In ABC’s Obamercial last night, our President gave Billy Mays and the Sham-Wow guy both runs for their respective money by talking a lot without saying much. I missed a few minutes here or there to watch the end of the Yankees/Braves game, but caught the following comment from President Obama (and verified it later through a news story):
There’s a whole bunch of care that’s being provided that every study, that every bit of evidence that we have indicates may not be making us healthier.
There’s a funny thing about scientific evidence: it doesn’t seem to last. In fact, just yesterday National Geographic was reporting on new research which may completely change our understanding of the Earth’s magnetic field and iron core. It touched off a bit of a debate in the scientific community – some are calling the research groundbreaking, some call it junk science. It sounds like the type of argument a Muslim might have with a Jew or a Protestant might have with a Catholic – or it would, if we didn’t all know that science is above such arguments.
The point is that evidence changes. One need only take a tour of the George Washington Masonic Temple in Alexandria, Va. – which sounds scary, but is actually pretty interesting. One of the first stops on the tour discusses Washington’s death, which happened in large part because the standard treatment at the time was blood-letting. A younger doctor who questioned opening Washington’s veins and suggested an alternative treatment was shrugged off.
(None of it matters now, of course, because chances are that Washington would have died at another point in the past 210 years anyway, but he may have squeezed out another few years.)
Politicians deal in absolutes because some issues require it – and the more controversial an issue is, the more firm one must be in order to win public opinion. But I’m not comfortable with Barack Obama telling me and my doctor what is necessary and what isn’t when it comes to my treatment.