This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.


← Serious claims belong in a serious scientific paper

Greenforest's Avatar Jump to comment 22 by Greenforest

I think this article by Ben Goldacre is effective because it picks one very strong point--that Dr. Greenfield ought to write up her claims carefully in a scientific paper (i.e., not in informal dramatic comments to the media)--and sticks to it throughout the article without adding any unnecessary requests, accusations, etc. The ball is now squarely in Dr. Greenfield's court to address this one issue, and there is nothing she can legitimately grab onto by way of objection in the article. The request is justified and unassailable. We henceforth should not see Greenfield making over-dramatized comments to the popular media, or any comments, on this topic, until she has made her review, to which she can refer the reporters.

Some of the press of course will then respond by dramatizing her comments in hyperventilating headlines, but at least then, in that case, that won't be Greenfield's fault. However, Greenfield will have to get her rhetoric under control and avoid dramatic casual phrases like "blow the mind."

I'm going to partially disagree with a couple of claims others have raised in this thread and other threads about Greenfield's claims on this topic. I've generalized the claims here.

Claim 1. Greenfield is not a specialist in the neural and cognitive developmental effects of human interaction with screen technologies (or specific aspects of those technologies), therefore she shouldn't be expounding on these topics to the press and general public.

Response: While it certainly would be preferable to have such a specialist commenting on this topic, Greenfield's knowledge/expertise in neuroscience and cognitive neuroscience, which is shown in her scientific publications and in her ongoing scientific research, is sufficiently relevant to this area that she should easily be able to write a solid publication-worthy scientific review of the relevant empirical evidence, develop her own theories about it, and so on--provided that her claims and concerns are supported by the evidence discussed in the review. (One of the misunderstandings here is that because Greenfield is listed as, and indeed is, a pharmacologist, some seem to think pharmacology is an entirely separate area from neuroscience or that the two are mutually exclusive categories of knowledge and expertise. That's not correct.) That said, I agree she should not be expounding to the press until she has produced and published such a careful scientific review.

Claim 2. Greenfield herself ought to conduct or run empirical studies on this topic (see Claim 1) in order to test her claims, otherwise she should stop talking about it or we should ignore her.

Response: Again, it would be preferable that she did this, but it is not necessary for her to have actually carried out a study on the topic. A careful review of the relevant research findings, with sound suggestions and recommendations, would suffice.

That's all I wanted to note. Now with Ben Goldacre's widely-read article, the onus is now clearly on Dr. Greenfield to produce a peer-reviewed scientific paper supporting her claims and concerns.

Mon, 24 Oct 2011 07:47:05 UTC | #883627