“Cancer culture” (Diseased mummies)

One myth prevalent among alternative medicine enthusiasts is that cancer only came along relatively recently. The insinuation is that the disease is caused by contemporary perniciousness like processed foods, modern lifestyles, and agriculture developments.

Some proponents of this hypothesis cite a publication by anthropologists A.R. David and M.R. Zimmerman. But prolific skeptic blogger Orac notes that theirs is an opinion piece, not a scholarly scientific study.

The duo claimed there was only one case of cancer found among hundreds of mummies, so this shows that, if not nonexistent, cancer was at least much rarer a few thousand years ago. Orac counters that the average Ancient Egyptian lifespan lasted barely a quarter-century, which is one-third of what modern Westerners enjoy.

Cancer, being a disease that primarily afflicts the elderly, would be just as infrequent among 25-year-old Chicagoans today as it was among those who watched the Pyramids being built. Further, mummies were limited to the elite class and thus did not represent a broad cross-section of Egyptian society. Moreover, Orac wrote that mummification includes removal of the organs, which is where most cancer incidents arise. Beyond all this, there are ancient writings that allude to cancer and its treatments.

Cancer has always been with humans because it results from genetics, random mutation, viruses, obesity, and non-environmental factors. There are some modern developments that might make cancer more likely in specific instances, but that is far different than it being entirely a new phenomenon.

Still, professor Rosalie David asserts that, “In industrialized societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death. But in ancient times, it was extremely rare. There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer.”

Yet, as Orac points out, the natural environment includes radon, UV light, aflatoxin, HPV, and hepatitis B, all of which can lead to cancer.

But the biggest factor is aging. As humans grow older, their bodies are more subject to genetic error, as well as having more time to come into contact with carcinogens. About three in four cancer cases occur in those 60 and over. If we were looking at only those 25 and under, the incidents of cancer would be as rare as they were among Ancient Egyptians.

That’s not so say modern lifestyles can’t play a role in one getting cancer. Being sedentary, smoking, and obese can all play a role. But King Tut lighting up, lying around, and pigging out would have left him just as vulnerable.

“Branch Floridians” (DeSantis deaths)

Florida governor and national embarrassment Ron DeSantis hosted a parade of lies and misinformation masquerading as a COVID roundtable. Only doctors selected by DeSantis were allowed to attend. While “roundtable” connotes an open exchange of views, this panel featured doublespeak and allowed no deviation from the script.

The farce was dubbed “Closing the Curtain COVID Theater.” Theater is a rather innocuous term to describe the spread of an airborne virus that has killed 5 million people – a number that would be markedly lower if everyone had taken known preventive measures.

Skeptic leader Dr. David Gorski reviewed the heavily-orchestrated spectacle, which was led by DeSantis and his henchman, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo. Though an appointed position, surgeon general is one government role that should always be apolitical and should certainly not promote the anti-health, anti-science positions favored by the head of state government.

But that’s what Ladapo has done, even going so far as using the forum to announce that Florida advises against vaccinating minors against COVID-19, a virus that has killed more than 1,000 American children. Some of you Kindergartners may die but that’s a risk Ladapo is willing to take. DeSantis chimed in with, “We are not just going to follow the CDC in the state of Florida. … We’re going to do our own stuff.” Ain’t no science gonna tell him what to do. And while he has sometimes advertised himself as a champion for choice, his actions bely that claim. Witness his childish berating of mask-wearing high schoolers as an example.

One phrase heard throughout the roundtable was “Urgency of Normal,” a euphemism for abandoning all coronavirus mitigation measures. No masks, no vaccines, no social distancing, no remote learning. Makes you wonder what their stance on hand-washing is. Orwellian claims that lockdowns are more dangerous than the virus were trumpeted and panelists insisted the nation should let COVID spread unchecked in order to pave the way for herd immunity. As to the immunocompromised and elderly, screw them, DeSantis needs to get a haircut.

Gorski noted this mindset’s similarity to a Brady Bunch episode favored by anti-vaxxers since it treats measles as no big deal – an annoying but harmless rite of passage. Yet Gorksi noted that before the vaccine, 48,000 people a year were hospitalized for the measles, 4,000 of those developed encephalitis, and about 450 patients died. Gorsksi argued that treating pre-vaccine measles or COVID as minor issues – since most who contract them survive – is akin to eugenics.

