A TED Talk : Battling bad science

I know this seems like an odd story for an Agvocation site. This talk by Ben addresses the fact that every day there are news reports of new health advice, but how can you know if they’re right?

I think that the reality of science (whether it is medicine – as is the topic in case for this video – or Agriculture as is the topic of interest for most of us) is that it is beginning to lose face in the public spotlight not because science is flawed – but because the reporting of science is flawed, twisted and spun to meet the needs of corporations and agendas.

This talk is worth watching for both the view of medical science by a doctor and for “unpicking dodgy claims, unpicking the evidence behind dodgy claims, isn’t a kind of nasty carping activity; it’s socially useful, but it’s also an extremely valuable explanatory tool. Because real science is all about critically appraising the evidence for somebody else’s position. That’s what happens in academic journals. That’s what happens at academic conferences. The Q&A session after a post-op presents data is often a blood bath. And nobody minds that. We actively welcome it. It’s like a consenting intellectual S&M activity.

As Ben concludes in his talk, “We cannot make decisions in the absence of all of the information. […] But I would say this: I think that sunlight is the best disinfectant. All of these things are happening in plain sight, and they’re all protected by a force field of tediousness. And I think, with all of the problems in science, one of the best things that we can do is to lift up the lid, finger around in the mechanics and peer in.

And that is a message I’d like to see taken up in all areas of science and in all areas of Agriculture as well.


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