Deconstructing Sir Professor Collins of Statinshire

Many have written about Rory Collins, the man who would have pretty much all of us take statins. He has received even more publicity after his extraordinary outbursts against those who would question this “give statins to all” prescription. His interventions include attempting to over-reach the BMA’s editorial process, demonising those who disagree with him as “killers” and refusing to deal plainly with his manifest conflicts of interest. The fact that his lab is largely funded by the very drugs companies whose pills he works hard to exculpate had to be dragged out of him.
So what is one to make of the man? I considered it in some comment responses I made to other blogs. I distill those responses into the posting here:

Sir Professor Collins is inescapably corrupted. This is not to say that he wilfully and mendaciously manipulates facts and data, nor that he takes bribes, nor any other such gross malfeasance. Indeed, were he this caricature, twiddling his moustaches and cackling manically, he’d be simpler to deal with. The complexity of the truth makes it much *worse* to deal with.

He is corrupted not by any venal, simple sociopathy, easily detected and flushed out, but via deep enculturation. And that systemic infection is much, much harder to expose and disinfect than a single bad apple in an otherwise fresh barrel. He floats in a malignant meme-pool, and it’s not surprising that his whole worldview, his perception of truth and his opinions of those who dare disagree, be discoloured by that murky meme-pool. The pool in question is filled with a number of dark, unprobed, a-priori assumptions, all of which conveniently and “coincidentally” bolster the pharmaco-industrial status quo. Some of these memes derive directly and obviously from his funding sources. After all, they expect a return on their 300 million investment. Other assumptions derive from subtler patriarchal privileges. And a more innocent remnant can be seen as a genuine, if metastasised, desire to defend Enlightenment values against barbarism and dark superstition.

So, it’s not surprising that a man who has spent his whole life literally institutionalised should react like this to those who question both him and the very bases of his institution. Indeed, to try to separate man from institution in this instance is hopeless: it’s like asking “what is the cell – the mitochondrion or the nucleus”? So, he barks angrily not only out of anger, but incomprehension. An attack on his institution is an attack on him. And vice versa. Towered-ivory myopia is a wondrous malaise. His institution prizes a reductionist world-view, distilled into the “sell-a-pill” sine-qua-non notion of medicine so familiar to us all. Any deviation from this word-view, to Sir Professor, is a suspicious deviancy by Dark-Age infective agents. And when a whippersnapper cheekily demands to see the data his paymasters have hidden, safe for his anointed eyes only, he can only interpret such a request as impudence.

Furthermore, his institutions and those in its orbit prize hierarchies and status beyond mere coin. The members of those institutions are keen gatekeepers to “proper” knowledge, to status, and to their own more primal self-interests equally. And so they guard those gates as vehemently as any doberman.

Unfortunately for Sir Professor, the proliferation of the Internet has empowered independent researchers competently to partake in scientific analysis beyond those gates, despite the best intents of the gate keepers. This means that he must suffer impudent little barbarians – like you and me and everyone else here – who nip at his mighty heels and defy his haughty edicts, no matter how loudly he barks back. It must be very confusing for him, suddenly to have his citation-circle intruded upon by such “unwelcome externalities”.

It almost makes one feel sorry for the old dog. Until one remembers, again, the 300 mil or so his organisation pockets from organised crime*

* Before Sir Professor should sue in outrage at my painting his paymasters thus, he should note that I’m merely quoting a founder of the Cochrane Collaboration for evidence-based medicine, Peter Gøtzsche!

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