Gorski wrote, “Our response to COVID-19 uses the familiar blueprint of eugenics, with predictable consequences for the captive and vulnerable, who are pushed to the side, ignored, or sacrificed for the ‘greater good.’ This devalues the lives of those who are less than perfect, less than healthy, by in essence telling everyone who is healthy that they don’t have to worry and shouldn’t be expected to sacrifice anything to protect who are less than healthy and at high risk.” To be sure, the “pro-life” crowd has been anything but on this one.

“Conspiracy weary” (Errors in conspiracy theory thought)

Traditionally, conspiracy theories have centered on defining events like Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and the Kennedy assassination. With the latter, there are a multitude of theories choose from. This is not because of evidence, but due to the emotional impact of a president in the prime of his life and his political career being gunned down in public beside his glamorous wife.

By contrast, the unsuccessful Reagan assassination attempt is seldom thought to have involved anyone other than John Hinckley, though a few isolated theorists have tried to make a hay of the fact that the shooter’s brother, Scott, was scheduled to have dinner with Neil Bush the following day. And if there are any conspiracy theories about the Ford assassination attempts, in which the target wasn’t even hit, I’ve never heard them.

Similarly, one could spend 10 hours a day watching 9/11 conspiracy theory videos and a year later still not run out of viewing material. But one might need just a day to check out all the conspiracy theory videos centering on the 1993 WTC bombing that killed .002 percent as many people.

The Sept. 11 attacks, by the way, did require a conspiracy, though not the type that Truthers have in mind. More than one person was involved in doing something nefarious, so it qualifies as a conspiracy. After the tragedy, 90 percent of the country came together, at least for a few days. Meanwhile, the other 10 percent wondered, “How can I make this massive loss of human life about me?” Thus began the Truther Movement.

One member of the movement responded to my blog post about conspiracy theories by asserting that Al-Qaeda was not involved. I asked him who he thought flew the airplanes and he replied that they were controlled remotely. As you might imagine, he supported this with zero evidence, besides failing to even answer my question, since remote control requires a controller. He also had to ignore or dismiss accounts from passengers describing Middle Eastern men with knives, the voice of one of the hijackers from the cockpit, security footage of the perpetrators boarding the planes, and the totality of the 9/11 report.

He is a typical conspiracy theorist, meaning he is more interested in painting himself as brave warrior battling brainwashed sheep and the establishment than he is in getting to the truth. As this Vice article showed, conspiracy theorists are mostly driven by a need to feel elite, not by a love of the facts. The article outlines how a bogus conspiracy theory was presented to those who considered themselves conspiracy theorists. Half of the group were told that 81 percent of the population believed in the conspiracy, the other half were told that 19 percent believed in it. Overwhelmingly, the theorists embraced the theory if they thought it was a minority opinion and rejected it if was said to be believed by the majority.

While I wrote earlier that conspiracy theories have traditionally sprouted from signature moments, the Internet has changed that somewhat and, depending on the believer, theories these days can center on almost anything.

So you may encounter them at any point and, if you choose to engage the remote control aircraft aficionado or other theorists, here are some points that will likely bolster your case. These were outlined in an essay by skeptic leader Emil Karlsson.

First, realize that in most alleged conspiracy theories, the number of people that would need to be involved is way more than could quiet about it, especially for decades. Every one of them would need to harbor this secret and never reveal it by accident, misspeak, guilt, drunkenness, blackmail, braggadocio, deathbed confession, or in order to sign a lucrative book deal. Thousands of persons would had to have been in on a phony moon landing, yet none of them have come forward.

Genuine conspiracies, such as Watergate, the NSA scandal, and what Bill Clinton’s definition of is is, were exposed by investigative journalists or insiders, not by WAKETHESHEEPLE’S YouTube channel.

On a related note, consider the overwhelming evidence for the genuine theories compared to the scant tidbits that point to hidden cancer cures, advance knowledge of the Pearl Harbor bombing, and the Las Vegas hotel shooting.

