The New York Times has a fascinating documentary on the crack cocaine epidemic that gripped the United States in the 1980s. The short of it: The "crack baby" scare that threatened to spawn a generation of damaged children never materialized.
For those of you who may not recall, the mid-1980s were rife with hysteria surrounding cocaine--in particular crack cocaine--and the huge social toll it was taking on the U.S. New and little-understood, crack was associated with all kinds of social ills, including rising crime rates, poverty, and (far more nebulously) the escalating HIV/AIDS crisis. But for a moment, the "crack baby" alarm sounded the loudest--the country and its social system was about to be completely overwhelmed with a generation of babies who, due to prenatal exposure to crack cocaine, would be born with all kinds of mental deficiencies and health problems.
That generation of "crack babies" never emerged. Crack, which was described by some medical doctors as being as devastating to an unborn fetus as heroin, turned out to be less damaging than alcohol (which is far more widely used and carries greater risks for long-term fetal damage). The symptoms early research associated with "crack babies" turned out to be the same as the symptoms for any prematurely born baby.
How did science get it so wrong? The primary study behind the "crack baby" epidemic scare involved just 23 infants--a sample set too small to be meaningful. It also included only infants rather than adults who had been exposed to crack as infants. Later studies conducted on adults who had been prenatally exposed to crack often showed very small changes in their brains rather than the sweeping deficiencies predicted by the science of the time. It's a lesson in what happens when a misreading of the data leads to a publicly accepted narrative, especially one that feeds on society's collective fears about the future. Click through below to watch the mini-doc.
You all at PopSci.com realize that in 30 years you're going to run the exact same story about anthropogenic global warming... Don't you?
@kehvan - Because when there is a 97% consensus in the climate scientist community, they must be wrong.
Normally I would agree that SOME research is shoddy I would encourage you to disprove all the current climate science studies.
Was there a 97% consensus when were were told in the 70s that we were all going to die from the 'Global Cooling' ice age ... or that, in 80s, we only had 10 years left because the oceans were going to die if we didn't do anything?
By the way, it's nothing short of astounding how our sun affects our climate, and the climate on the other planets in our solar system. But it pales in comparison to the levels of arrogance displayed by the media, and their followers.
To write about a old news article of a predication that did not come true or to write current science article that is coming true that effects us ALL.
"...HIV in the United States*
•More than one million people are living with HIV in the U.S.
•One in five living with HIV is unaware of their infection.
•MSM, particularly young, black MSM, are the most severely affected by HIV.
•By race, African Americans face the most severe HIV burden.
The first cases of what would later become known as AIDS were reported in the United States in June of 1981. Since then, 1.7 million people in the U.S. are estimated to have been infected with HIV, including over 619,000 who have already died and approximately 1.2 million (1,178,350) adults and adolescents who were living with HIV infection at the end of 2008, the most recent year for which national prevalence estimates are available. The impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic spans the nation with HIV diagnoses having been reported in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. dependencies, possessions, and associated nations.
CDC estimates that more than one million people are living with HIV in the U.S.. One in five (20%) of those people living with HIV is unaware of their infection.
Despite increases in the total number of people living with HIV in the U.S. in recent years, the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable. However, new infections continue at far too high a level, with approximately 50,000 Americans becoming infected with HIV each year.
More than 17,000 people with AIDS in the U.S. died in 2009 and more than 619,000 people with AIDS in the U.S. have died since the epidemic began. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM)1 are strongly affected and represent the majority of persons who have died...."
Sorry, totally unrelated to the "crack baby" article, but a correction is needed to Wanamingo's "97% consensus in the climate scientist community" comment.
Here's how they came up with 97%:
10,256 surveys were sent. 3,146 responded. The study authors culled that down to 77 scientists based on criteria like what kind, how many, and how recent were their publications in major journals. Of the 77 chosen by the authors as "climate scientists", 75 of them answered "yes" to the 2nd of only 2 questions on the survey. 75 divided by 77 is 97.4%. Here's that question:
"Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?"
