14 Major Scientific Claims from the ’70s That Have Since Been Debunked

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Many scientific theories which were once celebrated have been debunked due to flaws and further research. Scientific claims during the 1970s were supported by analysis and evidence. However, today, as science has advanced, these claims have been challenged and proven wrong. Here are 14 such claims from the 1970s that have been debunked.

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Global Cooling

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We have all heard about global warming and the excessive climate change it brings, but global cooling was widely prevalent in the 1970s. Scientists, including Lowell Ponte and Reid Bryson, advocated that an ice age was possible due to factors like aerosol pollution blocking the sun. However, after subsequent research, it was clear that no such event would occur because of the warm greenhouse gases.

DDT Safety

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DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) was a pesticide invented in the 1940s and used widely until the mid-70s. It was touted as safe, but Rachel Carson extensively documented the harmful effects of pesticides in her book Silent Spring. The book sheds light on how bioaccumulation in ecosystems degrades, kills the bird population, and causes cancer in humans.

Sugar Causes Hyperactivity

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The notion that sugar makes children hyperactive gained momentum in the 1970s and raised a lot of concern. The observations were first noted with the help of the Feingold diet, which advocated eliminating sugar completely. While sugar is harmful to the body, double-blind placebo-controlled studies found no such link between sugar and hyperactivity. A balanced diet is crucial, but consuming sugary substances in moderate amounts does no harm.

Saturn’s Rings

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In the 1970s, there was a misconception that the rings around Saturn were relatively young and formed by the gravitational disruption of a moon or comet. However, research by James Elliot proved that Saturn’s rings are ancient and most likely formed during the beginning of the Solar System. This reshaped our understanding of the planetary ring and debunked previous claims.

Artificial Sweeteners Cause Cancer

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In the 1970s, research on saccharin, an artificial sweetener, said that high doses can cause cancer. This led to a temporary ban on the sweetener until the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) carried out larger research. They reevaluated the claims and released their hypothesis, which proved that these sweeteners are not detrimental and are safe for consumption in moderate amounts.

No Oil By 2000

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Statistics and research estimated that the world would run out of oil by 2000. This was a major concern as the global oil reserves were finite, fueled by the increasing demand for oil. However, new oil sites in Alaska and the North Sea debunked these claims. Moreover, the collapse of the Soviet Union also brought in more oil.

Polyunsaturated Fats are Healthy

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This misconception began in the 1960s and evolved into the 1970s when polyunsaturated fats were demonized and accused of causing heart disease. In investigating this claim, research found that not all polyunsaturated fats are equal and have two types: Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids. These are not entirely criminal and are not as detrimental to the heart and increasing cholesterol levels.

Memory is Like a Tape Recorder

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The understanding of memory has undergone significant changes. In the 1960s and 1970s, people believed it was similar to a tape recorder. This flawed analogy was debunked when research proved that memory is reconstructed rather than replayed. Our current actions influence our memories from the past.

Tobacco has no harmful effects.

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Nowadays, the war against tobacco is in full swing, and the harmful effects of it are advertised everywhere. Back in the 1970s, reports and articles claimed that there were no harmful effects of smoking, promoting it as a remedy for the throat. The landmark Surgeon General’s report, which was launched in 1982, made the world aware of the deadly consequences of tobacco that eventually lead to cancer.

Continental Drift

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Alfred Wegener proposed the theory of continental drift in 1912 and continued to develop it until the 1970s. It suggested that all the continents were once connected and had since drifted apart. However, theories such as the Plate Tectonic Theory give a better and more scientific explanation, claiming that these large plates have been moving gradually since about 3.4 billion years ago.

Life on Mars

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Two missions—Viking 1 and Viking 2—were carried out in the 1970s to prove that there was life on Mars. Upon landing, various experiments were performed, and some results suggested that microbial life might be present. However, in present times, the Viking data has been reinterpreted, and the evidence has been debunked for what might have resulted from inorganic chemical reactions.

Vitamin C Can Cure Everything

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A central scientific claim that gained widespread attention during the 1970s was the belief that vitamin C is a cure-all. This belief was advocated by Linus Pauling, a two-time Nobel prize winner in chemistry, who claimed that megadoses of vitamin C would even cure cancer. Modern research has debunked this claim, stating that it can only cure a common cold, and megadoses can be very harmful, leading to side effects like diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps.

Expanding Earth

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A group of geologists in the 1970s claimed that the earth was expanding, and they supported their hypothesis with proof of the continents’ drifting part. However, the theory of plate tectonics debunks such geological claims and explains the movement of continents through the movement of lithospheric plates. Other evidence, such as the seafloor spreading and subduction, also support the plate tectonic theory.

Venus’ Temperature

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Until the 1970s, scientists believed Venus’s surface temperature was cool due to its high albedo, suggesting thick cloud cover blocking the sun. NASA’s Venus mission in the late 1970s debunked this claim and established that Venus’s average temperature was around 460°C(860°F), hot enough to melt lead. Further research, such as the Magellan spacecraft, confirmed these claims and elaborated upon NASA’s findings.

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