Let’s look at two conspiracy theories involving presidential assassinations. Abraham Lincoln was one of multiple targets that night and the killing involved multiple agents who were identified, tried, and executed. This was done in the open, with evidence presented in court. Meanwhile, despite the smorgasbord of options centering on who killed JFK – the KGB, CIA, LBJ, the mafia, labor leaders, hell, maybe even Martians – there has yet to be, nearly 60 years and countless investigations later, one piece of incontrovertible evidence pointing to these ideas.

As to the scandal that took down another president a decade later, Karlsson wrote that the Watergate affair “had burglars being arrested, a money trail that could be followed and mapped, confessions and several rounds of incriminating audio tapes.” Likewise, there is overwhelming evidence and mounds of documentation regarding the NSA scandal, the IB affair, and the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

By contrast, the idea of mass shootings being hoaxes is built on evidence so miniscule it would be comical were the assertions not so offensive. For example, during a press conference about a California shooting, a detective talked about the importance of training for such events. Instead of saying “which played out here today,” he misspoke and said, “which we played out here today.” A couple of seconds later, his cohort rubbed his palm on his forehead. This was presented in conspiracy theory circles as the spokesman inadvertently admitting it was faked and his co-worker burying his head in mortified disbelief that the secret was out. This “evidence” pales mightily compared to the thousands of Snowden documents.

As Karlsson noted, “Most conspiracy theories have little to no actual evidence. They are often based on quoting scientists out of context, misunderstanding basic physics of building constructions, jumping on obvious cases of interview miscommunication or similar. It is really based on alleged ‘evidence’ that is not worth much at all.”

We move now to the issue of inconsistent capabilities. This is when theorists paint perpetrators as extraordinarily skilled, organized, powerful, and able to seamlessly pull off highly-complex operations – yet incapable of getting a YouTube video or Facebook post removed. The evil men behind these plots are said to silence their victims through murder, yet someone is able to share this knowledge without repercussion.

Then there is what Karlsson calls the “method-goal mismatch problem.” While flat Earthers may present a scientifically-shaky observation or hypothesis to argue for their position, they are unable to explain the goal of those trying to keep the message secret. Who really cares what the shape is? Why would mortal enemies such as North and South Korea come together to defend a lie? Where would the millions of guards necessary to prevent the ice wall from being accessed come from?

Going back to the 9/11 Truthers, if the attacks were meant to justify an invasion, why go to the sizable trouble of recruiting kamikaze pilots and coordinating such a complexity? Just bomb a building. Or make up a story about WMDs, which was done anyway.

As Karlsson noted, “If you or the conspiracy theorists can easily invent a better plan to attain the goal of the perpetrators than the plan used in the conspiracy theory, something is terribly wrong with it.”

Finally, consider the tell-tale sign that a theorist is interested in defending the theory at all costs, rather than aiming for the truth. And that is when any discomfiting evidence is paradoxically considered part of the conspiracy. Those doubting Obama’s citizenship concocted a preposterous myth whereby his newspaper birth announcement, a 1990 New York Times article describing him as Hawaiian-born, his Certificate of Live Birth, and his long form birth certificate, were all touted as evidence FOR the theory instead of refutations of it! Anyone this far down the rabbit hole has no interest in finding out what really happened.

“Paper-thin claim” (FDA FOIA request)

Alarmist claims to the contrary, the FDA’s response to a massively-broad FOIA request is not evidence of a conspiracy or cover-up. Rather, it is a statement on how much information was asked for, how those claims are handled, and how many personnel are dedicated to the task.

The requested documents center on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine trial, information about which runs a whopping 329,000 pages. FDA officials said they could start releasing documents at a rate of 500 pages a month, in decreasing order of plaintiff priorities. These pages must be perused to determine which names need to be redacted and to identify trade secrets that need protected. Additionally, there are what the FDA calls “records that cannot be meaningfully paginated, such as data captured in spreadsheets that contain thousands of rows of data.”

A rate of 500 pages per month is consistent with processing schedules in previous FOIA requests. While all of these documents, at this rate, would take decades to provide, the plaintiffs would start getting the most documents immediately. Also of note, agencies have limited resources, and there are other requests to satisfy.

The FDA has been transparent on this topic and large amounts of vaccine data are available online. Regarding safety and effectiveness, there is likewise much published data publicly available. But expecting the agency drop everything to immediately release 329,000 redacted pages is unreasonable and, when considering the names and trade secrets that need to be removed, impossible to do in the time demanded.

