In this episode Beth and Kelly dive into SCIENCE! A few weeks ago an article about Astronaut Scott Kelly went viral that inspired us to look further into how fake science is put out as real news. In this case, it was merely a sensational headline that needed further examination to get to the truth, but many times science is used to generate clicks - whether they are based on fear (Scientists Confirm Chocolate Definitely Causes Cancer) or comfort (Scientists Confirm Chocolate Definitely Prevents Cancer).
Let's begin by looking at a TED Talk called Battling Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, a doctor and epidemiologist who writes a weekly column for The Guardian also called Bad Science.
Dr. Goldacre gives a great breakdown of how we should look at scientific studies judiciously. Science has no easy answers, we must look behind the headlines that seem too good to be true, or too crazy to be true. We are meant to look at new data critically, question it and examine it.
Some of these methods are pretty easy for the average fake news finder to use. The first question you should ask is: Is the person writing this a real authority in the field? You can look for publications by the doctor/scientist to see what else they've written - is it all from the same website? Are they published in a peer-reviewed journal, or is it all on naturalnews.com? Does the writer have a real degree in a relevant topic - unlike pseudo-scientists like Food Babe - the computer scientist turned nutrition 'expert'.
Other methods of deduction are likewise easy to follow, but may take a small amount of time. If an article seems questionable, look for the source material. What does the real study say? And how was the study performed? Kelly and Beth discuss how studies need a control group to get a proper results. Also, that control group needs to be provided the best treatment currently available, not a placebo or no treatment at all. Even these methods can be rigged to get the best results for the new medication/treatment, etc. The control group can be given too low or too high a dose and these results are then incredibly suspect.
In one case Beth found that a Brietbart article on climate change looked at 58 different studies - and then presented them with entirely opposite results. Imagine how shocked both Beth and Kelly were to find that this Breitbart article was less than truthful with these results! The Snopes team reached out to some of the scientists behind those 58 studies and they couldn't believe it either. Who can we even trust anymore?!?
One of the most important measures for critical review of science articles is to check your source. Are they downplaying 'big pharma' while selling their own supplements? Are they shilling their own products without caring about the health and wellbeing of the person reading?
Kelly took these methods and used them in practice for this episode. She took a sensational headline from NaturalNews.com and looked into the study and found it was not conducted properly - in this case there was no control group at all - another big no-no. You don't have to look far to find the lie in this instance, and these handful of tips should help even the casual news reader identify fake science news.
Beth's Jam of the Week, Dirty Paws by Of Monsters and Men
Spread jam, not lies.