Category Archives: Evidence

Facebook gives you cancer and infantilises the population. Ahem.

“There is no evidence because it would be hard to prove…” Aduh.

BadScience hero Ben Goldacre and Jeremy Paxman take on Baroness Greenfield, The Daily Mail (always a good target) and Aric Sigman in this interview from Newsnight. For a bit of background this is all a response to this story from the Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1149207/How-using-Facebook-raise-risk-cancer.html

If you’re in my class, the page you need to comment on is here.

The Daily Mail reports  Sigman is claiming (without any real evidence) that time on the computer takes you away from real people. This makes you isolated and lonely and means you are not producing the right hormones and your genes will act up – potentially leading to cancer, immune problems and impaired mental function. That’s a far reach for a newspaper article to be making, but these kind of shock headlines sell papers, or get more traffic on their website.

In this debate we see the importance of peer-reviewed research before making public claims. We see that correlation does not necessarily imply causality and we see that poor reporting of sensitive issues can lead to gross misunderstandings. If we remember, the Daily Mail was central in the reporting of the MMR vaccine scare.

When you watch this interview and read the article, can you think of responses to these questions?

– Are there parts of Sigman and Greenfield’s claims that might sound plausible?

– What kind of evidence would you want to see to support these claims?

– What is the significance of Goldacre’s comment “… you can make anything look dangerous if you are selective in which evidence you quote” ?

– Sigman makes a comment “The paper weas supposed to be a one-sided provocative feature article for The Biologist to make people think more carefully about where society is going.” How does he feel about the media attention that his words have attracted outside this publication?

– Central to Sigman’s claims were that internet use increases social isolation. He had no peer-reviewed work after 1998 to support this, yet Goldacre pointed out all these references that suggest otherwise.

– Sigman tries to re-state ‘social networking’ as a phrase meant for real-life interactions between people rather than internet-based interactions. How has his interpretation of the term led to confusion in the wider public? Who do you think is responsible for this confusion and how could it be rectified?

– Sigman tries to distance himself from the headlines and the conjectures of Greenfield and returns to his concern that internet use is having a direct and negative impact ont the lives of children. Take this opportunity to discuss the benefits and potential negative impacts of the internet with regard to childhood use.

– Goldacre makes a comment that it woudl be bad for research to prioritse what research is done based on the headlines in the newspapers. Do you agree/ disagree? Why?

– How do you think the precautionary principle might relate to the decisions parents make based on this issue?

How would you like to see this story develop? What further research would convince you of the harms or otherwise this debate?

Dawkins on Darwin & Channel 4’s ‘Genius of Darwin’

You can almost feel the Darwin fever as we near the 150th anniversary of the publishing of ‘On the Origin of Species‘. Channel 4 in the UK recently aired this special interview with Dawkisquawks talking about the life and work of Darwin. Their site is very good.

The whole lot has been posted to YouTube, but I doubt it will be there for long, so get on over and save it:

As Dawkins is wont to do, it is very long: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.

Channel 4 is also running a new series called “The Genius of Darwin“, so keep an eye out for that:

Here is episode 1: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5. And here’s the whole thing on GoogleVideo

Here is episode 2: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5. It’s not on GoogleVideo yet.

Episode 3 should be up next week.

I recently made another post about ‘On the Origin…’, so head over there for more links. And if you feel like testing the strength of your bookshelf, I can recommend Dawkins’ newest book, The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing.

Bill Nye takes on Pseudoscience

Thanks to mad.scientist from the TES Boards for digging this up.

Click here for PART 2 and PART 3.

Or you could spend the better part of a weekend watching a whole collection on this YouTube playlist.

Graphjam and Graphical Silliness

Here’s a response to silly graphs on TV news shows (is it Brasseye?)

The Graphjam blog has loads of funny (and not so funny) pop-culture referencing graphs…

… as does the Facebook group “You’re having a graph

Idea: have a stupid graph-making challenge – middle school link with Maths?

Here is Brasseye with Heavy Electricity:

150 years since ‘On the Origin of Species’

Darwin’s theory of natural selection was finally published (and sold-out) in November 1859. The idea had been in his head, and a talking point of others, for years before. We’re still talking about it today.

Here’s a clip from a BBC documentary called Legacy about the impact of Darwin’s ideas:

The Guardian newspaper has a great page devoted to Darwin, including key excerpts from ‘On the Origin of Species…‘ and an article by Richard Dawkins.

You can download the full text of the first edition in pdf format from the University of New South Wales, or read it online at Talk Origins.

Evolution resources from pbs.org

Thanks to bogstandardcomp from the TES Boards for this link. A collection of short films about evolution, breaking it down into discussion-point chunks. Quicktime or RealPlayer videos, but content is protected and can’t be saved – if you decide you like it though, you can buy the set on DVD.

Dawkins vs Homeopathy: The Memory of Water

This is a useful clip form the ‘Enemies of Reason’ series by Richard Dawkins. I know I’ve posted the whole episodes before, but some useful scientist has edited out the section explaining how homeopathy works. Very useful for the TOK statement regarding pseudoscience in the new DP Bio guide (Chemical Elements and Water).

Ali G takes on Kent Hovind

A bit silly, but vintage Ali G baits creationist ‘Dr’ Kent Hovind.

“So, has you ever eaten a banana? Ya? That’s proof!”

(EDIT – changed spelling of Hovind’s name)

Real-Life CSI: Autopsy

Interesting short clip about the job of a medical examiner.

Dawkins: Enemies of Reason (part 2)

Part two of Dawkisquawks getting stuck in. Includes homeopathy and other ‘alternative’ medicine.

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