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Friday, July 27, 2007

What Passes for Scientific Evidence

Too often shoddy statistical studies pass as proof positive in today’s media, and it is beginning to irritate me. How often have you seen the headline “Marijuana Causes Psychotic Episodes” or “Pizza Cures Cancer” or other silly claims? Ok I know that people are going to read this and goes, but I know there are studies demonstrating that people who smoke marijuana are 40% more likely to develop schizophrenia, and that is exactly my point. People take these studies as they first appear and take them as gospel truth, when in fact they are statistical studies passing off as scientific evidence. Statistical study is NOT hard science it is mathematics. People who read both my blogs probably have heard me say this before, particularly in my latest post "Cannabis Increases Chances of Psychosis”, but it is worth repeating, again and again and again until the masses get it.

Studies like this, purporting to prove something based on statistics, are logical fallacies of the highest order. It is post hoc, ergo propter hoc, which is latin for “after this, therefore because of this”, in other words if A happened before B then A must have caused B. Everyone knows that this isn’t true. Just because I wake up every day before I go to work, that does not mean that waking up causes me to go to work. However so many studies being reported by the media these days follows this exact reasoning.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really blame the researchers, it is more the media and how they report it that is to blame. In most cases you can see a caveat that the study admits it does not prove its case, just that it indicates it, however the media glosses that over and focuses on the so-called proof. American media is worse about this then most, they take minor studies which are to be used as indicators for further studies and announce that they are proof positive. The public needs to take more care and call these media companies into check when such crazy reports are made. Stop allowing the media hype to form your opinions people, if the media reports something is bad/good for your health find out why, make sure there is actual evidence of this. Logical fallacies seem more prolific then fact base studies now, be on the watch.

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