Thursday, July 31, 2014

dengue and redheads

Almost every region in Mexico has a message board where expatriates can share information and lie about themselves a little.  Or a whole lot.

Because the sites allow anonymous postings, people do not seem to care that by repeating the silliest of rumors their reputations could be a bit tarnished.  When you aren't anyone, you have nothing to lose.  (For the record, I use my own name.)

One of the silliest things I have ever read (outside of the pages of The Onion) showed up on our Tom Zap message board this Sunday.  In what could pass for breathless melodrama, "unoboca" (the poster's rather-revealing name) told us all that a new strain of dengue -- no, let me give the floor to unoboca.  I could not possibly paraphrase this. 

JUST heard that a couple just moved to Melaque and built their retirement home. The husband got very ill and flew back to Canada.

He died today from a never seen before strain of DENGUE attacked him and dissolved his spleen then going from there it went through all his organs......

Are there anyone else sick from Dengue?

You should be worried...and take note......

He first thought he didn't feel good but it got worse....
Well, yes.  It got worse.  A lot worse.  It turned into a story that lacks all vestiges of veracity.

We later learn that the source of this ebola-like plague story comes from neither the Canadian Health service nor the Control for Disease Control.  The viral Paul Revere was "a customer of a landscaper friend of mine." 

What?  Was Joan Rivers too busy that day?

Of course, the story itself is so contradictory that only the "Elvis as Alien" crowd would even give it a second thought.

But unoboca is not alone in passing along tales too tall to be believed.  Several newspapers have run stories that redheads are becoming extinct because of -- yup, you guessed it -- climate change.

Alistair Moffat, managing director of ScotlandsDNA, said: "We think red hair in Scotland, Ireland and in the North of England is adaption to the climate.  I think the reason for light skin and red hair is that we do not get enough sun and we have to get all the Vitamin D we can.  If the climate is changing and it is to become more cloudy or less cloudy then this will affect the gene.  If it was to get less cloudy and there was more sun, then yes, there would be fewer people carrying the gene."
The story, of course, flushed out all the usual suspects decrying the loss of a chorus line of Lucies.  A careful reading of all those "think"s is proof enough that the tale was built of tinkertoys.

But it turns out to be flimsier than that.  Much flimsier.

  • The red-head gene is a myth.  There is no single gene that results in fair skin and red hair.
  • People with red hair are no better at absorbing Vitamin D than their other-haired brethren.
  • Even if all of his premises were true, Alistair Moffat's grasp of how genes evolve is, well, on the same level of how some people believe dengue kills humans.
  • Just because the phrase "climate change" shows up in a news story is not a reason to automatically believe it.  Sloppy logic does not become less sloppy because someone calls himself a "scientist."
Having said all that, I must confess that I love finding these little tidbits here and there.  It reminds me that the world has not yet become enslaved by the rational.

After all, there is poetry in madness.  If not poetry; at least, humor.

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