Sunday, August 16, 2015

#1437: Dennis Byrne

The idea that abortion could increase the risk of breast cancer wasn’t medically wholly implausible, and yes: It was worth studying. However, at this point serious studies have thoroughly refuted the idea – there is no link. Predictably, though, those with certain political agendas to fuel are not prepared to accept reality, and – as expected – the topic has given us plenty of opportunities to observe crankery in action.

Dennis Byrne is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, and he has an axe to grind. In Byrne’s world, the issue is still open, but studies indicating a link are suppressed by the establishment for political purposes. In particular, to bolster his claim Byrne has referred to studies published in JPANDs that continue to assert that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer. According to Byrne, however, these studies are dismissed because they appear in “a ‘conservative’ scientific journal.” So let us just get this straight: The fact that a purportedly scientific journal is identifiable as having a political profile should channel a bazillion red warning flags. And of course, the problem with JPANDs is not that it is published by the, uh, “conservative” Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, but that the group is as scientific as the Family Research Council and that JPANDs is a pseudojournal the credibility of which is roughly comparable to As for the study Byrne refers to, it is discussed here, here and here; it is hard to believe that it was honestly done by anyone minimally competent in scientific research (we’ve encountered the author, Patrick Carroll, before, by the way). Byrne, however, doesn’t seem too interested in the details and opts instead to defend the study by arguing that “science was wrong before”.

He has also been caught defending creationists – Byrne accepts evolution, but claims that “[m]y own believe [sic] is that creationism and evolution are not mutually exclusive lines of thought,” which suggests that he doesn’t understand that debate very well either. And here he seems to defend Intelligent Design (it is a bit unclear whether he understands what it is) by claiming that “[p]hilosophers and theologians may – must, actually – rigorously examine the scientific theory that random chance explains everything,” which is supposed to address … what, exactly?

At present Byrne is probably most noted for his global warming denialism (no, we will provide no link).

Diagnosis: Shame on the Tribune for picking up someone who clearly doesn’t understand the barest fundamentals of the topics he writes about, presumably in an effort to represent “all sides” of issues that are controversial among non-experts. Doddering fool.

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