Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 23 April 2011
Last year a mainstream psychology researcher called Daryl Bem published a competent academic paper, in a well respected journal, showing evidence of precognition. Instead of designing new studies to see whether people could consciously tell you about the future, he ran some classic psychology experiments backwards.
Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, 15 April 2011
HM Government have issued a new leaflet to justify their NHS reforms: Working Together For A Stronger NHS. It was produced by Number 10, appears on the Department of Health website, and many of the figures it contains are misleading, out of date, or flatly incorrect.
It begins, like much pseudoscience, with uncontroversial truths: the number of people over 85 will double, and the cost of drugs is rising.
Then the trouble starts. In large letters, alone on one entire page, you see: “If the NHS was performing at truly world-class levels we would save an extra 5,000 lives from cancer every year.” The reference for this is a paper in the British Journal of Cancer called “What if cancer survival in Britain were the same as in Europe: how many deaths are avoidable?” Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 9 April 2011
This week some journalists found a pattern in some data, and ascribed a cause to it. “Recession linked to huge rise in antidepressants” said the Telegraph. “Economic woes fuel dramatic rise in use of antidepressants” said the Daily Mail. “Record numbers of people are being handed antidepressants” said The Express. Even the Guardian joined in, and it seems to have come from a BBC report. Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 2 April 2011
Here are two fun ways that numbers can be distorted for political purposes. Stop me if I’m boring you, but each of them feels oddly poetic, in its ability to smear or stifle.
The first is simple: you can conflate two different things into one number, either to inflate a problem, or confuse it. Last weekend, a few hundred thousand people marched in London against the cuts. On the same day, there was some violent disturbance, windows smashed, policemen injured, and drunkeness. Read the rest of this entry »