How far should we trust health reporting?
By BEN GOLDACRE - GUARDIAN.CO.UK
Added: Sun, 19 Jun 2011 14:41:32 UTC
If health-risk information in newspapers is routinely misleading, there are real-world consequences
After years of threats, abuse, complaints with forged documentation, crude attempts at blackmail and more, I can tell you that journalists can be quite sensitive about criticism. But there is one valid objection to this column: that I cherry pick the worst examples to write about.
This, of course, is true. When scientific claims are wrong, they're often interestingly wrong. That makes them a good teaching tool to explain how real science works. But there's also a broader worry. People make real-world health-risk behaviour decisions based on information from newspapers, and if that information is routinely misleading, there are real-world consequences.
So how much reporting, overall, is unreliable? To find out, you'd have to take a systematic and unbiased sample – perhaps a whole week's worth of stories – and then check the evidence behind every claim. This would be an enormous job, but a new paper in the journal Public Understanding of Science does exactly that. I'm in a strange position to be writing about it, since the study was my idea, and I'm one of the authors.
Ben Child - Guardian 37 Comments
Javier Krahe prosecuted for 'offending religious feelings' after 1978 short film was broadcast on Spanish TV
Richard Dawkins - RichardDawkins.net 174 Comments
[Journalists] seem to feel let down when they discover that the real people aren't anything like the way they so relentlessly portray us; as if, since they've gone to the trouble of inventing extravagant caricatures of us, we should at least have the decency to live up to them in real life.
Also in Polish
David Knox - TV tonight - Australia 141 Comments
On Easter Monday night Q & A will host a two-man debate between Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell and outspoken, British atheist Richard Dawkins.
- - BBC Comments
An advertising campaign backed by a Christian group which has been described as anti-gay has been pulled from London buses.
Paula Kirby - Washington Post On Faith 108 Comments
[The God Delusion is] absolutely chock-full of things Richard Dawkins really does believe. Which is handy, because it saves everyone the trouble of making them up.
Amol Rajan - The Independent 39 Comments
Their assault illustrates the extent to which defenders of religion still dominate our press, the brutal retaliation exacted on clever opponents of faith and the incorrigible stupidity of Sayeeda Warsi's claim about "militant secularism" last week.
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Pulling bad science apart is the best teaching gimmick I know for explaining how good science works
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If you have a serious new claim to make, it should go through scientific publication and peer review before you present it to the media