The Story of the Man Who Argued with an Expert

thursday-blogsLast night I attended a free lecture that was given by a local scientist who has dedicated a few decades of his life to studying Alzheimer’s disease.

The lecture itself was excellent. A distant relative of mine had this disease at a time when there were no treatments for it at all. We helplessly watched her fade away over the course of many years, so it was wonderful to hear that families who are dealing with this diagnosis  in 2016 actually have a few drugs and other treatments to slow down the progression of it.

There is even an experimental surgical treatment now that has reversed some of the brain damage in a few patients.

The most surprising thing about this lecture, though, was that it was interrupted every five minutes by a man who said things like:

“Well, I don’t believe that study,” when the presenter showed us a graph indicating that the percentage of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s has been slowly dropping over the years as the general health of the population has improved.

“People get this disease because they eat too much sugary, GMO food.”

“But how do you know for sure that the plaques in the brain aren’t the body’s way of fighting off germs? Maybe Alzheimer’s is nothing but an over-reaction to bacteria!”

There were times when I had to stare at the floor and gently bite my bottom lip to avoid a fit of giggles. No, I wasn’t laughing at the man himself. He obviously wasn’t good at picking up on social cues, understanding how the scientific process works, or engaging in a logical, two-way conversation.

I had empathy for him even while wishing that he’d stop interrupting so that the speaker could go back to explaining how boosting acetylcholine levels has been shown to have a mildly positive effect on people who have this disease. It isn’t a cure, but it is a small piece of the puzzle. I would have loved to hear more about it.

Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on how you look at it –  the whole situation felt like we’d all slid into the opening scene of a bad science fiction novel where an ordinary person fiddles around in their basement on the weekends until they develop a cure for a disease that baffles scientists. Little did that person realize, though, that the cure was far worse than the disease itself.

The writerly portion of my brain was churning out ideas like a fiend. Would the scientist who was so rudely interrupted in the opening scene turn out to be the person who saved the world after the protagonist messed everything up? That would sure be a refreshing twist on how these tales usually go.

When was the last time that your imagination was sparked by something unusual around you?

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