Exposing Bad Science with John Oliver

John Oliver’s recent segment on scientific studies echoes what we’ve been saying for years: Learn how to evaluate a study and don’t let sensationalism influence you. If you haven’t seen it yet, we’ve embedded it below.

Oliver explains how the media likes scientific studies that sound bizarre, scary, or simply too good to be true, such as drinking coffee makes you live longer. The media makes money by grabbing viewers and website clicks, without really understanding complicated studies. This means they often misunderstand or accidently twist a study to mean something that it doesn’t.

Though the show hit the main points, here a few things we think should be added:

  • Science isn’t dogmatic. No matter how impressive an institution is, you can’t accept any single study as a fact. Scientists make mistakes that need to be corrected, hence, the necessity of replicative studies to see if something really is true and not just coincidence.
  • Poorly performed, or misunderstood, studies can lead to panic-causing conclusions. For example, GMOs have been shown to be safe and nutritious foods, yet public fears cause regulations and bans to keep coming.
  • Universities are guilty of sensationalism, too, by publishing press releases of studies that don’t accurately reflect the findings and limitations found by the scientists. These get grabbed by the media (who don’t question it) and pumped out to the public (who assume it’s been fact-checked already).

CAS is here to bring you the truth behind the headlines. So check with us the next time you see something on the news that scares you or seems too good to be true.