Now that you’re aware that women will be able to complete the marathon before men run 100 meters by the year 2064, you might also be interested to hear about this interesting study. Apparently, the only evidence that parachutes reduce the risk of death from falling out of a moving plane is antecdotal, and there are no studies to be found that support this (some would say crazy) assertion! The British Medial Journal has the full repot (thanks Kelli!).
The biggest issue the study’s authors found was that there exists no randomized, controlled trials of parachute use in a clinical setting. Without a double-blind test, wherein some people are given parachutes and some are given placebos (empty packs) and the outcomes are observed, there is no real way to judge the effectiveness of parachute use. Instead all we have is the “healthy cohort” effect, which basically says that correlation does not imply causation — while people who use parachutes might be more likely to survive, that doesn’t necessarily imply that it is parachutes that are stopping death. For instance, most people who jump from planes are non-smokers, and generally are fairly young. These other factors must also be taken into account.
There is also this:
It is often said that doctors are interfering monsters obsessed with disease and power, who will not be satisfied until they control every aspect of our lives (Journal of Social Science, pick a volume). It might be argued that the pressure exerted on individuals to use parachutes is yet another example of a natural, life enhancing experience being turned into a situation of fear and dependency. The widespread use of the parachute may just be another example of doctors’ obsession with disease prevention and their misplaced belief in unproved technology to provide effective protection against occasional adverse events.
Now do you really want to be a slave to the fearmongering of doctors? Is that parachute really necessary? The study also points to a a power “even more evil” then sinister doctors — the parachute industry, which has earned billions of dollars based on the (possibly mistaken) belief that parachutes save lives.
If this all strikes you as a bit odd, then clearly you are a member of the unenlightened masses who doesn’t adequately understnad evidence based medicine. The authors suggest that firm believers in that practice might demonstrate their commitment by participating in a legitimate double-blind clinical trial. I anxiously await their findings.