“Scary Blossom” (Collapsing athletes/Neuriva)

Continuing their run of delivering a fresh piece of misinformation at least weekly, anti-vax activists are pushing a trope that athletes are collapsing on the field after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. They share context-less videos of players, usually of the European soccer persuasion, fainting during a match. A non sequitur insinuation that this is the result of vaccination follows. But there is no reason to think that the collapsing took place since the advent of the vaccine, or that the collapsing players were vaccinated, or that the vaccine was responsible.

Reuters and Snopes contacted FIFA, whose officials told them they had seen no increase in cardiac events among their players, and certainly none related to vaccinations.

While myocarditis and pericarditis may occur after an infinitesimal percentage of shots, none of the athletes in these videos were diagnosed with these conditions. Snopes reviewed a video that included several images of soccer athletes passing out and then looked into the cause. It turned out that most suffered from heat exhaustion or dehydration and none were the result of vaccine-linked cardiovascular misfortunes.

In short, this is all another anti-vax lie and nothing suggests a connection between the coronavirus vaccine and collapsing soccer players. Indeed, it would seem very strange that this only impacted one sport on one continent. For all the NFL that I watch, I have yet to see these types of collapses, vaccination-related or otherwise. Additionally, Snopes noted some of the soccer players were revealed to have NOT been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, not precisely making it up but not doing a whole lot better is what actress Mayim Bialik does when she touts brain supplements along with her supposed standing as a neuroscientist. The products in question are Neuriva and Neuriva Plus, the latter which combines the original ingredients with vitamins B6, B12, and folate.

However, Dr. Harriet Hall notes there is no evidence these additional ingredients increase the product’s efficiency. Since the product has yet to be subject to double blind testing, we are unsure if it works. There are studies which show the added ingredients may have impact by themselves, though that’s far from certain since they were tested on aging mice. And even if true, it would not necessarily follow that Neuriva Plus is effective for human brain power or memory.

As to the person making such claims, while Bialik did earn a doctorate in neuroscience, she doesn’t seem to have ever worked in the field. University of Chicago professor emeritus Jerry Coyne searched for her name in the Web of Science and found zero publications to her credit. Nor is she employed as a professor, doing laboratory work, or submitting findings for peer review.

While she can’t be compared to anti-vax misinformation agents in terms of damage done or lies being told, she is not doing any more science than they are.

“Grate Scott” (AstroWorld tragedy)

Ten persons, including a grade-schooler, being crushed to death, is horrific enough that it should stand on its own as a tragic event. But for those insistent on finding an even darker meaning, we venture to the online conspiracy theorist.

Rolling Stone cited TikTok users who opined that Travis Scott’s Astroworld stage was shaped like an inverted cross, thus interpreting it as a portal to Hell. They also suggest that the shirt Scott wore that night – depicting persons walking through a door and emerging with horns – as evidence that Scott was luring fans to a sacrificial rite.

It’s hard to miss the irony of the Internet – a capability those in the Dark Ages would have been unable to comprehend – being used to offer an explication consistent with those times.

And of course, no corroborating evidence for any of these extreme claims exist, which means precisely zero in conspiracy land. Consider this affirming of the consequent /appeal to incredulity from a zealous Internet sleuth: “If you don’t believe that there was nothing demonic about that whole concert, you are spiritually blind and I pray that God opens your eyes.” Hmm, looks like he got in an unintentional double negative to go with his double logical fallacy.

Other TikTok users crowed about the set featuring eight pyrotechnic flames lining the stage, with the fires said to represent the victims who died that night. That the death toll later expanded to 10 did little to disabuse believers of this notion. Rather than admitting to having arrived at an erroneous conclusion, they moved the morbid goalposts and said the extra victims were offed so as to detract from the numerical connection.

Another dude wondered if the COVID vaccine combined with Scott’s music to send off 5G vibrations that made for a lethal combination. It would seem strange that only 10 persons were impacted if this were a fatal concoction. Then again, those who are “just asking questions” are seeking agreement, not answers.

