Bad Science TED Talk Review

This post is from an assignment we had… but hopefully it can help someone

From the Ted Talk, I found the funnel plots the most interesting, because I’m weird like that. I mean, he speaks rather quickly, and I even watched it three times. Thank goodness I figured how to put the captions on the last time! But its like “show me the data!” and when you seethe funnel plot, you know someone is trying to pull one over on you. I’m a naturally distrusting person, so it was nice to hear about the tricks that are actually being used in the studies (low doses, high doses, placebos, etc…) and that medicine agencies are actually withholding data? Geez, does anyone tell the full story?

Maybe not intentionally, but I feel like omission is a form of lying and manipulating. So when you don’t tell me the whole truth, I consider it a lie. The way the article spoke about confidence intervals was also new for me. I’m not accustomed to my statistics homework spilling over into my readings for class, and I enjoyed simply seeing the words ‘confidence intervals’. It’s true that many people look at the average, across all disciplines, and don’t take time to look at all the data in different format in order to get a better picture of what is really going on. You really have to be careful and ask the precise question and know what output you are looking for, so that your question is actually answered.

In the “Use and Misuse of Statistics” article, I was happy to learn about the tips on color-coding your knowledge. I’ve been color-coding my children’s subjects for YEARS, to the point that they automatically choose a purple journal for their agenda as adults, so it was refreshing to find a new application for color-coding, especially since I already have a parade of markers. I probably won’t use the colors the way they were presented, but I will definitely start to code my readings from now on.

I’m exposed to Bad Science during the times when most people should be asleep. Every commercial and infomercial drops numbers and conjectures and results like sprinkles of fairy dust, and it is so annoying. We’re the number one cold pillow when flipped! Our pillows have more sales than anyone else in the industry!  Where is this random sample of people that sleep on coffee beans and rice bags? Of course they’d prefer your pillow to the lump of charcoal you gave them during the sleep study for 10 days! How are they able to say these things without being sued?

The ‘Bad Science’ that ticks me off the most is ‘We’re an A school’. Parents are not privy to, or even know where to look, for the data behind these claims. If parents knew that 64% is what is needed to be an “A” school, they might think twice before enrolling their child. I mean, no school puts up a banner that reads ‘We’re a D school and open to suggestions.” Yet, that’s the truth, and a admirable, albeit less palatable. It’s as if the world runs on half-truth marathons.

There’s an Ashanti proverb that says: One falsehood spoils a thousand truths. And I think that sums it up rather nicely. If you tell me one line of foolishness after playing it straight for years, I’m pretty much done with you. A reputation can be ruined with just one lie.