I’ve always liked salt on my food, as do most humans.. we seem to be genetically inclined to seek out sugar, fat and salt – but I’ve always felt a bit guilty.. There’s been many times when I was making it snow on my plate where a friend has commented on my salt intake and how it was bad for me.
This is understandable, 20 years of public policy in the United States has been telling us that it’s bad, it’ll increase our blood pressure and destroy our heart. However today in Hacker News I noticed an interesting article about this subject. Other than the small satisfaction I got from rationalizing that this supported my salt habit, I started to realize a familiar theme in science today:
Decades have passed without a resolution because the epidemiologic tools are incapable of distinguishing a small benefit from no benefit or even from a small adverse effect. This has led to a literature so enormous and conflicting that it is easy to amass a body of evidence — what Stamler calls a “totality of data” — that appears to support a particular conviction definitively, unless one is aware of the other totality of data that doesn’t.
As I’ve hinted at before, it’s hard to be rational, if not impossible – science has a myth that it too is rational. Science is really not much more than a framework to allow for an attempt at rationality. In reality, much of science is plagued by the same problems people have always had with superstition, the ‘better safe than sorry’ fallacy, and jumping to conclusions.
If this doesn’t sound familiar, take a look at the climate debate. I think you’ll find some obvious parallels.