The Corpus Callosum

LWSS Journal

Welcome to the Lake Wobegon Scientific Society Journal, where
 all research studies are “authoritative”, all scientists
“experts”, all findings “breakthroughs”.  Not to mention
“above average”.

That happens to be almost a direct quote from a recent article in the
the Guardian.  (HT: href="http://www.blacktriangle.org/blog/?p=1801">Black
Triangle)

href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/jun/02/pressandpublishing.healthandwellbeing">Overhyped
health stories? They’re all pants

Peter Wilby
The Guardian,
Monday June 2 2008

Last Tuesday, the Daily Mail informed readers that
cocoa could be good for the heart; that a diet pill will make you feel
full as soon as you start eating; that diseased gums increase the risk
of cancer; and that a third of babies whose parents smoke at home will
end up in hospital. That was just the news pages. In the health
section, it had underpants that control blood pressure, tree bark that
eases arthritis, a herb that relieves ear infections and peanut butter
that stops hiccups.

Whether Mail readers rushed out to buy cocoa, peanut butter and
underpants, and to strip nearby trees, I do not know. But newspapers
believe health coverage attracts readers. We live in a medically
anxious society: surveys suggest one in two Britons worry about their
health against one in 10 in the 1960s. At some level, newspaper reports
must influence eating, drinking and buying habits, and affect the
wellbeing of readers and their families. Yet the press, skeptical about
anything politicians say or do, becomes credulous when faced with
medicine. All research studies are “authoritative”, all medical
journals “prestigious”, all scientists “experts”, all findings
“breakthroughs”.

I’m not sure what “they’re all pants” means;
perhaps someone across the pond could enlighten me.  Anyway,
the article makes some good points.  In fact, these are points
that medical and science blogs make, fairly regularly.  Now
the MSM is muscling in on our territory!  (What do they think
they are, all shirts, or something?)

The good news is that the NHS (National Health Service) in the UK
publishes a regular column that provides critical analysis of
health-related news stories.  It’s on their website, and it’s
called Behind
the Headlines: Your guide to the science that makes the news
.

I’ve read a few of their articles.  They are informative, and
well-written; they could serve as lessons for science/medical news
reporters.

Comments

  1. #1 tony (not a vegan)
    June 10, 2008

    Pants are underwear (knickers/panties). In ‘vulgar’ parlance, pants are completely useless – since one will just be taking them off!

    As an exclamation

    Pants! == Merde! or Damn!

    They’re all pants == all useless, worthless, pointless, crap… etc.

    (as explained to me by my more hip english colleagues on a recent project in europe)

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