It seems with every passing day, a new “scientific study” makes its way onto everyone’s timelines, making claims like “5 cups of coffee a day is good for you” and “dogs hate to be hugged.” While it’s easy to dismiss many of these findings as malarkey, John Oliver of Last Week Tonight takes on the idea of viral scientific studies and how damaging they actually are to real science.
Because of small testing groups, a lack of fact checking, and the scientists’ hunger for publicity, there is a plethora of studies being conducted and reported on, but very few contain actual merit. Instead of rigorous testing, many “findings” are being pushed out to the public via press release before there has been adequate time and resources used to find any worthwhile and trustworthy conclusions. This leads to contradictory reports and just plain bullsh*t being pushed onto a willing public. For example, coffee. Is it going to heal all your ills or send you to an early grave? Neither! Both! Whichever you want! According to Oliver, “coffee today is like God in the Old Testament. It will either save you or kill you depending on how much you believe in its magic powers.”
Still, in a culture of talk show statistics and TED Talks that do more harm than good, does it really matter? Can’t we just let people keep believing that champagne and chocolate will save them? Of course not. By promoting these sorts of ignorant claims, the importance of real science begins to crumble in the public forums. Oliver explains, “If you start thinking that science is a la carte and if you don’t like it, another study will be along soon, that is what leads people to believe man-made climate change isn’t real. Or that vaccines cause autism — both of which the scientific consensus is pretty clear on.”
(Via Last Week Tonight)