Whenever I meander on about smoking or second hand smoke, invariably I get castigated with expressions of “everyone knows smoking kills” or “we all know smoking causes cancer”.
I have read a lot about the subject, and even amongst the people who are opposed to the “science” of passive smoking I have found expressions of “we know cigarettes are dangerous” or “we know direct smoking causes cancer”.
So where does this knowledge originate?
Almost without exception, all knowledge stems from one source. Someone at sometime proposed a theory which was proved by experiment to be fact. That fact is maybe expanded upon and so our knowledge increases. So where is the source of the “smoking kills” theory? Someone somewhere must have originated the theory and someone somewhere must have proved it?
From all my research, everything leads back to research by Richard Doll and Bradford Hill back in 1950. This is the most cited proof and is essentially the source of the “fact” that smoking kills, or even that smoking is bad.
Since their results were published, the word has spread about the evils of tobacco, to the extent that it has become almost undisputed fact. It is science by democracy – if enough believe it then it has to be fact
But what if Richard Doll and Bradford Hill were wrong?
What if Hill and Doll were biased from the start and manipulated their figures to prove their belief? What if subsequent “studies” were also biased? The result would be that our knowledge is in fact received knowledge where we state something is fact whereas in truth it is distorted, or even an outright untruth. We believe something simply because everyone else seems to believe it, even though the original source is false.
I recently came across a paper by Professor J. R. Johnstone, PhD and P.D. Finch [who are both professors of Mathematical Statistics at Monash University in Australia]. They approached the Hill and Doll studies from the perspective of the mathematician and not the health fanatic. Their paper makes very interesting reading indeed.
I would urge anyone who believes in the “undisputed facts” of smoking to have a read.