Friday, July 6, 2018


Beware those scientific studies -- most are wrong, researcher warns. By Ivan Couronne
Excerpt: Washington (AFP) - A few years ago, two researchers took the 50 most-used ingredients in a cook book and studied how many had been linked with a cancer risk or benefit, based on a variety of studies published in scientific journals. The result? Forty out of 50, including salt, flour, parsley and sugar. "Is everything we eat associated with cancer?" the researchers wondered in a 2013 article based on their findings. Their investigation touched on a known but persistent problem in the research world: too few studies have large enough samples to support generalized conclusions. (In true science, a reasonably qualified person or team undertakes to examine some topic, and they do so with no strong preconception of what the conclusions will be, and with full focus on a careful examination of all the variables they can find relating to it. In modern times this also means understanding proper use of statistical methods, which has a great deal to do with how data are gathered, and how much data. In any investigation of processes that affect living beings, especially humans, the question of sample size and selection is absolutely critical. And lastly, all really rigorous researchers should make their full data publicly available, not just a summary discussion of what they did and the conclusions they reached. In true science the data are always made available for others to examine and analyze. Doing really solid research then means there is really only one way to do it right.; but there are all kinds of ways to do it sloppily, improperly, and subject to all kinds of bias on the part of those doing it. Bias can be having a conclusion in mind at the start that they consciously or unconsciously desire to prove, or bias can simply be the desire to publish something for the sake of getting published as a professional activity. There are myriad examples of both kinds of bias, of manipulation of data, of limited and/or nonrandom sampling, and even of consciously dishonest research for financial gain. It's a sad, disappointing, and sometimes dangerous thing for so much of what's represented as science to be badly flawed and misleading. Thus everyone must be careful if not downright skeptical about all the "scientific studies" that come along. Often it takes a lot of time for the reality to reveal itself. BTW, a lot of this applies to things like polls and books on history too! --Del)

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