Friday, September 26, 2003

Seasonale Proves the Earth Is Flat--Part III

Looking at the second part of the factually-challenged article Seasonale: A Eugenicist's Dream I realized something: not only isn't the connection between Seasonale and eugenics revealed (since no logical case for such a connection can be made), but the medical misinformation contained in this section is appalling. This is simply unacceptable.

It's one thing to pretend logic doesn't exists--a poorly constructed argument doesn't kill. If it did, most of our politicians would be in need of serious medical care (sorry, but I couldn't resist the gratuitous dig). It's an entirely different thing to ignore or distort (knowingly or out of ignorance) medical facts--this has real-life, dangerous consequences. So, in order to correct the many factual mistakes in the article, I will devote a separate entry/s to that task. For now, let's just have fun with logic (or, rather, the lack of it).

The good news is that the second section of the article starts of with a statement of fact (finally, some facts):

"Yes, periods and all that go with them can be annoying and inconvenient."

The bad news is that the facts don't last...:

But so are many other natural bodily functions. I doubt there are many among the average population who would assert that the body's process of waste elimination is a convenient or somehow pleasant bodily function. Yet, it is completely normal, natural and necessary.

Right from the start, we have a red herring--of the fallacy, not fish variety. If you're trying to establish what's natural when it comes to the menstrual period, it is completely irrelevant what other body functions are, or are not. Oh, and in the interest of scientific accuracy: waste elimination is necessary; the period isn't. If your kidneys fail, you die. If you don't have a period, not only do you not die, but you're also not necessarily infertile--you can still become pregnant.

As the piece continues, again a statement of fact--certain women experience more extreme symptoms and are more than a little inconvenienced by the monthly period--is followed by misinformation:

But are women really healthier on the pill? If side effects are the main indicator of health, I think the answer is a hands-down NO. Here's what the "cure all" pill can cause:...

First of all, side effects are never an indicator of health, but rather of risk. The end-result of the balance between benefit and risk is the health indicator. For example, if you decide the benefits of having a baby outweigh the risks, and if, after delivery (post-partum) you're fine, you're in good health. Same with taking drugs--if the benefits of using a drug are greater than the risks, the end result is a healthier you.

Second of all, women are, in fact, healthier on the pill as we've already discussed. And last, but not least (run, run for the hills as fast as you can--the scare quotes are a-comin') the claim that the birth control pill is a "cure all" has never been made by any competent medical professional, any pill manufacturer, or any legitimate scientific publication at any time, anywhere. Quotation marks do not magically transform fantasy into reality.

And while we're on the subject, I am officially unveiling a new Public Service Announcement campaign:

Just Say No to Scare Quotes!

All kidding aside, this next section contains dangerous medical misinformation:

...nausea, bloating, moodiness, breast tenderness, breakthrough bleeding, weight gain, headaches/migraines, depression, decreased libido, vaginitis, urinary tract infections, skin problems, gum inflammation, aggravated asthma, increased incidence of contracting viral illnesses. More dangerous side effects include: severe pain or swelling in the legs, dizziness, weakness, numbness, blurred vision (or loss of sight), speech problems, chest pain or shortness of breath, abdominal pain, high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke, and whether they want to admit it or not, studies DO show that there is an increased risk of breast cancer. Oh yeah, iron-poor blood is WAY worse than all that.

I'll address the specific medical issues in a separate post, but allow me to vent for a moment. As I mentioned before, this lack of professionalism is unacceptable. After all, it's not like this piece appeared in a blog, where, as we all know, [sarcasm] everything goes since there are no editors [/sarcasm]. There is no excuse--basic information about the pill is easily available just by doing a simple search, or talking to a medical professional. Again, just because one has an opinion doesn't mean the facts can be ignored. If I have an opinion about, say, mine safety work procedures, doesn't mean I can just write about it off the top of my head, seeing how I've never even been close to a mine entrance. Either I do my due diligence, research the subject, and come up with an informed opinion, or I clearly state, at the start of the piece, that I don't actually know the facts about working in a mine and I'll be making them up as I go along, in support of my opinion.

Moving on, we stumble upon a few more fallacies (you know, if the word fallacy didn't signal a break in logic, one could enjoy encountering it--I could certainly make a case that this word just sounds vaguely naughty):

All the medical rhetoric aside, the propagation of the myth that the natural functions of women's bodies are abnormal and must be "fixed" comes from an old nemesis:...

