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Tuesday, 4 September, 2007

Bad science in Medical Hypotheses

The Guardian's "Bad Science" correspondent Ben Goldacre recently to an article published in the journal called "Down subjects and Oriental population share several specific attitudes and characteristic:"

You'd be right to experience a shudder of nervousness at the title alone, since this is an academic journal, from 2007, and not 1866 when John Langdon Down wrote his classic "Observations on the Ethnic Classification of Idiots". [...]

Flash forward to 2007 - I think that's where we are - to two Italian doctors. They offer their theory that the parallels between Down syndrome and "oriental" people go beyond this fleeting facial similarity.
Here's the doctors' proof for the connection:
  • "Down subjects adore having several dishes displayed on the table, and have a propensity for food which is rich in monosodium glutamate."
  • "The tendencies of Down subjects to carry out recreative-rehabilitative activities, such as embroidery, wicker-working, ceramics, book-binding, etc., that is renowned, remind [us of] the Chinese hand-crafts, which need a notable ability, such as Chinese vases, or the use of chopsticks employed for eating by Asiatic populations."
  • "Down persons during waiting periods, when they get tired of standing up straight, crouch, squatting down, reminding us of the 'squatting' position ... They remain in this position for several minutes and only to rest themselves. This position is the same taken by the Vietnamese, the Thai, the Cambodian, the Chinese, while they are waiting at a bus stop, for instance, or while they are chatting."
  • "There is another pose taken by Down subjects while they are sitting on a chair: they sit with their legs crossed while they are eating, writing, watching TV, as the Oriental peoples do."
Generally medical journals publish articles that are based in what those of us in journalism refer to as "facts" and "data" -- but not this one, apparently.

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