Scientists Speak, But Is Anyone Listening?

Dr. C. Leigh Broadhurst has a few strong opinions on why the media, the government, and just about everyone else can’t retain the counsel of scientists.

C. Leigh Broadhurst

July 11, 2014

3 Min Read
Scientists Speak, But Is Anyone Listening?

A few weeks ago I stopped at the local 7-11. To my utter dismay there was a large sign on the register informing me that all Monster Energy Drinks could be purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP-EBT) cards, better known as food stamps. This even includes the sugar-free brands, which contain no nutritional value.

I have nothing against the product but in no way should taxpayers be on the hook for such purchases. Including tax, a 16-oz. can was $2.65. Milk, fruit juice and even beer cost less! This is pure abuse of a government program and nothing but hand-out bribery.

And SNAP cannot be used to purchase vitamin C supplements!

There could not be a credible nutrition or medical scientist on the planet who would approve these items for SNAP. Last time I checked Monster was being sued for causing strokes (albeit wrongfully in my opinion) and former NY mayor Doomberg—I’m sorry Bloomberg—wanted to restrict energy drink purchases to 18 and older.

Why were scientists and doctors ignored on this matter?

One reason is that scientists can be bad at “following the money.” Convenience stores quietly lobbied for access to SNAP clients, so taxpayers were already paying for taquitos, pizza, chicken wings. Scientists said nothing. Decades of nutrition education by our industry, universities, nonprofit foundations and even the government itself were flushed away by the USDA subsidizing 24-hr junk food access. Next, the beverage lobby successfully argued that people buy sodas/energy drinks with their food, so why not have EBT pay? Again, scientists said nothing, or their input was unsolicited or ignored. Naïve scientists actually believe that politicians care about those in need of groceries. But when you follow the money, SNAP clients are being abused with the assumption that they are too lazy or stupid to eat a healthy diet.  

Another reason is that scientists fail to understand that successful communication begins with a positive emotional response. All good science is quantitative, meaning that it’s based on accurately measured numbers and their statistical interpretation. When asked what they do, naïve scientists/engineers immediately begin to elaborate on mathematical functions that describe the scientific relationships they are investigating. Or if asked to give a public statement, they immediately start quoting research studies and statistics. They speak as if among peers, going through all the steps in the process then finally presenting a conclusion. Unfortunately, mathematics and statistics provoke uncomfortable, or outright negative, emotional responses in many people. They tune you out right away, and don’t even stick around for conclusions.

You all know how strongly I believe in the Paleolithic Diet. However, if I were sitting on a committee regarding SNAP approval for convenience stores, I would hold my scientific tongue and reply FIRST: “Would you use your own money to buy your children a prepaid credit card and send them to 7-11, Wawa, or Circle K to eat every day?”

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