This is where bad science leads

I would like to finish writing an article I am working on titled, “How Groupon could save the economy,” but apparently there are some misunderstandings I need to clear up first regarding my previous article, This is where bad science starts. I take full responsibility for the misunderstandings as to the intent and the conclusions of the previous article. Perhaps this will clear them up.

But first, let me call attention a 9-year-old who managed to properly debunk bad “adult” science. Emily Rosa, the youngest person ever to be published in a peer reviewed scientific journal (JAMA), conducted an experiment in which she tested the validity of therapeutic touch as a legitimate medical practice. She conducted a scientific, controlled experiment and concluded that therapeutic touch is bogus. You see, children are quite capable of achieving scientific achievements – when they conduct their experiments correctly. And good for her. Emily Rosa is shedding light on the truth and expunging darkness.

Now, as to the criticisms of my critique of Aidan solar powered “breakthrough.”

The purpose of my article was not to tear down 13-year-old Aidan.

He is 13 years old. He is bound to make mistakes. It is to be expected. I know that. I have nothing but praise and encouragement in my article for Aidan. I reserve my judgement for the non-13-year-olds who didn’t notice his mistakes.

While it is perfectly acceptable for a 13-year-old to make mistakes in his science project, it is completely unacceptable for the adults at the American Museum of Natural History to overlook those mistakes. It is unacceptable for the media outlets to overlook them. It is unacceptable for the hundreds of adults who thoughtlessly lavished praise on Aidan to have overlooked them. This demonstrates a lack of logical and critical thinking skills in what are supposedly educated adults. These same adults get to vote in elections for leaders who are not simply mistakenly, but often quite nefariously peddling bogus science and bogus policies. That scares me. How are these adults supposed to discern truth from fiction? Especially when the truth isn’t hidden behind a few easily identifiable mistakes, but rather carefully covered up under pseudo-science and piles of rhetorical BS.

People need to stop and think. That was the main purpose of my article.

It is not unloving or psychologically damaging to point out someone’s mistakes.

Child or no, when someone is pursuing a path of folly, the most loving thing someone can do is help that person get off that path and back on the correct one. Aidan has a lot of great curiosity and ingenuity. Why would anyone want to let him waste it?

When I was 13, I won my school’s high school science fair with a science experiment that supposedly proved that perpetual motion could be achieved through a contraption I created using magnets. Of course, I was wrong. Aidan was wrong about the results of his science experiment as well. We were both 13-year-old kids who didn’t have the knowledge or experience to properly understand and test the things we were working with. We also were never corrected.

Encouraged by my win, I spent years, unguided by adults, pursuing a hobby of creating free energy with my contraption that eventually led to failure. Looking back, there were other scientific achievements I was interested in achieving that I did not pursue because I thought I was onto something with this perpetual motion thing. What could I have accomplished had my mind and energy been guided away from futile pursuits and towards more promising ones? I guess we will never know.

“Where bad science starts” was not a reference to Aidan’s faulty methods, but rather a reference to the nearly unanimous consensus that validated those faulty methods.

We are surrounded by bad science. Sometimes that bad science is the product of mistakes, as Aidan’s experiment was. Other times, it is the product of ideologues purposefully manipulating data. Either way, it usually doesn’t take an expert to identify and debunk this bad science. We all should be experts on a certain level: We all should understand basic logic, basic math, the scientific method, etc.

Bad science “starts” when bogus findings manage to break out of the laboratory via mass media and quickly become accepted fact by the masses of adults who could and should be sniffing it out for what it is: bad science. How does this happen? My article concludes that the main cause of this is that we are blinded by the implications of the results of this “bad science” and choose not to critically examine the methods used to achieve these results.

Most people are in agreement that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown was a disaster. It is not illogical to assume that this has the potential to have a very negative impact on the environment and on the health of living organisms. An article was published in Al Jazeera titled, Fukushima: It’s much worse than you think, Scientific experts believe Japan’s nuclear disaster to be far worse than governments are revealing to the public. Naturally, people assumed that this article was reporting truth. It was tweeted 9,878 times and liked on Facebook 49,000 times. As a result, people were led to believe that infant mortality rates in the northwest of the United States had increased by 35% and that the government was doing something to cover it up.

Only one problem. It wasn’t true. Michael Moyer at Scientific American, very easily and clearly demonstrated how these so-called scientists had used selective and manipulated data to falsely conclude that the Fukushima disaster was causing babies to die at alarming rates in the United States.