Are there really only 77 climate scientists in the worldwide climate scientist community? (90% of the 3,146 respondents were from the U.S.) The authors clearly didn't correct for self-selection bias; in fact they introduced their own. Also, "significant" is a subjective term, not a quantitative one, and "changing mean global temperatures" is fairly nebulous. Even if you think human activity causes temperatures to go down, you would answer "yes" to the question.
So there you go, for the global warming faithful, 75 people is "97% of climate scientists."
More likely that those children are indeed less than what they could have become. They tended to be born premature. Hospitals learned many new techniques to help premature babies during this time.
We will still not be able to fully diagnose the long term effect to those children of crack users. Maybe if there were a large study and it took into account generations of these children it might show the full effect. Sadly crack users were never very healthy and simple things like folic acid were depleted or never ingested by those users.
The topic is still true, crack users should know that their drug use and lack of health will damage their children and grandchildren.
Why do so many people who don't believe in science follow a science website? There's no way in hell I'd ever follow a "man walks on water" website. Or a "dude gets eaten by whale and lives to talk about it" site.
Holy sh*t I wish they had a god damned forum so we can argue about this.
Questions asked: 2.
Answers given: 0.
Everyone seems to be missing the big picture here.
The government demonized "crack." Ostracizing addicts everywhere, and instead of giving them treatment and psychological help, we threw them in jail. Using them as examples to demonize certain "drugs" that were supposedly destroying our society.
It didn't matter that H. Sapiens have been using these drugs since they first chewed on the leaves thousands of years ago. It didn't matter that what little independent research was done into these "drugs" said that, "In Moderation", they can lead to a productive and healthy lifestyle.
What did matter was the bottom line, the governments pocket book. So they fabricated evidence to support their demonization campaign.
The Propaganda machine was made during the world wars, and now was put to full force; leading a war weary and terrorized population around by the nose. With the threat of cold war it was easy to issue commands to a frightened populace, and have them blindly follow. (And no I'm not making any correlations to current times. Not enough room for one thing.)
Somehow the people were duped into believing that plants you can grow at home; "when used in Moderation", are deadly and destroy society itself. Instead they are tricked into believing that the chemicals cooked up in the lab, "Proscription Drugs," DRUGS that come with long laundry lists of life threatening side effects, ya those are the "Healthy" choice.
Hypocrites turn your blind eye as you reach for that nightcap. Blindly believe the morning news paper as you sip on that java. Have you had your morning cigarette yet?
Why delve into the real psychological issues that underpin society? Why try and provide mental help to someone seeking blissful escape through the use of mind altering drugs?
The sheep blindly believe the BS of the past, and yet never bother to look at any, unbiased, peer reviewed, research.
The sheer ignorance astounds me.
But hey, anything to keep funneling untold amounts into a prohibition that is a proven failure. Why would we spend less over all to give addicts the help they Desperately need? Its far more profitable to incarcerate innocent people, destroying their lives and the lives of their families. All to build another privately owned prison, and profit off the ignorance of the masses.
mjsd555, you rhetorically ask why people "who don't believe in science" follow a science website. I love science, which is why I frequently browse PopSci even though I sometimes think the articles are wrong or biased. A different interpretation of evidence isn't the same as "not believing in science". I don't believe in "global warming", but I *do* agree that given the global population, we certainly have a significant effect on climates (positive or negative). Ignoring the effects of our actions is virtually guaranteed to end poorly.
However, the "global warming" narrative implies a single uniform problem, and a narrowly defined culprit. The truth is climate is affected by many factors. It changes over time with or without our help. Instead of political science, we could use global collaboration and intuition to improve regional climates (and collectively the "global" climate).
Selectively label those who decry "global warming" as "not scientists" and it follows that "all scientists agree". Unfortunately, PopSci writers are often pretentious & condescending about their side's presumed monopoly on "true science". That biased approach isn't science and clearly influences which studies they accept, which sources they tout, who writes for their magazine, etc. The consistent flood of opposing comments is evidence that not every scientifically minded person agrees with "global warming". Consensus is often self sustaining, and it certainly doesn't determine the truth.