Lyme Disease and Bad Medicine

I got Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic (2008) by Pamela Weintraub from the library and found something surprising: an angry foreword. Weintraub is a science journalist; the foreword is by Hillary Johnson, another science journalist and apparently a friend of Weintraub’s.

In her anger, Johnson says several things I say on this blog.

The more Weintraub investigated, the more virtually everyone with a shred of authority was losing their credibility. . . The so-called “objective” scientists were sending an entire disease down the river and over the cliff [meaning they ignored it] for reasons that seemed frequently to have more to do with mere opinion and crass external forces — cash, prestige, careerism — than with scientific erudition.

She rejected the science writer’s inbred habit of relying on the government official with the highest pay grade or the scientist with a job at Harvard as the final word on a topic. . . . I think of her, with enormous respect, as a “recovered” science journalist.

As one who also suffers from the disease I chronicled with kindred passion in Osler’s Web, I sometimes wonder if the only investigative writers who will possess the necessary temerity to remove the white gloves and tackle those putative experts to the ground will be those . . whose personal experience demands they follow the rocky trail that leads to the truth.

The last point is the most important, I think. You can curse the careerism of Harvard medical school professors and the servility of science writers but that does nothing, or not much, and what you are upset about (careerism and servility) is unsurprising. Less obvious, at least to me, is that there is a way to overcome the careerism and servility. It still surprises me that I was able to figure out interesting stuff about sleep, obesity, depression and so on that the experts in these fields hadn’t figured out — and that sometimes contradicted what they said. (For example, I found sugar isn’t fattening.) As Johnson says, one reason I was able to learn so much was that I wanted to sleep better, lose weight, be in a better mood, and so on. Unlike the experts in those fields, for whom research was a job.

2 Responses to “Lyme Disease and Bad Medicine”

  1. Alex Says:

    Foreword

    Seth: Thanks, I fixed it.

  2. dearieme Says:

    “I wanted to sleep better, lose weight, be in a better mood, and so on. Unlike the experts in those fields, for whom research was a job.”

    Approval of what is approved of
    Is as false as a well kept vow.