Insider cited a clip in which an anonymous TikTok poster lambasted Scott for performing some unspecified “demonic shit” and accusing him of keeping the concert going while knowing that asphyxiation deaths were occurring. Another accused the rapper of being a demonic lackey.

Yet another concluded the deaths were sacrifices to Kris Jenner since the tragedy took place on her birthday. The Law of Truly Large Numbers would apply here, as would a Law of Truly Large Stretches.

Another user Tweeted that Scott’s recent music cover art, which depicted him as somewhat akin to a goblin, proves that the concert was a “sacrifice ritual and no one will change my mind about that.”

Today’s Critical Thinking 101 lesson: First, the certainty of one’s conviction is unrelated to its soundness. Second, the burden of proof lies on the one making this diabolical claim; it is not on the skeptic do disprove it, though that it an imprecise term since it implies something has already been proven.

The Guardian noted that all this viral misinformation shows how young social media users are increasingly susceptible to conspiracy theories, despite seeing themselves as savvy navigators of the online world. But spending copious amounts on the Internet increases the risk of being misled by it, and exacerbating this are algorithms which track usage and beliers and lure users to those sites which affirm the consumer’s bias.

“Intentional confounding” (Galileo Gambit)

I watch copious amounts of professional football, regularly soaking in five games a week. The NFL is the only interest that has consistently been near the top of my list of passive hobbies from grade school through the upper reaches of middle age. And in those 46 years, I have never seen anyone who can consistently make an absurdly long, logic-defying, into-a-no-visible-window throw like Aaron Rodgers.

As such, it seems fitting that his biggest failing would come off the field. He declined a CDC-recommended vaccine, publicly lied about having received it, and failed to follow league COVID protocols. He then quadrupled down while appearing on Pat McAfee’s podcast.


There, Rodgers declared himself the victim and offered self-congratulation for his critical thinking skills while committing a logical fallacy trifecta of appealing to incredulity, tradition, and consequences. He also made a series of claims that might charitably be called dubious (utter balderdash lacking any scientific or medical grounding would be a more accurate descriptor).

For all this, he received high praise in right-wing circles. He was touted as brave, an adjective that once applied to those who “courageously face danger,” but when used by the likes of Clay Travis, Jason Whitlock, and Candace Owens, means “agrees with me.”

Rodgers was also lauded by some in the Twitterverse for rebelling against authorities, specifically the CDC. While government agents should be held accountable when they shirk their duties or use them for personal gain, it does not follow that all actions taken by every government worker or agency is nefarious. The CDC has a multi-billion dollar budget, which enables the world’s foremost epidemiologists to research and combat disease. To think that someone with no training in scientific disciplines will spend two hours on Google and YouTube and uncover the REAL truth is the height of folly and ego. It also leads frequently to the Galileo Gambit.

This logical fallacy holds that if most people, especially those in authority, dismiss or mock an idea, this means the idea is correct. The thinking goes, “Galileo was mocked, his ideas threatened established thinking, and he was proven right. Therefore, the mocking of my iconoclastic position means I am also correct.”

But having one thing in common does not mean two persons have everything in common, or even one more thing in common.

Galileo was vindicated when further science confirmed his heliocentric theory. But for Rodgers or any other alternative medicine proponent to be likewise vindicated, their favored treatments would need to be consistently shown to be effective in double blind studies. To be kind, that has yet to happen.

The Food Babe, lacking any science for her claims, frequently employs the Gambit and is fond of saying, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” There is nothing here that validates any of her assertions or points, and the same is true for Rodgers and others who endorse natural immunity, invermectin, or hydroxycholoroquine as superior to vaccination.

As a Reddit user retorted, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule yet, then they fight you, then it turns out you were wrong all along.” Being in a class with Galileo requires more than being dismissed. It requires being at the forefront of discovering evidence that proves your hypothesis. There is no automatic connection between being scorned and being right.

On a linguistic note, those employing the Gambit don’t even get the comparison right. It wasn’t the scientific establishment that went after Galileo, it was the anti-scientific establishment Catholic Church.

Writing for Psychology Today, Dr. David Johnson noted there are rare instances of a lone genius being proven correct after challenging the prevailing scientific notion. He cited the example of Einstein upending some Newtonian ideas. “Einstein built a new consensus among the experts by presenting arguments and evidence that was, ultimately, undeniable,” Johnson wrote. “When people resisted his ideas, he never once said, ‘Hey, they laughed at Galileo too.’ He kept trying to convince them with reason and evidence.”