This is a typical begging the question fallacy: just because you state that there's a myth, which is being propagated, is not enough to establish that, indeed, such a myth exists, or that it's being spread around. If you state something as fact you need to provide some supporting evidence (any evidence, an iota, a teensy-weensy bit, or maybe even...gasp...a link). And, if all the medical rhetoric is set aside, the word nemesis is used because...? Let me venture an answer: because some people are under the mistaken impression that fancy, out-of-context words can substitute for a lack of facts.

Well, even if the article doesn't make it clear why the word nemesis is used, at least it does tell us who the nemesis is: ...the population control movement (which by default includes the feminists, eugenicists and the like).

I am going to completely ignoring the lack of logic in this statement, just because I am trembling with anticipation. Finally, it looks like the reason for linking Seasonale and eugenics is going to be revealed:

These are the people who are obsessed with reducing the world's population just to ease their own irrational fears or to achieve their own insidious agendas. Not surprisingly, these operations have their fingers buried deeply in the contraceptive cookie jar. For example, Barr Laboratories and Eastern Virginia Medical School aren't the original public advocates of Seasonale. As mentioned earlier, there exists another conspirator: the Population Council.

Wait a minute! What just happened here? There isn't even a perfunctory attempt to offer an explanation. We go directly from illogical statements to conspiracy theory. I must confess, this is a let down. I was looking forward to seeing how the article would explain the connection between menstrual management, something which doesn't involve sexual intercourse and which has to do with controlling the menstrual period, and eugenics, something which, by definition, must involve sexual intercourse and which has to do with genetic traits control.

The best (and I use the term "best" loosely) the article can do in its attempt to establish a link between Seasonale and eugenics is this:

--it asserts that there is a myth that the natural functions of women's bodies are abnormal and must be "fixed" (What evidence is there that such a myth actually exists?)

--it also asserts that there is a propagation of the myth (What evidence is there that this alleged myth is being propagated? What is the meaning of "propagated" in this particular context?)

--that this alleged propagation is done by an old nemesis (What is the evidence that, if the myth is true and if it is being propagated, the "old nemesis" is doing the propagation?)

--that the "old nemesis" is the population control movement (What is the evidence which establishes that the "old nemesis" is made up of the population control movement?)

--and, finally, that the population control movement by default includes the feminists, eugenicists and the like (What is the evidence for this inclusion?)

To sum up: myth that the natural functions of women's bodies are abnormal and must be "fixed"-->propagated-->old nemesis (population control movement)-->eugenicists

You still don't get the connection between Seasonale and eugenics? Not to worry, especially since there isn't one.

Seasonale/menstrual management is based on the fact that the natural functions of women's bodies are, in fact, normal. The natural (as seen in nature) pattern for the menstrual period (a woman's body function) is one period every few years, for a lifetime total of 100 to 150 periods. Since women today have a period every month, for a lifetime total of 400 to 450, Seasonale/menstrual management offers women the option to have a natural, normal period pattern. Thus, even assuming that all the unproven assertions in the article (myth, propagation, eugenicists connection) are true, since Seasonale has nothing to do with the myth, any connection between the myth and eugenics is irrelevant.

Returning to the article, we get a bit more "information" (read unsubstantiated assertions) about the "old nemesis", aka the population control movement:

These are the people who are obsessed with reducing the world's population just to ease their own irrational fears or to achieve their own insidious agendas. Not surprisingly, these operations have their fingers buried deeply in the contraceptive cookie jar. For example, Barr Laboratories and Eastern Virginia Medical School aren't the original public advocates of Seasonale. As mentioned earlier, there exists another conspirator: the Population Council.

Oh, where, oh where to begin? Again, just because words like "obsessed", "irrational fears", "insidious agendas", and "conspirator" are used, the need for facts/evidence doesn't magically disappear.

True, it's easier to assume your audience is a bunch of idiots, and to throw some nonsensical words at them. But, really, in this age of Google how hard is it to show a minimum of respect for your readership by giving them the facts and allowing them to reach their own conclusions? For example, why is someone who believes in reducing the world's population "obsessed"? What are their fears and in what way are they "irrational"? What are these people's agendas and why are they "insidious"? What is the meaning of the term "conspirator" in this context? Are all the many public advocates of women's health issues--numerous churches and charities, the government, the medical community--"conspirators" because they care about women's health? Or do the public advocates become "conspirators" only when they inform women about Seasonale? And if yes, why? I could go on, and on.

Speaking of going on, and on, the last 4 paragraphs of the article contain so much misinformation that I simply must end this post here, and dedicate a whole new one just to those last paragraphs. And, mind you, I haven't even gotten around to addressing the medical mistakes! I wonder, are there many articles like this one out there, purely devoid of facts, or did I just stumble on the one exception to the rule?

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