Poor Reporting and Unfounded Implications

Posted on December 9, 2008  Comments (1)

Correlation is not causation. And reporting of the form, “1 time this happened” and so I report it as though it is some relevant fact, is sad. Take any incident that happened and then state random traits you want to imply there is some relevant link to (blue eyes, red hair, people that watch IT Crowd, people that bought a banana yesterday, tall, overweight, did poorly in math…) and most people will know you are ignorant.

Looking at random data people will find patterns. Sound scientific experimentation is how we learn, not trying to find anything that support our opinions. Statistics don’t lie but ignorant people draw faulty conclusions from data (when they are innumerate – illiteracy with mathematical concepts).

It’s not what the papers say, it’s what they don’t by Ben Goldacre

On Tuesday the Telegraph, the Independent, the Mirror, the Express, the Mail, and the Metro all reported that a coroner was hearing the case of a toddler who died after receiving the MMR vaccine, which the parents blamed for their loss. Toddler ‘died after MMR jab’ (Metro), ‘Healthy’ baby died after MMR jab (Independent), you know the headlines by now.

On Thursday the coroner announced his verdict: the vaccine played no part in this child’s death. So far, of the papers above, only the Telegraph has had the decency to cover the outcome.

Measles cases are rising. Middle class parents are not to blame, even if they do lack rhetorical panache when you try to have a discussion with them about it.

They have been systematically and vigorously misled by the media, the people with access to all the information, who still choose, collectively, between themselves, so robustly that it might almost be a conspiracy, to give you only half the facts.

Science education is important. Even if people do not become scientists, ignorance of scientific thinking is dangerous. The lack of scientific literacy allows scientifically illiterate leaders to make claims that are lacking scientific merit. And results in people making poor choices themselves, due to their ignorance.

Related: Bad Science blog by Ben GoldacreIllusion of Explanatory DepthIllusions – Optical and Otherposts on vaccinesposts on scientific literacy

One Response to “Poor Reporting and Unfounded Implications”

  1. Statistical Errors in Medical Studies » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    February 25th, 2014 @ 10:10 am

    I have written about statistics, and various traps people often fall into when examining data before (Statistics Insights for Scientists and Engineers, Data Can’t Lie – But People Can be Fooled, Correlation is Not Causation, Simpson’s Paradox)…

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