“Uno studio dice che…”

How the Media Promote the Public Misunderstanding of Science – Bad Science by Ben Goldacre

I giornali promuovono attivamente da sempre la non comprensione della scienza.

Chissà perché c’è una mania isterica per alcuni argomenti, sempre quelle…

… the seductive march to medicalise everyday life; the fantasies about pills, mainstream and quack; and the ludicrous health claims about food, where journalists are every bit as guilty as nutritionists…

Congettura: chi scrive sa poco di cio’ di cui parla…

… My basic hypothesis is this: the people who run the media are humanities graduates with little understanding of science, who wear their ignorance as a badge of honour….

Per finire sul giornale la tua ricerca deve essere: o stravagante, o rivoluzionario o deve mettere paura…

… Science stories generally fall into one of three categories: the wacky stories, the ‘breakthrough’ stories, and the ‘scare’ stories…

Kevin Warwick, per esempio, si è fatto un nome nel settore “stravaganza”, ormai è un vero imprenditore di se stesso…

… At Reading University there is a man called Dr Kevin Warwick, and he has been a fountain of eye-catching stories for some time. He puts a chip from a wireless ID card in his arm, then shows journalists how he can open doors in his department using it. ‘I am a cyborg,’ he announces, ‘a melding of man and machine,’* and the media are duly impressed. A favourite research story from his lab—although it’s never been published in any kind of academic journal, of course—purported to show that watching Richard and Judy improves children’s IQ test performance much more effectively than all kinds of other things you might expect to do so, like, say, some exercise, or drinking some coffee… These stories are empty, wacky filler, masquerading as science…

Ma perché questo genere di “cattiva scienza” finisce sui giornali? Soldi

… They are also there to make money, to promote products, and to fill pages cheaply, with a minimum of journalistic effort….

Il caso di Cliff Arnall

… Dr Cliff Arnall is the king of the equation story, and his recent output includes the formulae for the most miserable day of the year, the happiest day of the year, the perfect long weekend and many, many more. According to the BBC he is ‘Professor Arnall’; usually he is ‘Dr Cliff Arnall of Cardiff University’. In reality he’s a private entrepreneur running confidence-building and stress-management courses, who has done a bit of part-time instructing at Cardiff University. The university’s press office, however, are keen to put him in their monthly media-monitoring success reports. This is how low we have sunk…

Si tratta quasi sempre di ricerche con sponsor abbinato

… These stories are not informative. They are promotional activity masquerading as news…

Servono anche come “riempitivo” all’enorme palla di carta da inchiostrare ogni santo giorno che dio manda in terra. Giornalismo? Nick Davies parla di “Churnalism”.

Lo sapevate, per esempio, che ce l’avremo più grosso? Interessante. E a dirlo non è un pincopalla qualsiasi ma il Dr Oliver Curry, studioso dell’evoluzione umana, che lavora presso il “Darwin@LSE research centre”. Ecco la storia che ci racconta…

… By the year 3000, the average human will be 6½ft tall, have coffee-coloured skin and live for 120 years, new research predicts. And the good news does not end there. Blokes will be chuffed to learn their willies will get bigger—and women’s boobs will become more pert… This was presented as important ‘new research’…

In nome dell’evoluzionismo (basta pronunciare il nome di Darwin) ci beviamo di tutto come fosse chinotto…

… Evolutionary theory is probably one of the top three most important ideas of our time, and it seems a shame to get it wrong. This ridiculous set of claims was covered in every British newspaper as a news story…

Ma perché tanta “scienza cattiva” anche da stimati professori?…

… One thing that fascinates me is this: Dr Curry is a proper academic (although a political theorist, not a scientist). I’m not seeking to rubbish his career. I’m sure he’s done lots of stimulating work, but in all likelihood nothing he will ever do in his profession as a relatively accomplished academic at a leading Russell Group university will ever generate as much media coverage—or have as much cultural penetrance—as this childish, lucrative, fanciful, wrong essay, which explains nothing to anybody. Isn’t life strange?…

Forse la scienza è troppo noiosa, cosicché ci si butta sulla cattiva scienza.

Un’equazione ha stabilito che Jessica Alba ha le tette perfette, lo riferisce con enfasi il Daily Telegraph…

… ‘Jessica Alba, the film actress, has the ultimate sexy strut, according to a team of Cambridge mathematicians.’…

Scava, scava e cosa ci trovi sotto l’ equazione? Sondaggi approssimativi

… Are these stories so bad? They are certainly pointless, and reflect a kind of contempt for science. They are merely PR promotional pieces for the companies which plant them, but it’s telling that they know exactly where newspapers’ weaknesses lie: as we shall see, bogus survey data is a hot ticket in the media…

La scienza sui giornali ama le cure miracolose, la cosa consente di giocare con le nostre paure più recondite. Ad ogni modo la salute domina…

… Over half of all the science coverage in a newspaper is concerned with health, because stories of what will kill or cure us are highly motivating, and in this field the pace of research has changed dramatically, as I have already briefly mentioned…

Cerchiamo di capire meglio la dinamica.

