“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?
Here we go, Standard Level and Higher Level in one big post:
Here’s the core, for everyone:
Antibiotic action from HHMI
Antibiotic resistance from Sumanas
Interferon, an antiviral medication from the University of Illinois
Simple animation from ccbmd.edu
Retro-style animation and explanation from CellsAlive.com
More detail (better for HL) from McGraw Hill
HIV & AIDS:
Have a go at the Rediscovering Biology online text and animations
Here’s an in-depth look at the HIV virus from rnceus.com
And a good look at the HIV life cycle from Sumanas
You should really read this article on social and economic impacts of HIV
The resources for HIV out there are prolific, so go find them if you’re still curious!
And to set your mind at ease, the best HIV website: www.avert.org
Additional Higher Level content:
Start off with some of these resources from Bio-Alive.com
Explanation and animation from HowStuffWorks and ADAM
And from the Indiana Haemophilia and Thrombosis Centre
The Specific Immune Response
Great introduction by RM Chute
Here’s a simpe YouTube explanation:
And when you’re through all that, have a go at a Virtual ELISA test from HHMI
You might even feel like a pregnancy test.
Here’s House MD to knock some sense into you:
And on more serious note – the NHS has a very clear website with animations.
Girls might want to know more about the HPV Vaccination and its protection against cervical cancer.
And for more readers and in-depth stuff:
Go for Rediscovering Biology’s Emerging Infectious Diseases online course.
Or find out more about parasitology, check out the Atlas of Parasitology or check out this video: