There’s a lot of mindless blather in the media about scientific studies on health that purport to say this or that about something or other – much of it confusing, contradictory, and/or outright wrong.
While a lot is just sloppy journalism, there’s quite a bit that can be attributed to bias; physicians and/or researchers on the payroll of a specific company or industry conduct and/or report on research that is favorable to their financial supporter. Roy Poses and Gary Schwitzer have been two of the most prominent voices focused on this issue, and both have done exemplary work not only identifying individual examples of biased “research” but in calling for a higher standard of reporting by all members of the media.
I was at a discussion the other day about science and the media. Some scientists and some journalists were there. As a scientist, talking to other researchers was a bit of an echo chamber – everyone had very similar comments, mostly negative, about the media coverage of science.
Originally published 1/11/11 on The Doctor Weighs In
I have been watching the awful news from Arizona with a mixture of sadness and anger. This obscure (until last Saturday) representative from Tucson was gunned down while meeting with constituents. This brave woman was there performing her constitutional duties despite being targeted by the extremist nuts with threatening phone calls, with suggestive cross –hairs graphics, with vandalism against her office, with explicit threats to her life. The instinctive reaction throughout the country was revulsion at the political vitriol, the coarsening of our discourse, the ready resort, both rhetorically and physically, to violence. And the punditry’s reaction? From the right wing, Rush Limbaugh saw yet another conspiracy by the Democrats to suppress free speech. From the centrist punditry, an admonition that no correlation has been shown between hate speech and physical violence. And from the medical community –a deafening silence. Presumably because there is no data to suggest that rhetoric can affect unstable minds. Or is it because we are simply cowed by the torrent of vitriolic contempt that is sure to be unleashed if we spoke up? Is there really no evidence to support the relationship between verbal and physical violence? Is there really no relationship between the delusions of what is called in the argot de jour “deranged mind” and the social environment?