A new Danish study, published in the British Journal of Medicine, shows conclusively that there is no link between cellphone usage and brain cancer. And it won’t change anything.
The problem is that once you take on a belief like cellphones causing cancer, scientific evidence won’t easily sway you. The same goes for people who think vaccines cause autism or that climate change is a huge scam perpetrated by greedy governments and windmill makers.
In the Danish study, 358,403 people were tracked for almost two decades and the findings are unequivocal: cellphone users were at no higher risk than non-cellphone users for brain tumors. It is the latest in a series of studies showing no or low risk from cellphone usage.
There has been a vocal minority that has, for years, argued that cellphone signals cause cancers in heavy phone users. They have (rightly) been ignored since there was no evidence to support the claim. The latest study will hopefully shut these people up for good, even if it doesn’t change their minds.
Could there be research in the future that does find a cancer link? Of course, and we should be open to changing our thinking based on such evidence. The scientific method ensures that researchers always challenge their own assumptions and follow the research to whatever conclusions are reached. But given the low rate of scientific literacy these days, people are much more comfortable clinging to their ideas and ignoring facts to the contrary.
To some degree, it is human nature to stick to our guns and fight for our beliefs, but this is precisely the wrong way to approach scientific questions.
For example, the residents of Calgary and Waterloo will no longer have their water fluoridated because some alarmists convinced their local politicians that fluoride was dangerous. They join a number of municipalities that have banned fluoridation over the last decade.
In truth, fluoridation is one of the cheapest and most effective public health policies ever devised, preventing the sort of debilitating tooth decay previous generations had to worry about. But because know-nothings can always wave the word “chemical” around, all sorts of anti-scientific fear-mongering becomes law.
Think of how much time and energy climate skeptics put into “debunking” the science behind climate change. Each study that comes out further cements what the vast majority of scientists have agreed on for decades, that human activity is rapidly warming the globe. Yet, to deniers, it’s all a conspiracy and the foot-dragging we see from such ideologues continues to slow the development of renewable technologies and continues our reliance on fossil fuels.
There are many issues on which reasonable people can disagree, even vehemently. But on questions of science, let’s trust the experts and let’s trust the science. The activists are louder and more committed than the vast majority of us, but it’s still our collective responsibility to follow the evidence on important matters.
So next time someone tries to tell you about the dangers of cellphones, vaccines, fluoride, microwave radiation, jellybeans or anything else based on faulty logic, kindly remind this person about the dangers of being an idiot.