Proiettiamoci nell’era ante-1935: la medicina contava pressoché zero…

… Before 1935 doctors were basically useless…

Poi, una serie di miracoli, fino agli anni settanta…

… barrage of miracles: kidney dialysis machines allowed people to live on despite losing two vital organs. Transplants brought people back from a death sentence. CT scanners could give three-dimensional images of the inside of a living person. Heart surgery rocketed forward. Almost every drug you’ve ever heard of was invented. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (the business with the chest compressions and the electric shocks to bring you back) began in earnest. Let’s not forget polio. The disease paralyses your muscles, and if it affects those of your chest wall, you literally cannot pull air in and out: so you die. Well, reasoned the doctors, polio paralysis often retreats spontaneously…

Infine, di nuovo stagnazione con qualche piccolo miglioramento qua e là: la ricerca sul cancro illustra bene la palude di cui parlo…

… The golden age—mythical and simplistic though that model may be—ended in the 1970s. But medical research did not grind to a halt. Far from it: your chances of dying as a middle-aged man have probably halved over the past thirty years, but this is not because of any single, dramatic, headline-grabbing breakthrough. Medical academic research today moves forward through the gradual emergence of small incremental improvements, in our understanding of drugs, their dangers and benefits, best practice in their prescription, the nerdy refinement of obscure surgical techniques, identification of modest risk factors, and their avoidance through public health programmes (like ‘five-a-day’) which are themselves hard to validate…

Ma i giornali sono ancora assetati di scoperte rivoluzionarie (il piccolo miglioramento non fa notizia)…

… This is the major problem for the media when they try to cover medical academic research these days: you cannot crowbar these small incremental steps—which in the aggregate make a sizeable contribution to health—into the pre-existing ‘miracle-cure-hidden-scare’ template…

E’ il periodo d’oro delle “ricerche non replicabili”…

…There has been a lot of excellent work done, much of it by a Greek academic called John Ioannidis, demonstrating how and why a large amount of brand-new research with unexpected results will subsequently turn out to be false…

La ricerca rivoluzionaria è molto amata, sembrerebbe confutare i saperi acquisiti, il che avvalorerebbe una versione umanistica della scienza…

… This reinforces one of the key humanities graduates’ parodies of science: as well as being irrelevant boffinry, science is temporary, changeable, constantly revising itself, like a transient fad…

***

I giornali non fanno che dirci “la scienza ci dice che…”. E’ la loro formula prediletta per introdurre la grande notizia.

Il problema dei giornali che parlano di scienza è che non mostrano mai la prova scientifica che sta dietro la ricerca di cui fanno finta di parlare. A loro basta la formuletta di cui sopra, danno forse per scontata l’ignoranza di chi legge…

… The biggest problem with science stories is that they routinely contain no scientific evidence at all. Why? Because papers think you won’t understand the ‘science bit’, so all stories involving science must be dumbed down, in a desperate bid to seduce and engage the ignorant…

Si limitano alle conclusioni apodittiche. E così la scienza viene mitizzata anziché compresa…

… you are simply presented with the conclusions of a piece of research, without being told what was measured, how, and what was found—the evidence—then you are simply taking the researchers’ conclusions at face value, and being given no insight into the process…

Il fatto è che parlando con proprietà e precisione le obiezioni fioccherebbero

… Compare the two sentences ‘Research has shown that black children in America tend to perform less well in IQ tests than white children’ and ‘Research has shown that black people are less intelligent than white people.’…

Il diavolo sta nei dettagli, di conseguenza i dettagli vanno evitati.

Non solo: le conclusioni vanno forzate per suonare interessanti…

… Often you cannot trust researchers to come up with a satisfactory conclusion on their results—they might be really excited about one theory—and you need to check their actual experiments to form your own view. This requires that news reports are about published research which can, at least, be read somewhere…

Il caso preclaro della patata OGM

… the unpublished ‘GM potato’ claims of Dr Arpad Pusztai that genetically modified potatoes caused cancer in rats resulted in ‘Frankenstein food’ headlines for a whole year before the research was finally published, and could be read and meaningfully assessed. Contrary to the media speculation, his work did not support the hypothesis that GM is injurious to health (this doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good thing—as we will see later)…

Nel resoconto salta quasi sempre la differenza tra ipotesi formulate ed evidenze raggiunte

… Sometimes it’s clear that the journalists themselves simply don’t understand the unsubtle difference between the evidence and the hypothesis. The Times, for example, covered an experiment which showed that having younger siblings was associated with a lower incidence of multiple sclerosis. MS is caused by the immune system turning on the body…

Lo scienziato è poi  convocato in solitudine e posto su un pulpito per “spiegare”. Normale che la sua parola suoni terribilmente pretesca

… How do the media work around their inability to deliver scientific evidence? Often they use authority figures, the very antithesis of what science is about, as if they were priests, or politicians, or parent figures. ‘Scientists today said… Scientists revealed… Scientists warned’…

Lo scienziato parla tra l’incenso. Oddio, “parla”, più che altro “rivela”.

Quando viene convocata una controparte? Giusto quando il confronto promette di trasformarsi in un match senza esclusione di colpi. Il pubblico non capirà nulla ma di certo apprezza le sberle che volano…

… How do the media work around their inability to deliver scientific evidence? Often they use authority figures, the very antithesis of what science is about, as if they were priests, or politicians, or parent figures. ‘Scientists today said… Scientists revealed… Scientists warned’…

Risultato: la parodia della scienza.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annunci

Rispondi

Inserisci i tuoi dati qui sotto o clicca su un'icona per effettuare l'accesso:

Logo WordPress.com

Stai commentando usando il tuo account WordPress.com. Chiudi sessione / Modifica )

Foto Twitter

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Twitter. Chiudi sessione / Modifica )

Foto di Facebook

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Facebook. Chiudi sessione / Modifica )

Google+ photo

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Google+. Chiudi sessione / Modifica )

Connessione a %s...