Sunday, December 09, 2012

Challenging your assumptions

As people know, I am a skeptic, and I try to consider the sources when I read some science-related news. I also try to get to the primary sources, if at all possible.

Unfortunately, this is learned behavior, and while I have always tried to read primary sources, I wasn't always as good at considering the source, which means that I've picked up some wrong information along the way, without realizing it.

Last Friday I was at a Christmas party at my work, and during that party I had a conversation with another guest, in which I mentioned the "fact" that aspartame had been shown to affect the metabolism of people, if consumed in large quantities.

This is a fact I had picked up some years ago, reading a paper on it.

As luck had it, I was talking with a scientist, who actually knew something about the subject, and she challenged this fact, asking me where I got that from. I, truthfully, replied that I had read it in a paper, so I was fairly confident about this.

Well, she asked me to find that paper for her, and sendt it to her, as she found this fact rather interesting, and contrary to what she knew about the subject.

So, having spent the last couple of hours, trying to find the paper I had read, I have come to the conclusion that it doesn't exist, and that my conversation partner had been quite right in being skeptic.

Oh, I found plenty of articles about the negative effects of aspartame, and even some which looked like scientific papers, but when you looked at them, it turned out that they were anti-aspartame propaganda dressed up to look like science.

All in all, this was probably a valuable experience for me. I will certainly be more careful about stating scientific "facts" that I have picked up along the way, if I am unable to recall exactly where I have read about it. There is so much pseudo-science, and outright anti-science out there, dressing up as science, that it is easy to get fooled, even if you are a skeptic.

As an aside: There certainly is a lot of anti-aspartame propaganda out there. Anyone knows what feeds into that? I seem to recall hearing about the sugar manufacturing companies trying to affect the sales of artificial sweeteners, but given my recent lesson, I know better than relying on my memory when it comes to these things.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home