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Assignment: Ben Goldacre: Battling Bad Science
Assignment: Ben Goldacre: Battling Bad Science
How do you know something?
Babbie (2016) stated, “social theory has to do with what is, not with what should be. For many centuries, however, social theory did not distinguish between these two orientations. Social philosophers liberally mixed their observations of what happened around them, their speculations about why, and their ideas about how things ought to be. Although modern social researchers may do the same from time to time, as scientists they focus on how things actually are and why” (pg. 9).
If social researchers ‘focus on how things actually are and why’, why are we considering the information provided in the TedTalk, Battling Bad Science?
What is inductive reasoning and why is it associated with qualitative research?
What is deductive reasoning and why is it associated with quantitative research?
And to move this discussion even further, what is abductive reasoning?
Ben Goldacre is a medical doctor, professor, and science journalist.
He is a Wellcome research fellow in epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine since 2014, and a founder of the AllTrials campaign, which advocates for open scientific standards in clinical trials.
Ben’s duty as an epidemiologist is to use evidence and science to determine what is healthy for the body.
Newspaper headlines, for example, categorize things that enhance or decrease cancer risk — and occasionally contradict themselves by declaring coffee to be in both categories.
The focus of this discussion is on how evidence can be altered through deception or ignorance.
Bad science makes use of authority — people or experts – while rejecting the evidence they provide.
The weight of argument or evidence, rather than who says it, should carry good science.
It’s simple to create authority status – TV doctors can add a pHd to their name or sign up for advanced credentials of something or other online.
Evidence can also be muddled: a newspaper headline claimed that red wine lowers the incidence of breast cancer.
The study from which this information was obtained focused at a single molecule isolated from grape skins battling cancer cells in a petri dish — it has no application outside of this scenario.
Wine’s alcohol level, in fact, raises your cancer risk.
Another study found that persons who consume olive oil and veggies have less wrinkles.
People who ate olive oil and veggies had less wrinkles, but they were also wealthier, more educated, did less manual labor, smoked less, and drank less, according to the report.
These other elements played a much bigger role in the absence of creases.
One of the foundations of epidemiology is the medical trial, which should be the basis for a doctor’s recommendations, but many individuals still get it wrong.
Instead of using a control group, a study of fish oil capsules in schoolchildren compared their results to a projection of their outcomes from a year ago.
The placebo effect is a powerful effect, however new medications should be tested against the current best medicines rather than a placebo.
We would never recommend a placebo, so seeing how a medicine compares to the best competitors is far more relevant.
New medications can be compared to a competitor who isn’t dosed properly.
They can, for example, show that they are more effective by taking the alternative at too low a dose.
They can also show they have fewer negative effects by taking a large dose of the competitor’s medicine.
As a result, industry-sponsored trials are four times more likely than independent trials to produce favorable results.
However, even if the industry’s study is conducted correctly, unfavorable data can go missing.
Statistics can be used to investigate this, as normal data produces a mixture of false positives and false negatives, as well as a few large trials with low error.
Small false negatives will not be evident if data has been buried; the worst results will be the greatest low error trials.
Ben talks about a drug he’s recommended to patients, and he discovers that 75% of the trials were never published.
Similarly, governments have invested billions in Tamiflu in the hopes of demonstrating that it lowers serious flu complications, but no proof for this has been presented.
The finest disinfectant is sunlight.
All of the findings should be made public, but they are currently shielded by a forcefield of tedium.
It’s fascinating to observe how pharmaceutical companies can manipulate evidence by refusing to publish it.
However, I understand the business pressures to keep poor outcomes private, and I’m not sure what the solution is.
Should firms be required to conduct trials through a central organization and under strict guidelines?
The ethics of treating patients with excessive or insufficient amounts of a medicine is even more important.
This is unacceptable — putting someone’s health in jeopardy to demonstrate that an opponent’s medicine is unsafe or useless.
I don’t agree with using people’s suffering as a marketing strategy.
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