And for every Einstein, Galileo, Wegner, or Wright Brother, there are untold masses who fought against “the system” and lost because they were wrong. As Carl Sagan said, some initially-vilified scientists were laughed at, but so too was Bozo the Clown.

As to Rodgers, his medical regimen is more in line with Bozo than Pasteur, and it forced him to sit out Green Bay’s game with Kansas City. As someone who champions scientific advances and critical thinking, I was sad to see it. As a Chiefs fan, my thoughts were more positive.

“Suicide by crop”’(Organic farming)

Sri Lanka is a teardrop-shaped nation in the Indian Ocean, and tears are what many of the country’s farmers shed once President Gotabaya Rajapaksa mandated organic farming in the country. After five disastrous months, the experiment was mercifully terminated.

The results had upended Sri Lanka’s crop production and had a calamitous effect on agricultural exports like tea, rubber, and spices. All this for food that is no healthier than traditional fare, marketing claims to the contrary.


Organic farming proponents fall for the appeal to nature fallacy, which holds that something which occurs naturally is preferable to anything synthetic. For example, Dennis Prager foolishly exposed himself to the coronavirus in the mistaken belief that he would be better off doing that than being vaccinated. Besides putting himself – an older man – at risk of death and long-lasting complications, he will suffer through weeks of misery rather than having two unpleasant hours the next day. Even if he pulls through, he will not enjoy the long-term benefits about which he gloats. For antibodies that the vaccine creates are no different than the ones he will acquire through exposure from another carrier.


Organic farming proponents commit a similar error when they consider their favored crop production to be superior since it eschews the use of synthetic chemicals. They are mistaken, and not just because there are dozens of exceptions to the so-called ban. In a second appeal to nature fallacy, organic farming proponents think the natural herbicides are safer than synthetic ones but the origin of a product is unrelated to its danger level. Moreover, organic farming is unsustainable on a large scale because of the calamitous combination of needing more land to yield fewer crops.

Additionally, it requires greater labor since more weeds are likely to grow since there are fewer herbicide options. Consequently, Sri Lanka farmers experienced nearly a quarter-decrease in productivity. Some crops suffered a 50 to 100 percent drop. These numbers are depressingly similar to other locales that have relied heavily on organic farming.

Besides gutting a farmer’s livelihood, there are resultant food shortages and price increases. Additionally, the drag on exports harms the gross national product.


Organic farming shortcomings are aggravated when trying to massively increase the scale. Organic farming accounts for about 1.5 percent of food production worldwide. Trying to ramp up those numbers (especially to 100 percent) will create obstacles, some predictable, some surprising.

Writing for the New England Skeptical Society, Dr. Steven Novella noted it is possible for about five percent of farming to be organic. Trying to go beyond that will encounter organic fertilizer availability. Novella explained that composting and cattle manure are the primary organic fertilizers and both ways recycle nitrogen, though at a compromised rate.

He wrote, “Some plants can fix nitrogen from the air through soil bacteria, and these can be used as crops to put nitrogen into the soil. All this works if the percentage of crops grown without external inputs of nitrogen is kept relatively small.”

But his system falters as one attempts to scale up, and will be an unmitigated failure if trying to go from five percent to 100.

Fortunately for Sri Lankan farmers, the forced experiment is over. Here’s hoping the rest of the world learns from their misfortune.

“Mach behavior” (Sound barrier)

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The sound barrier refers to the sharp increase in aerodynamic drag which aircraft experience when approaching the speed of sound. Chuck Yeager was the first to conquer this barrier, which requires more than just great flying skill. It also requires rigorous aircraft design.

For as aircraft approaches Mach speed, airflow over some plane parts exceeds the speed of sound, creating shockwaves which force the craft to nose down. Only planes designed to overcome this will be capable of making it to 767 miles per hour.

While Yeager is credited with being the first to do this, a few alternate histories hold that others accomplished it before he did.


Some think German World War II pilots managed this, but captured intelligence documents make no mention of this having happened.

