I recall a George Carlin news item joke that I may have posted somewhere here somewhere before: "scientists have discovered that saliva causes cancer but, fortunately, only when taken over a long period of time in small amounts." That is the sort of reaction I had when I read today's beer and health news:
Drinking only one pint of beer a day increases the risk of liver and bowel cancer by a fifth, a health expert warned yesterday. A large glass of wine or a couple of spirits can have the same damaging effect, she said. Rachel Thompson, science programme manager for the World Cancer Research Fund, warned that just two units of alcohol a day increased the risk of bowel cancer by 18 per cent and that of liver cancer by a fifth.
Dr. R. Thompson does appear to have a strong research record but this news does beg the question of who funded the research and why there is no effort to aggregate the findings of such health researchers into a "yea or nay" sort of document. It begs the question of should we drink or shouldn't we given there is so much research indicating tee-totaling is quite dangerous to human health. Plus, there is another question that has an underlying idea: "how would you like to die?" You see, we will all die. If we have good health and are careful with what we eat and exercise regularly and pray to the gods of your choice...we will all die. So, while it is one thing to put off eating glass shards and sipping a little bleach every day, are we to be entirely obsessed with living to 95 having had avoided club soda for fear of bubbles - or should we live a reasonably healthy life that includes a rich, rewarding and traditional diet in which having a few drinks a week or even a day is a part?
Wouldn't this sort of science serve us best if it avoided puritanical and objectifying presumptions or at least admitted the assumptions inherent in its conclusions or even the assumptions embedded in each selected hypothesis?