Vague ramblings

Woo, woo and thrice woo!

Posted in Irritants by Ian Cundell on 28 February, 2013

In February 1941 (so 72 years ago, near as dammit, to the week) police officer Albert Alexander was dying as result of a rose-bush scratch, his body covered in bacterial abscesses.  Because he would certainly die if untreated, he was chosen to become the first human to be injected with penicillin. Overnight his temperature dropped, the infection stopped spreading and his appetite returned.

Sadly the supply of penicillin ran out after 5 days and Albert died in mid-March. It wasn’t the penicillin that killed him, but the absence of penicillin.

One year later, with production increased, Anne Miller of New Haven, CT became the first person saved by penicillin. She lived to be 90, eventually passing in 1999.

I mention this because I saw a spectacularly fatuous link of Facebook that implied that antibiotics are poison and we should go back to eating roots, whatever that means (no link, because the one I saw might give the impression that all vegetarians and vegans are anti-science, and that is certainly not the case).

We have lost rather too many of a great science communicators over the past few years. Much as I admire the current generation – the likes of Professor Brian Cox – for their boundless enthusiasm and joy in the universe, I think an element of the ‘why’ is being lost. Why does this matter? It matters because of the countless millions who followed Albert and Anne.

We need an unbending counter to the brain-dead certainties of homeopaths, chiropractors and other such quackery.

Science proceeds slowly, one step at a time and is all-too-used to having to take steps back when promising avenues prove to be dead ends. That is its strength: it is, perhaps, the only discipline that knows that it does not – and cannot – have all of the answers.

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One Response

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  1. livelysceptic said, on 10 March, 2013 at 11:33 am

    I do think the achievements of science based medicine are underrated, but healing itself is a complex thing. There’s still so much about it that we just do not know. So while going back to the middle ages certainly does not seem to be a solution, I can see why it’s complicated. So people will be motivated to try different things. That’s a fact of life, I guess.


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