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Daily Fail attacks experts Grant Jacobs Jul 07

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The Daily Mail – known to many as the Daily Failblames it all on experts.

Yup, experts, and experts alone, are the reason for the contradictory health advice that science and medical journalists like the author David Freeman produce.

(Then how come the better science writers actually get things right?)

The three-sentence headline thunders:

Never trust an expert!  Ever wondered why so much health advice is contradictory? It’s because two-thirds of medical research is wrong or fraudulent

It’s excruciating to read all the fallacies in this article. Simon Jenkins’ recent rant, bad as is was, has nothing on this. (See also Mind the Gap for the revenge of the evil boffins.)

What a laugh that this article points to shifting the goal posts after a giant leap from advice about CPR to one of the few fraud cases in molecular biology worthy of wider attention. Yes, right, there really is a connection there…

And then directly compares this particular fraud case to much more minor ’fraud’ without bothering to mention the difference. Nor bothering to mention that some of the unwelcome activities are not fraud at all, not in the sense he refers to. It just wouldn’t be right to be accurate, would it?

(And, naturally, no effort is made to link to the research that is cited, or mention he’s recycling old news. See Nature 435, 718-719 (9 June 2005) for the summary article. [PDF file, subscription required.] If I can find it, they can link it.)

Like any good Gish Gallop there are so many errors, it would take an essay of epic proportions to counter them.

So I won’t. I’m not enough of a fool.

OK – those wanting the counterpoint argument say – the Daily Fail, like many tabloids, is about entertainment, not ’truth’.

There’s a good deal of truth in that.

You only have to skim through the ’science’ or ’health’ stories to see the standard of their science writing. Not good.

To top it off, the article is basically an advertorial for the guy’s book.

But to me the kicker, the kick-in-the-gut, is the comments thread.

It’s sad reading.

That such a twitted article could lead people along like that…

HT: Ed Yong via twitter.

Addendum: Note that headline’s statistics are wrong anyway. Methinks someone didn’t read carefully.


Other articles on Code for life:

Boney lumps, linkage analysis and whole genome sequencing (high-speed genome sequencing is offering new ways to locate the genetic errors causing disease)

Blogimmuniqué: who are you? (introduce yourself and meet fellow readers)

Describe your fantasy institute (what would your dream research institute be like?)

Royal Society publishing free to read, 1665 – today (don’t miss out – until the end of July only)

Medical DIY… Grant Jacobs Mar 18

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You know how the classic scene goes. Naïve ambitious husband describes his Do-It-Yourself plans… and ‘skills.’ Wife stands there, wordless, with ever-widening eyes forecasting a disaster.

(Source: Wikipedia.)

(Source: Wikipedia.)

That’s how precisely researchers and medics feel watching non-medics and non-scientists determined to ’do it their way’ on things that affect others’ lives.

Sure, a few will genuinely do well. A rare few.

Most really should be honest and admit they haven’t the skills, or, realistically, the time to learn to become good at it.

Civilisations are built on an acceptance of division of labour. Builders know how to build sound structures so that your house doesn’t crash around your ears in a storm. Electricians know how to wire things up without zapping everyone to kingdom come. Plumbers know how to fit pipes that don’t create a lake in your living room. (Well, most of the time!) GPs know how to diagnose and treat the more frequent disorders, and a few besides (but they refer to specialists to for things out of the ordinary; they know when to pass the buck onto the better (wo)man).

Don’t fight it. Division of labour is there to get the best out of each area of knowledge.

Fighting it and trying to ‘do it yourself’ without the training and experience is like the household DIY thing: maybe OK for very minor things; dodgy for even modest things; and downright silly for everything else.

You or your family’s health is worth a bit more than DIY set of shelves or light fitting, right?

Anyone who claims that in a few hours or weeks or even months of study they are able to speak more authoritatively than someone who has spent years (or decades) of full-time study on a subject has got to be kidding themselves.

This isn’t just about medical research. It applies to everything. Building, electronics, cooking fine cuisine, motor mechanic, competitive sport, whatever.

Don’t be a DIY idiot.

Footnote

Just in case anyone gets the wrong idea, this is not trying ‘bash’ anyone! I’m just trying to express the feeling of watching people try their hand at something they haven’t the background to do.

This was written thinking of those people trying to ‘out research’ the medical and medical research community. It’s good to see people trying to learn, but until they are at comparable level and have gotten past the ‘goofy error’ stage (let’s admit it, we all made goofy errors early on in whatever we’re now good at!) it’d be wiser to rely on those with experience and training.


Other recent articles on Code for life:

Simon Singh, leaving job to deal with chiropractic legal case

Molecular biology in museums

An horrific case of natural health treatment of cancer

The inheritance of face recognition, or should you blame your parents if you can’t recognise faces?

Homeopathy check-up: Not in the health system, disclaimers on labels

Deleting a gene can turn an ovary into a testis in adult mammals

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