What eight years of writing the Bad Science column have taught me | Ben Goldacre
Pulling bad science apart is the best teaching gimmick I know for explaining how good science works
Alternative therapists don't kill many people, but they do make a great teaching tool for the basics of evidence-based medicine, because their efforts to distort science are so extreme. When they pervert the activities of people who should know better – medicines regulators, or universities – it throws sharp relief onto the role of science and evidence in culture. Characters from this community who wonder why people keep writing about them should look at their libel cases and their awesomely bad behaviour under fire. You are a comedy factory. Don't go changing.Continue reading...
DIY statistical analysis: experience the thrill of touching real data | Ben Goldacre
The story of one man's efforts to re-analyse the stats behind a BBC report on bowel cancer is a heartwarmingly nerdy one
The BBC has found a story: "'Threefold variation' in UK bowel cancer rates". The average death rate across the UK from bowel cancer is 17.9 per 100,000 people, but in some places it's as low as 9, and in some places it's as high as 30. What can be causing this?
Journalists tend to find imaginary patterns in statistical noise, which we've covered many times before. But this case is particularly silly, as you will see, and it has a heartwarming, nerdy twist.Continue reading...
Serious claims belong in a serious scientific paper | Ben Goldacre
If you have a serious new claim to make, it should go through scientific publication and peer review before you present it to the media
This week Baroness Susan Greenfield, professor of pharmacology at Oxford reportedly announced that computer games could cause dementia in children. This would be very concerning scientific information. But this comes from the opening of a new wing of an expensive boarding school, not an academic conference. Then a spokesperson told a gaming site that's not what she means. Though they didn't say what she does mean.
Two months ago the same professor linked internet use with rising autism diagnoses (not for the first time), then pulled back when autism charities and an Oxford professor of psychology raised concerns. Similar claims go back a long way. They seem changeable, but serious.Continue reading...