians follow the expert advise in each subject, be it health, agriculture, energy or monetary theory, and NOT the advise of quacks and political henchmen.

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