You might be amused by this piece from the Independent’s health reporter Jeremy Laurance today. It’s about what a bad man I am for pointing out when science and health journalists get things wrong. Alongside the lengthy ad hominem – a matter of taste for you – there are a number of mistakes and, more than that, a worrying resistance to the idea that anyone should dare to engage in legitimate criticism. He also explains that health journalists simply can’t be expected to check facts. This worries me. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday December 6 2008
Writing this column only really scares me because I wonder whether everything else in the media is as shamelessly, venally, manipulatively, one-sidedly, selectively reported on as the things I know about. I’m not going to go on about MMR again. But this week the reality editing was truly without comparison. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday November 29 2008
As usual, it’s not Watergate, it’s just slightly irritating. “Down’s births increase in a caring Britain”, said the Times: “More babies are being born with Down’s syndrome as parents feel increasingly that society is a more welcoming place for children with the condition.” That’s beautiful. “More mothers are choosing to keep their babies when diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome” said the Mail. “Parents appear to be more willing to bring a child with Down’s syndrome into the world because British society has become increasingly accepting of the genetic abnormality” said the Independent. “Children’s quality of life is better and acceptance has risen”, said The Mirror. Read the rest of this entry »
There are no difficult ideas in this column. Like, for example, when I tell you about the Daily Telegraph front page headline which says “Abuse of cannabis puts 500 a week in hospital”, and it turns out they’re actually quoting a figure from a report on the number of people having contact with any drug treatment service of any variety. The colossal majority of these, of course, are outpatient appointments for drugs counselling, not hospital admissions. So there are not 500 people a week suddenly being put into hospital by cannabis. But this is not a news story: like their recurring dodgy abortion figures, it is the venal moralising of a passing puritan, dressed up in posh numbers.
Similarly, there’s nothing very complicated about a report from CNW Marketing in Oregon, which the Independent’s motoring correspondent has now quoted (twice) in his attempt to demonstrate that Hummers, Jeeps, and various other cars the size of a small caravan are – “in fact” – greener than smaller hybrid cars like the Prius. Because readers love a quirky paradox.
CNW, a car industry marketing firm, manage to do this by making calculations over the lifetime of a car. They decide that about 90% of the environmental cost of a car’s lifetime environmental impact is from its manufacture and recycling, not the fuel it burns whilst tootling around. This is the polar opposite of all other life-cycle analyses. CNW include all kinds of funny things to make their numbers work, like the erosion of the road surface of the people who travel to the car factory.
They also decide, for the purposes of their calculation, that people will keep their giant, cyclist-killing Jeeps for twice as long as their green hybrid cars, and if you think that is a leap of faith, they also decide that Prius drivers will travel about half as many miles a year as Jeep drivers.
This may be true if you observe the behaviour of people who choose to buy these cars. But it’s hard to see how it is a factor for anyone making a new purchasing decision, since you’re probably going to drive as much as you’re going to drive, and buying a 4×4 is not suddenly going to turn you overnight into a chubby, middle-class parent driving your children 400 yards to school. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m in a dash, but I thought you deserved these two brave rebuttals of the peripheral criticisms that the ubiquitous electromagnetic radiation scaremongers have received. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday June 2, 2007
The Independent has put its green columnist Julia Stephenson on to Panorama’s Wi-Fi scare story: a charming green party candidate and beef heiress living in Chelsea on a trust fund, who believes her symptoms of tiredness and headache are caused by electromagnetic radiation from phones and Wi-Fi.
Read the rest of this entry »
This is genuinely fascinating: from the article in today’s Independent, electrosensitivity now seems to be growing into an explicitly alternative diagnosis, to go with alternative therapies. For this article your Bad Science Bingo high scorers are: q-link, homeopathy, misrepresenting Sweden, and ignoring the provocation studies.
My war on electrosmog: Julia Stephenson sets out to clear the airwaves Read the rest of this entry »
And some of you have been quoted. Nice. If any of you are here from the Evening Standard looking for more on the Brainiac fake experiments nonsense then click here (or, er, buy the Guardian):
There’s lots of other quackbusting action on the site, listed by topic down the right hand side of the page, and there’s much more on the Brainiac fake experiments thing in tomorrow’s Bad Science column which I’ll Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday February 25, 2006
Okay, here’s an idea: let’s see if we can gather experimental evidence to assess our prejudices. First up, prejudice number one. “Sometimes you see beautiful people with no brains. Sometimes you have ugly people who are intelligent, like scientists. Our pitch is Read the rest of this entry »