Friday, December 23, 2005

Dubious Data

Stats.org has their Dubious Data Awards up. Anyone interested in science in the media would do well to give it a look.

As a scientist, I deeply believe that scientific method is our best hope for solving the problems of mankind, as well as for exploiting opportunities to just make life better. I think a lot of laypeople feel this way, but there are also many who view science with suspicion. This, I think, is good, and frankly, a part of being an informed citizen is figuring out how good your information is. No one claiming expertise or authority to speak, however, deserves a pass. We need to look askance at journalism, too, which is (often unwittingly, but not always) complicit with hucksters and alarmists just as often as it is in cahoots with big business.

Most of the time, it just isn't possible for the average person (or a non-specialist outside his or her field) to evaluate the claims made in news reports about new medicine, or hidden dangers possibly lurking in our water supply or being beamed from our cell phones. Scientific sifting of information is far less likely to occur than exploitation of the info, however misbegotten, by people in politics or fundraising for special interests. Sites like Stats.org, with no particular political axe to grind, are a good resource. We need a set of basic scientific and statistical tools to know how seriously to take the reporting we read. I think I will devote a few posts to this soon.

5 Comments:

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At Monday, April 10, 2006, Blogger Antonio said...

Well done on a nice blog ScienceDave. I was searching for information on parts of a microscope and came across your post Dubious Data - not quite what I was looking for related to parts of a microscope but very interesting all the same!

If you have a moment, why not hop over and take a look at my report on microscopes.

 
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