Do you still believe what you read in the newspaper?

Setting the record straight on the year’s biggest science reporting flubs at George Mason University.

STATS is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to improving public understanding of science and statistics . Each December STATS issues a list of scientific studies that were mishandled by the media during the preceding year. This year’s “Dubious Data Awards” detailing the worst examples of shoddy science reporting go to:

The topics include obesity, toothpaste chemicals, french fry acrylamide, dazed and confused teens, phthalates amd deformities in male infants, poison popcorn, and methamphetamine.

It is interesting that most of these involve contaminants in the food supply but that may be because that is where a relative safety, as measured by statistics, meets FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) factors. People want to know, for sure, with absolute certainty, about safety. Things we ingest through the mouth, such as food, don’t work that way. Whether it is allergens (peanut allergies, anyone?) or contaminants or spoilage or the chemicals used to prevent spoilage and improve flavor and nutrition, it is a statistical measure that measures risk and benefit.

It is numbers and algebra and mathematical literacy needed to properly understand the measure. This requires effort and education. Then, too, playing the odds is not what people want to do when it comes to life. Those looking to get attention know this and don’t seem to know math much so a result is FUD mongering in the MSM such as highlighted by STATS.

Comments are closed.