Monday, May 9, 2016

When Is Science Unscientific?



Watching John Oliver’s New Video Will Give You Cancer... Or Maybe Cure It
“There’s no Nobel Prize for fact-checking.”

The Huffington Post  05/09/2016 Ed Mazza  


Science isn’t bullshit, “but there is a lot of bullshit currently masquerading as science,” John Oliver explained Sunday on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.”

Oliver spent much of the program ripping apart supposedly scientific studies with bizarre conclusions, including studies that are manipulated to create attention-getting results that get “twisted out of proportion and turned into morning-show gossip.”

It’s a technique called P-Hacking.

“There’s no Nobel Prize for fact-checking,” John Oliver said on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.”

As a result, studies on a single topic — like coffee — can be all over the place.

“In just the last few months, we’ve seen studies about coffee that claim it may reverse the effects of liver damage, help prevent colon cancer, decrease the risk of endometrial cancer, and increase the risk of miscarriage,” Oliver said. “Coffee today is like God in the Old Testament: It will either save you or kill you, depending on how much you believe in its magical powers.”

He even came up with a chart the shows how just about everything you eat or drink — including coffee — both causes and cures cancer, at least based on the wide range of studies out there.

“Everything causes cancer is not the conclusion you want to draw from science,” Oliver said. “It’s the conclusion you should draw from logging onto WebMD, where that is their motto.”

So how can we let scientists do real work, while at the same time give the public the attention-getting pseudoscience they just love to talk about?

Oliver has a solution: TODD (Trends, Observations, and Dangerous Drivel) Talks, “where the format of TED Talks meets the intellectual rigor of morning news shows.”

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