Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Part of the Problem Part 3: Consider the Study

Have you ever seen a news story that seems to lack value.  In today's quick news cycle society, they happen all the time.  For that reason, you need to be critical in thought if you are not going to be part of the problem.  I love, for example, the program Mythbusters, but I do not rely on them as in-depth, carefully researched scientists.  Their goal is to blow stuff up.  In other words, they are entertainment using science as applied to professional special effects.  That is, after all, what Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage are: special effects experts in the entertainment industry.

This brings me to another problem that makes it way into the news media at every level.  This is the story that inevitably starts with a sentence like, "A new study shows..." I am not saying that every news story that begins with that line is wrong, but I am saying that not every new study is a good one. We need to wait for the evidence and the study to be duplicated again and again before we know it to be true.  Far too often, what is reported lacks the actual depth that the study may have actually reported or a single study can be just plain wrong or even an out and out lie.

Take, for example, the study to which so many anti-vaccination people point. It is a 1998 study that has not only been retracted but also has been pointed to as an elaborate fraud perpetrated by the doctor who wrote the study.  He has since lost his license to practice medicine. It was discovered he not only made up much of the study but did so to support an autism treatment he was pedaling.  This is not the first time such a study has created a panic.  One of the first, now discredited studies used to describe the terror of GMO's was a French study from 2012.  It too, even though it is still frequently used,  was retracted. One of the leading scientists in climate denial was  caught getting money from big oil companies.  Remember, cigarettes once advertised that they were doctor recommended.

A local news station had an interesting one recently, and I seriously doubt the veracity of the study or at least the way it was reported.  The "sitting study" or SRT first appeared in 2013. The study has actually to do with flexibility of adults.  As reported by the station though it was being used to predict longevity simply by sitting and standing without using your hands or knees to rise up.  What they fail to point out is this test works only if you're able bodied. If I were to go by the news report, I should be dead.  I haven't been able to lift myself without pushing up with my hands since I was a teen, and it has become worse for me as I grew older.  I tore the ligaments in my right knee and suffered from severe Schlatter's Knee on the left as a youth.  Add to this the torn ligament in my right ankle 25 years ago and the intercostal tear from a fall on ice ten or so years ago, I think most people understand why I don't just bounce up from a sitting position on the floor.  The video news story lacks the depth of the actual SRT study which considers other factors than just touching the floor and a points system.  A doctor who uses this point system is not using the factors involved in the original study.

So as you post that meme about GMO's or Climate Change or Vaccinations, you might want to actually check the science before you become part of the problem.