Of Dogs and Men

Imagine (because all the studies in this blogpost are fictitious) that, in 1986, Bowser and Blenkinstop, eminent biomedical researchers, published an article in a popular science magazine demonstrating a strong positive correlation between the human acquisition of a dog and a fall in human blood pressure, finding the hypothesis that owning a dog can lower high blood pressure to be probable. Imagine that, in 1984, in an odd reverse of usual procedure, the Secretary of State for Health had held a press conference to publicise exactly this carefully-worded finding. And that the next day all the newspapers had dropped the word ‘probable’ and led with DR BOFFINS SAY PATTING A DOG ADDS DECADES TO YOUR LIFE. Imagine that, in 1987, the world’s first Human-Canine Electromagnetic Skin Response Unit was patented by Blenkinstop (Bowser suing her over intellectual property theft being covered up by agreement at a top level meeting of the heads of their respective countries) and that HCESRUs then proliferated globally. Imagine that shelters were only able to cope with their sudden huge intake of abandoned long-haired dogs by dispensing entirely with home checks for all the short-haired dogs such as Staffies, Pitbulls and Pugs suddenly in such demand that fisticuffs broke out in Battersea Dog & Cat Home. On a Sunday. Imagine that a performance at the Sydney Opera House had to be cut short after a famous fat lady refused to sing the finale of Tosca over all the barking.

Imagine that experts, with Ph.D.s and charts and graphs in colour, suddenly appeared on daytime TV to reassure anxious housewives and the unemployed that while, yes, the HCESRUs did, in fact, show a higher response with short-haired mammals, even patting long-haired mammals had a proved beneficial effect on high blood pressure. Imagine that all the animals shelters everywhere (with a TV) were besieged with mobs of angry people dressed in leisurewear and pinstriped suits demanding their right to own a furry creature, that several hirsute ‘unmarried’ men were chased along streets in 4x4s and corralled in a wedding chapel by a gang of obese Sweet Potato Queens (of both sexes) in Tallahassee and that in New York people were domesticating sewer rats.

Imagine that everyone with the least political consciousness took to wearing bold red Rocket Man Ts when North Korea invaded its southern neighbour to put an end to the dog meat trade and set up an international conglomerate producing frozen canine embryos guaranteed to thaw into living shorthaired womb-puppies upon implantation in specially-designed high end Canine Embryonic Life Maintenance & Birthing Commodities.

Imagine that, always quoting Bowser & Blenkinstop (1986), studies funded by such conglomerates proliferated in the search to determine the best breed of short-haired dog to lower human blood pressure and that the surprising, puzzling, and contradictory data from these studies were either suppressed or interpreted in new and clever ways to provide endless epicycles way out of the orbit of the original hypothesis – that patting a dog could lower your blood pressure, probably – and that all of them called for more research.

Then imagine that, for over thirty years, two groups of biomedical researchers and their supporters in various fields, as well as some investigative journalists, had been patiently putting forward alternative views: that either owning a dog was only a statistical marker for the real cause of lowered blood pressure which was the combination of getting out into the fresh air for walks and light-hearted, non-intrusive, friendly social interaction (with other dog-owners) and that short-haired dogs such as Staffies were more likely to be owned by people lacking the income to hire a dog walker, and so miss out on these benefits, than by those who could afford, say, an Afghan hound – or that the original study was so methodologically flawed that no conclusion could be drawn until a large-scale, longterm, randomised, double-blinded study, with controlled variables and placebo arm, could be undertaken.

Imagine the fury from the merchandisers of Scooby-Doo, from the makers of the famous red heart-shaped D dogtags and from all the grieving friends and relatives of the beloved dead who had departed this life due to a tragic inability to accept this sure cure: fur allergy.

[Reader, all of the above is pure imagination. I have absolutely no knowledge of any study regarding dog owning and high blood pressure – which is a serious medical condition that I do not make light of. I heartily recommend having dogs as companions, especially if you’re the one who’s walking them.]

Now translate this coded metaphor: there are three distinct hypotheses for AIDS. HIV features in only two of them and the scientists credited with its co-discovery disagree on the best hypothesis. The scientists who hold the ‘alternative’ (original) hypotheses – that either AIDS is solely or partly caused by toxins, including anti-HIV drugs – continue to be denied a platform while the hypothesis favoured by the pharmaceutically-funded medical establishment gets more and more complicated with every study that produces contradictory data.

In 1984 the US Secretary of Health and Human Services announced to the press that ‘HIV is the probable cause of AIDS’. Rushing from probability to certainty, ignoring contradiction, is bad science. Meanwhile people are dying, now of liver-failure brought on by anti-HIV drugs.

Isn’t it time for us to reconsider the other two hypotheses?

honden-1451091222P9NThanks to ‘X posid’ for releasing the photo ‘Dogs in the park’ into the public domain.