Ben Goldacre, Saturday 8 August 2009, The Guardian.
Much of what we cover in this column revolves around the idea of a “systematic review”, where the literature is surveyed methodically, following a predetermined protocol, to find all the evidence on a given question. As we saw last week, for example, the Soil Association would rather have the freedom to selectively reference only research which supports their case, rather than the totality of the evidence.
Two disturbing news stories demonstrate how this rejection of best practice can also cut to the core of academia.
Apologies for the exegesis, but I would like to formally introduce this piece as what I hope is my first unambiguous abuse of my position as a “columnist”. I had an acquaintance – the partner of a cherished ex-girlfriend – die in tragic circumstances (not suicide, as it happens) and the details were pored over hideously and unnecessarily by the media for no reason other than prurience and a desire to make a spectacle of someone else’s pain. The media have made it quite clear that they cannot be trusted to report sensibly on coroners’ inquests, and so they have made it quite clear that they should be expelled from them. Read the rest of this entry »
I was on newsnight a second ago, debating the rather indulgent claims of Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield and Dr Aric Sigman about Facebook and Twitter. It’s 40 minutes in to the show, which can be seen here as a wmv/rm file or here on iPlayer or here:
Saturday 10 January 2009
Obviously by now you can interpolate my views on detox: meaningless, symbolic, gimmicky shortlived health gestures with a built-in expiry date, when we could be reading about the NHS’s surprisingly useful website to help you stop smoking (do it now: smokefree.nhs.uk/), or lifestyle pieces on the joys of buying a bike, and making a genuine move to integrate exercise into your daily life for the long term. I’m not trying to bore you. But after a few months of concentrating on dodgy reporting in the media, I had genuinely forgotten how far out a proper fruitcake can get.
It is with deep regret that I must alert you to a frightening decline in the quality of maths in reports complaining about the frightening decline in the quality of maths in Britain. “The value of mathematics”, by thinktank Reform, has received a huge amount of flattering media coverage this week in the Times, the Telegraph, and even scored a second puff in the Guardian from Professor Marcus du Sautoy himself. There is less maths around. We suffer economically. People think it’s cool to be bad at sums. These are bad things. Read the rest of this entry »
You’ll find fluoride in tea, beer and fish, which might sound like a balanced diet to you. This week Alan Johnson announced a major new push for putting it in the drinking water, with some very grand promises, and in the face of serious opposition.
General Ripper first developed his theories about environmental poisoning and bodily fluids when he experienced impotence, fatigue, and a pervasive sense of emptiness during the physical act of love. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday October 27 2007
Where do all those numbers in the newspapers come from? Here’s a funny thing. The Commons committee on science and technology is taking evidence on “scientific developments relating to the Abortion Act 1967”.
Scientific and medical expert bodies giving evidence say that survival in births below 24 weeks has not significantly improved since the 1990s, when it was only 10-20%. But one expert, a professor of neonatal medicine, says survival at 22 and 23 weeks has improved. In fact, he says survival rates in this group can be phenomenally high: 42% of children born at 23 weeks at some top specialist centres. He is quoted widely: the Independent, Telegraph, Channel 4, on Newsnight, by Tory MPs, and so on. The figure has a life of its own. Read the rest of this entry »
Paul Broca was a French craniologist who measured brains. He was famous, and his name is given to Broca’s area, the part of the brain involved in generating speech, which is often damaged in strokes. But Broca had a problem: his German brain specimens were 100g heavier than his French ones, and by rights, the French should have been superior. Read the rest of this entry »
This post is only if you’re not bored of the rather trying electrosensitivity lobby. Here is a letter which has popped up all over the interweb, I assume it is genuinely from Dr Carlo, who is hawked about as a rather eminent figure, and not a fake created in an effort to smear him. Read the rest of this entry »