Still, tales persist that Messerschmit Komet pilots were the first to break the sound barrier. Heini Dittmar is one name associated with this supposed accomplishment. However, this was never referenced until a 1990 book, the contents of which contain no documentation from the 1940s, when these flights are said to have taken place.

Besides, as Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning noted, the Komet’s design would have made reaching such a speed impossible. He wrote, “The Komet had fabric-covered elevons on the trailing edge of the delta wing, which would always be shock stalled.”

Another key item is the imprecise nature of airspeed indicators of the time. Aircraft designed for below-sonic speed will in all likelihood yield unreliable readings because of the shockwaves. By contrast, aircraft designed to be supersonic employ a Mach indicator, which Dunning explains corrects for static air pressure.

There are two other supposed pre-Yeager Mach speed flights cited by alternate historians, both taken by civilian test pilot George Welch. He putatively took an XP-86 fighter prototype and, in a powered dive from 35,000 feet, broke the sound barrier. Anecdotal stories say that a sonic boom was heard on the ground.

But author Robert Kempel contends that for Welch’s aircraft to break the sound barrier with an J35-C-3 engine would be impossible, and Welch never himself claimed to have made it to Mach speed.

“Research caper” (DIY research)

When a scientist speaks of research, he or she is referring to a years-long systematic process of collecting data, testing hypotheses, and going where the evidence leads. This is done objectively via methods that are explained to fellow scientists, who then attempt to replicate or contradict the findings. When submitting for peer review, those conducting the research will outline their findings, data sets, and statistical analyses, then submit it all for peer review.

By contrast, the guy who exhorted us to “Wake Up Sheeple” in a message I saw plastered to his vehicle has a different take on the matter. When he claims to have done his research, he means he has utilized a search engine, then clicked on the first link which confirmed his bias. For him, peer review is having his likeminded friends take a look at the YouTube link he messaged them.

This difference was starkly illustrated by Flux writer Melanie Trecek-King, who explained, “Real research is about trying to prove yourself wrong, not right.”

Hellaciously complex topics such as vaccines, climate science, and evolution require years of specialized learning and gaining an understanding broad terminology. There is also corroboration and debate with those in the field, while conducting genuine research as outlined above.

Because of this complexity, high-quality studies conducted by experts can arrive at different conclusions. Critics of science, such as the one with the rolling sheeple billboard, highlight these contradictions to insist that the field is unreliable.


This is to misunderstand what science is, that is to say a messy, self-criticizing, self-examining process aimed at finding the truth. While science has arrived at conclusions later shown to be wrong, it was further and better science that uncovered the error.

Similarly, when there are accusations that scientists are involved in a massive cover-up, this ignores that healthy conflict exists among scientists, and also glosses over the fact that the most revered scientists are those who upended conventional thinking.

The Scientific Method is crucial to all this, but perhaps no step in the process is as paramount as peer review. It would be one thing to convince two dozen sympathetic lay people that polio vaccines cause kidney failure. It would be quite another to successfully make such a case to hundreds of experts who will peruse your methods and findings.


Further, no single study will be the end-all. Conclusions must be repeatedly replicated before becoming a consensus.

As to this consensus, it does not refer to an agreeing of opinion based on confirmation bias or groupthink. As Trecek-King explained, scientific consensus is “the result of highly specialized experts independently evaluating the body of evidence and arriving at a similar conclusion.”

Any consensus remains open to challenge but a complete novice will not upend it by spending the afternoon on Google. Major changes to scientific thinking are announced by the Noble Prize Committee, they are not posted to a right-wing conspiracy theory site. Such sites insist that 10,000 scientists are eschewing fame, fortune, and career satisfaction in order to further enrich a shadowy cabal by staying silent.

Almost universally, experts are trusted. If persons are not trained in the field, they do not attempt to fix a malfunctioning intake manifold, they do not replace their home’s faulty wiring, and they do not perform their own gall bladder surgery. That some folks make an exception for vaccines, masking, and distancing would be comical were it not for the deadly results.

China, where the coronavirus originated and with four times the U.S. population, has yet to record its 5,000th COVID death. The U.S., meanwhile, just passed the grim 700,000 milestone. Put another way, the pandemic has shown Americans to be incapable of dealing with a national emergency requiring mild inconvenience.