I’m still chewing on the extraordinary flame-out that is the medical research from the British Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council, as reported in BBC News under the headline Lower IQ ‘a heart disease risk’.
The problem? They have committed the cardinal research sin of taking correlational data and concluding causality. It’s a classic logic problem as illustrated by this: smokers have ashtrays in their houses. Smokers get lung cancer. Therefore ashtrays cause cancer.
Their research shows:
“when the researchers took into account IQ and controlled for nine other known heart disease risk factors, IQ alone explained 23% of the differences in mortality between the highest and lowest socioeconomic groups in the study.
Think about that. How can they really conclude what they’re presenting as research information?
Scientific research is predicated on the ability to remove variables from the equation so you can really see what causes what and what is correlated with what. Without a good research sense, you really might be confident that ash trays cause cancer.
Back to the research article…
“Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, said: “People with lower IQ also tend to miss out on preventive healthcare.
“They are less likely to have check-ups, follow lifestyle advice, take preventive medication and be referred for preventive hospital treatment. We must find ways to break down these barriers.”
Again, these are correlational factors. They’re likely true, but to say that people with lower IQs are less likely to get medical care, therefore we can conclude that stupidity causes cancer.
I’m all for us trying to compensate for the ceaseless drumbeat of cheap, unhealthy food and lifestyle options, but let’s clean up the research so that when we make the case, we can actually have decent, measurable results.