Saturday 30 May 2009
Obviously we distrust the media on science: they rewrite commercial press releases from dodgy organisations as if they were health news, they lionise mavericks with poor evidence, and worse. But journalists will often say: what about those scientists with their press releases? Surely we should do something about them, running about, confusing us with their wild ideas? Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday 23 May, 2009
So last week the papers were filled with more quirky, prejudice-affirming, untrue science news. Here is just one. “Man flu: it really does exist, girls” said the Daily Star. “Man flu is not a myth: Female hormones give women stronger immune systems” said the Daily Mail. The Daily Telegraph palmed this fantastical assertion off onto “scientists”, saying: “Men succumb to manflu because women have stronger immune systems, claim scientists”. “Women ‘fight off disease better’” said the BBC.
Now, before we get to the details, here is a question: Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been asked to facilitate a couple of sessions with some civil servant types from various countries in the developing world who advise their governments on science, and particularly on the science informing policy and purchasing decisions. The idea is to focus on how people might try and mislead you with science, and the range of scientific background and understanding in this group will be pretty wide, as it always is with civil servants. Since I’ve noticed a recurring theme for readers of this blog to be a bit cleverer than me (albeit less dogged and obsessive) I was hoping you might have some ideas about the kinds of areas to cover, the themes that are relevant, and the kind of structure to use. Read the rest of this entry »
Edit midday Saturday: I’ve just read the Guardian version and it’s been cut a bit, whole chunks missing, and bits rewritten. This is the best reason to have a blog. Anyway, if Baroness Greenfield responds – and naturally I hope she will, as there is a great deal more to say on this topic – I hope she will respond to what I actually wrote, below.
Saturday 16 May 2009
You will be familiar with the work of Professor Baroness Susan Greenfield. She is head of the Royal
Institute Institution of Great Britain, where she has charged herself with promoting the public’s understanding of science, of what it means for there to be evidence for a given proposition. This is important work.
You will also doubtless be aware of her more prominent activity on the many terrifying risks of computers, exemplified in the Daily Mail headline “Social websites harm children’s brains: Chilling warning to parents from top neuroscientist”, “Computers could be fuelling obesity crisis, says Baroness Susan Greenfield” in the Telegraph, “Do you have Facebook flab? Computer use could make you eat too much, warns professor” in the Mail again, Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday 8 May 2009
In Australia a fascinating court case has been playing out around some people who had heart attacks after taking the Merck drug Vioxx. This medication turned out to increase the risk of heart attacks in people taking it, although that finding was arguably buried in their research, and Merck have paid out more than £2bn to 44,000 people in America, although they deny any fault. British users of the drug have had their application for legal aid rejected, incidentally: health minister Ivan Lewis promised to help them, but FOI documents obtained by The Guardian last week showed that within hours, Merck launched an expensive lobbying effort that convinced him to back off.
Read the rest of this entry »
Hi there. I’m going to write 800 words on the British Chiropractic Association suing Simon Singh, and the early adjudication on meanings. I’m assuming the Guardian don’t want it, since they apologised over the original piece (let me know if you do, natch, wld love to). If you are some kind of editor, and you want to print it on paper, let me know, or I’ll give it to Padraig at Index on Censorship, who I love, but they are a bit little, and this issue deserves a wide readership as well.
I will say things like:
Read the rest of this entry »
By-the-by I don’t really understand why the Guardian subs gave this piece, about how Tamiflu isn’t so great, a headline saying “the drugs do work”. I mean they kind of do work a bit, and we don’t know if they do in a pandemic since they’ve not been tested in those circumstances (which probably won’t come to pass) but we hope they will and so they’re recommended.
Saturday 2 May 2009
Look I don’t want to freak you out, since Tamiflu is the one thing which everyone believes will save us from Parmageddon, but I’ve been reading through the published trial data on the drug, and I’m not sure it’s all that great. Read the rest of this entry »