But the damage was already done. It is likely that are more people who read and believed this bogus science reported on by Al Jazeera and other media outlets and used it to validate and confirm their preexisting beliefs than there are people who read Michael Moyer’s debunking article. Whether or not those beliefs are grounded in reality has now become a moot point: The point is they are being reinforced by falsehood.

This often can cause an ideological stalemate: No side of a debate can make a legitimate claim at truth because no side has purged its argument of the bogus science used to support its claims. Thus, elections, policy decisions and the like become less of a contest of truth vs. falsehood, and more of a contest of who can get their BS to reach the widest audience and garner the largest following. Both sides of the debate become tainted, and truth becomes nearly impossible to find.

The global implications are dangerous.

There are several major debates raging right now in the political landscape: Global warming, universal health care, stem-cell research, and Iran’s uranium enrichment program to name a few. All of these debates have very definite science to back them up – and science is used on both sides of the debate. Much of that science is bad science, but it can be found on both sides. Somewhere out there, the truth is hidden. Why is it so hard to discover?

It is hard to discover because people like Michael Moore, find it necessary to be propagandists of truth rather than preachers of it. That is why it is so easy to find falsehoods in his documentaries. When Moore released “Sicko” a so-called documentary that pleads the case for universal health care in the U.S. the debate quickly became about whether or not Moore was lying in his documentary and not about relevant, debatable facts in the health care debate. Michael Moore probably has some very valid and important points to make. It is too bad they are swimming in BS.

Even the World Health Organization’s rating system has be called into question over the scientific basis of its ranking the U.S. health care system. One thing I found interesting was the discrepancies among developed nations on how they calculated infant mortality. Not only are the numbers very difficult to compare, but high infant mortality rates in a country actually might reveal very little about the health care system of that country and more about rates of teen pregnancy. It is like making the argument that country A has bad health care because more people die of lung cancer and heart disease there, when the reality is that country A has great health care, but has a bad problem with high smoking rates and unhealthy diets.

Of course, the CATO Institute, the publisher of the paper criticizing the WHO, has had its own motivations called into question and been criticized of being more motivated by ideology than science. Both the WHO and the CATO institute both have nuggets of truth on their side of the argument. Sadly, any useful and valid points they want to make are tainted by the BS that supposedly also found its way into their reports.

Do you see how quickly the debate has moved away from “truth” and more towards who has more motivation to lie about what and whom? The only way this can happen is when the general public is unable to discern truth for themselves and must rely on others to tell them what is true and not. Now, it is only a question of who we are going to listen to – and even deciding that is often based on arguments that are peppered with falsehood. It becomes one giant manipulation machine.

It doesn’t have to be like this.

Each one of us have decently developed brains and are capable of independent thought, critical thinking, and good research. With the internet at our fingertips, we have access to a vast library of information – all we have to do is look for it and figure out how to sort the good information from the bad information. It isn’t very hard to do.

I am surprised that in retractions and corrections to the Aidan solar power breakthrough story, the media has finally decided to exercise more caution, saying things like, “the findings have been called into question,” or that he “may have been disproved.” Where was the caution when the story was breaking?

The funny thing about all this is that caution isn’t really that necessary. You don’t have to be an expert on solar power or a PhD scientist to see that Aidan’s experiment was seriously flawed. Every single one of us can use our brains and our critical thinking skills to parse through the “bad science” in Aidan’s experiment.

It is this “deferring to the experts” – letting so-called experts do our thinking for us, that is the real danger here. We find ourselves becoming pawns in a manipulation game by propagandists, rather than true experts, and we never will know what the truth really is.

Stop deferring to the experts. You are the expert.

And that is the ultimate point of my original article. Yes, Aidan’s solar power experiment was flawed. Someone needs to lovingly point it out to him and encourage him to keep going. All this is true. But more importantly, all the people who were involved in mass producing and validating this bogus claim need to stop buying into the hype and start thinking for themselves. Aidan’s experiment should have probably never received an award for scientific achievement. It should have never been validated and reported on as a “breakthrough” by the media. It should have never received the thousands of “shares” and kudos from smart, educated adults all over the world. It should have been identified as problematic at best, dead wrong at worst, and then taken from there.

If a 13-year-old kid can accidentally fool us all, how much hope do we really have against the powers that be who have a vested interest in fooling us so that they can get elected or pass a policy that is to their advantage and our destruction?

Please, my friends. Start thinking. Or we are all screwed.

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