Pseudo science and inflammatory lies about scientists

Dear President Trump,

I just took an interesting tour through Google-land. It started because I wanted to go back to a headline I read on the Good News Network (“Complaining Can Literally Shrink Your Brain, Says Stanford Study”), but had passed over in part because I didn’t want it to be true and in part because it seemed like a weird thing for anyone to ever be able to prove. Because I do quite a lot of complaining in my letters to you (which is where I consciously try to channel most of my angst about our current situation and the hellish free fall we are all in so as to not scare off absolutely everyone I talk with during the day), I figured I’d better check this article out since I don’t want to be damaging my brain with all this venting.

Well, I scanned the site up and down but couldn’t find the article. I thought maybe I was overlooking it, so I did a search on complaining and brain shrinkage and came up with several links going back to 2015. The one tied to the GNN goes to a message that says there’s an error and the page doesn’t exist. There was another one, though, that had pretty much the same title by an “emotional intelligence” guru, Travis Bradberry, PhD. That one talks about how the brain gets lazy when we resort to the same neural pathways over and over, which he says we are apt to do with complaining because it’s so easy and automatic, like a greased skid (my metaphor, not his) leading to shrinkage of the hippocampus. He cites a Stanford study and then talks about various remedies to overcome over-complaining, which for most of us are just commonsense, but you may want to check them out because your brain seems like it’s on the shrinky-dink slide, for sure.

But don’t get too excited about a self-help two-for-one remedy for your negative toxicity and your shriveled IQ because it turns out that the “Stanford study” was really a series of studies showing some negative effects of stress hormones on the hippocampus in rodents and baboons. Those studies had nothing to do with complaining by humans and brain region volumes. Fancy that! I will admit that I didn’t want such a relationship to be true, but I really was skeptical that such a thing could ever be “proven” since there’s no feasible experiment one could set up to convincingly demonstrate such a thing.

Thus, the mystery of why the GNN took the article down is solved (somebody must have clued them in that it was bogus, pseudo-science) and even more importantly, there does not appear to be any brain-health reason not to vent at you to my heart’s content.

So, here’s a real science-related fuss for you – I saw this headline on today: “Scientists Desert USDA as Agency Relocates to Kansas City” and immediately began wondering whether you have plants at NPR who are twisting things to suit you and your machinations. Seriously, what horseshit to say that these (career) government scientists are f*cking deserting the USDA when really Sonny Perdue and the USDA is deserting them by yanking their jobs from them and moving those jobs across the country. I could see Fox News framing it this way, but not NPR. Damn. There are a couple of sentences about how morale has taken a hit, but there’s also a bunch of crap about how great it will be for the two research divisions affected to be closer to mid-West farmers and how it’ll be just fine that over 60% of the scientists opted not to move to KC because there are so, so many such qualified scientists super excited to move there. Right. More like it’s a handy way to quash science, gut yet another regulatory agency, and endanger the American public.

May we be safe from misrepresentations of science and scientists.
May we be happy to use our critical thinking caps often.
May we go for a reasonable balance between kvetching and not kvetching.
May you not start a war.

Tracy Simpson

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