This article is from
Creation 45(1):46–49, January 2023

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Exposing counterfeit science

Creation magazine interviews nutrition and exercise science adviser David Lightsey, M.S.

by CMI editors


David Lightsey’s undergraduate and graduate degrees, from California’s Long Beach State University, are in human nutrition, exercise physiology, and biology. He has spent decades in physical rehabilitation and sports medicine, and as a nutrition science adviser for both the National Council Against Health Fraud and Quackwatch.org. His role in these organisations was to respond to health misinformation in the media, as well as be a source of sound information on the science of nutrition and exercise.

David was an adjunct college nutrition instructor for fifteen years, and was director of a full exercise physiology laboratory. Since 2019, he has been providing commentaries related to counterfeit and junk-science health and nutrition issues for the American Council on Science and Health. He has published several papers in peer-reviewed journals such as the British Journal of Cancer. He has written two books, each with high commendations from authoritative sources.

David and his wife Dorian have two adult children, both successful college graduates who were homeschooled.


CM: David, you’re known for your decades-long work at international level with well-respected consumer education groups. But you’ve also written two books. Can you tell us a bit about these, and professional reviews of them?

DL: Yes, the most recent one, The Myths about Nutrition Science, is a college secondary textbook by an academic publisher. It addresses the quagmire of misinformation regarding the food production process and nutrition science. It was highly commended by the American Council on Science and Health and the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

The title of your earlier one suggests it is also an exposé of sorts.

I called it Muscles, Speed, and Lies—What the sport supplement industry does not want athletes or consumers to know. And yes, it does expose the myths and deceptions within that industry. It was highly commended by the American College of Sports Medicine and the International Olympic Committee.

Your focus seems to have been on health, fitness, and diet-related issues.

That’s so, although I’ve also published on other issues such as global warming alarmism, women in military service, and more. Such articles were similarly concerned with exposing various counterfeit science claims.

Please elaborate more on that term ‘counterfeit science’.

An analogy may help. In the physical rehabilitation clinic where I used to work, a patient who owned a local pizza parlour brought in a $50 bill he had received from a customer and asked me to look at it. My casual appraisal, untrained in looking for the details of counterfeit money, was that the bill was authentic and I would be happy to accept it. He then pointed out the discrepancies between that counterfeit bill and an authentic $50 bill he also possessed. Once the details were pointed out, it was clear that I would have accepted a counterfeit bill, believing it to be authentic. My faith was in a worthless imitation, until someone illustrated with evidence why the counterfeit bill should be rejected.

© Dragonsondrea | Dreamstime.comsports-physiology-laboratory
Researchers monitoring data in an exercise/sports physiology laboratory. Even unequivocal test measurements can be misleadingly presented and thus ‘counterfeit’.

Counterfeit science is like that. To the untrained eye, it looks real, but when you examine the evidence, it’s simply fabricated, taken out of context, or extrapolated beyond what the evidence indicates. It is worthless information. The details do not support the conclusions being drawn from the evidence.

It’s understandable how counterfeit science and money prevail so often in our culture. The general population simply are not trained to identify the details of either, so they can be easily taken in.

How does that relate to the creation/evolution debate?

Evolution ‘science’ is analogous to counterfeit money. If counterfeit science were an Olympic event, evolutionary science would win the gold medal, in my view. Consider just a few excerpts from the secular science press illustrating why no one should embrace ‘science’ as inerrant ‘gospel’, regardless how passionate the presentation may be.

David and Dorian Lightsey
  • In 2005, John Ioannidis, professor of disease prevention at Stanford University, published ‘Why most published research findings are false’, in PLoS / Medicine. He stated, “There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. … Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.”
  • In 2010, The Center for Scientific Integrity, a nonprofit organization, started “Retraction Watch”, due to the increasing amount of counterfeit science appearing in the science literature and reported that per year there are 500–600 retractions (i.e., researchers need to withdraw published papers).
  • Much of this is due to lack of truthfulness. On 16 October 2012, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the report, “Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications”. They found that “67.4 percent of retractions were attributed to misconduct” and that “the percentage of scientific articles retracted because of fraud has increased tenfold since 1975.”
  • In late 2016, LiveScience reported,

    Publish or perish: That’s the mantra among academics. The pressure on researchers to publish new studies, however, may have turned this saying into ‘publish and perish’, as more than 650 scientific papers were retracted in 2016, jeopardizing the integrity of scientists, and threatening the public’s trust in their work.

Clearly, counterfeit or junk science has become a significant international problem. Based upon false assumptions, erroneous data, or statistical manipulation, it impacts a wide variety of agendas, such as abortion, evolution, extreme environmentalism, etc. Science is often tainted by salesmen masquerading as scientists selling an ideological or political agenda.

That last sentence is a strong statement to make …

Well, consider the comments by Frank Schnell, Ph.D., in his article “The Age of Stupid”. Dr Schnell is a retired toxicologist for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. He is also on the Scientific Advisory Panel of the American Council on Science and Health. Schnell explains “how to tell the difference between a real scientist and a salesman with a political agenda.” Some of the points he makes include (his words, emphases added):

  • Good scientists do not suppress debate, they insist on it.
  • A good scientist knows that skepticism, whether or not it is the sign of a heretic, is actually essential to the practice of good science.
  • A good scientist knows that science is not a democracy, that scientific truth is not determined by a show of hands, and that consensus and authority are there to be challenged, not to be accepted without question.
  • Those who persist in behaving like witless sheep will be forever doomed to getting fleeced, on a regular basis, by the politicians, celebrities, and others whom they permit to do their thinking for them.

So, understanding that God is omniscient and that man’s understanding of anything is finite or very limited is key to understanding and interpreting science. Science is only a reflection of what we currently know, which is obviously limited, and its ‘consensus’ changes as we know more. As an example, I recall sitting in a college biochemistry course where the professor was passionately adamant that dietary cholesterol was bad for you due to its association with heart disease, which was the consensus at the time. With time and more ‘science’ to clarify, a greater understanding of the issue of dietary cholesterol and heart disease has moved knowledge forward. This has overturned the ‘consensus’ of earlier decades.

Your writings also often mention the ‘illusory truth effect’.

That simply means that when we hear the same false information repeated again and again, we often believe it is true. Especially when contrary information is suppressed. There is great censorship of the science opposing evolution (including the excellent material CMI’s scientists put out) throughout most students’ academic careers, as well as through the media. So the illusory truth effect helps explain why evolution has taken on this aura of invincibility.

What would be your advice to Christian students finding themselves in an increasingly anti-Christian environment, academically and socially?

They need to be prepared. It’s firstly vital to become really well-informed about the science. The more you know about the science, the less likely you are to be taken in by the counterfeit.

They also need to be aware of how easy it is to be swayed by public opinion, the illusory truth effect, or counterfeit science. Anti-Christians, aided by a generally subservient media that has itself been influenced by those factors, have swayed public opinion by masquerading counterfeit science as science to a generally naïve and uneducated public.

Christians should not allow the quasi-religious enthusiasm for counterfeit science to make them incapable of determining truth, or allowing others to do their thinking for them. Scripture is our only source of absolute truth, and if it conflicts with the Bible, it’s wrong; it’s that simple.

Posted on homepage: 13 May 2024

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