John Oliver and I don’t agree on everything, like vaccines and about ten other things that immediately come to mind, but I like his show. I think it makes a huge, positive impact in the world. This week’s episode was no exception as John explained the major problems with scientific studies and summed them up by saying, “There is a lot of bullshit currently masquerading as science.”
I don’t give any credence to scientific studies myself unless I’ve had time to read and understand them, which can be surprisingly difficult and time-consuming. But reading the actual study is the first essential step because the version you hear from mainstream media may not even resemble the original study or its findings.
Take the chocolate study John speaks of in this episode, for instance.
This small study compared the effects of high versus low flavonoid chocolate consumption during pregnancy. The study concluded that there was no significant difference in the rate of preeclampsia between the two groups. There was nothing interesting about this conclusion, or the study for that matter. But to gain attention, the press release written for the study was titled, “The Benefits of Chocolate During Pregnancy.”
Mainstream media further skewed the message as they reported, “Turns out, if you’re pregnant, eating 30 grams a day of chocolate, that’s about 2/3 of a chocolate bar, not the whole chocolate bar, could improve blood flow to the placenta and benefit the growth and development of your baby, especially in women at risk for preeclampsia or high blood pressure.”
This is not at all what the study was about or what it concluded. The news report was pure misinformation the viewer was supposed to believe because it was “science.” And of course, as is usually the case, the miss-information was skewed to benefit advertisers and other interest groups who control the media.
Years ago a headline like that may have caught my attention, but now I would see it for what it is – a vague fluff piece, mainstream junk media.
Today, if I was interested in the subject, I’d track down the original study even though I might have to pay for it and I would read several other studies about the subject as well. I would look for answers like whether or not the study sample was large enough, whether proper scientific standards were met, such as a double blind or a control group. I would never accept media’s version, any more than I would accept the conclusion of a poorly structured or executed study.
Unfortunately, John Oliver is himself a victim of the media’s distortion. His statement that science has proven vaccines do not cause autism shows that he is not aware that the pharmaceutical companies conducted those studies and that he, himself, has not looked into the actual research. On the other hand, he shouldn’t have to. No one has the time to research everything, not the right way. This is what makes people like Paul Offit so disturbing. He has actually done the research. He knows better, and he chooses money over truth and integrity.
We live in an interesting time. We are seeing a huge shift in mainstream’s awareness of the risks with vaccines, antibacterial soaps, prescription drugs, genetically modified foods, refined foods, pesticides, herbicides, WIFI, cellular, and the chemicals in our home and bath products. This is a time when the words, “A new study shows…” hold little to no meaning.
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