By Alanna Ketler, Collective Evolution
Everyday we are flooded with tons of scientific studies. On morning talk shows, social media sites and late night news. If it ever seemed to you that there is a scientific study for absolutely anything, well it’s because there pretty much is.
I don’t know how many times I’ve come across a study that proves one thing and then another that is able to prove the exact opposite. How are we ever expected to find out the truth and differentiate the facts from the bullshit?
In this case, we are not saying science as in the method is necessarily BS, but more so the way the community operates.
Reasons For Misleading Studies
On factor at play here, is the fact that often scientists, straight up. are paid to publish specific studies with specific outcomes based on the vested interests that are funding the studies.
Basically, if a company wants a certain result, a scientist will be paid to find that specific outcome by any means necessary -even if the legitimacy and integrity of the study is essentially thrown out the window.
As Brian Nosek, a doctor working for the Center for Open Science, explained the motivations which lead scientists to forward misleading claims:
“My success as a scientist depends on me publishing my findings. And I need to publish as frequently as possible in the most prestigious outlets that I can.”
Scientists also want to be able to publish their research in order to gain success and respect. Unfortunately, this comes at any means possible.
When you think about it, people generally don’t care or bother to read studies that weren’t successful, so that does little to help a scientist gain any sort of recognition.
This sort of pre-determined based outcome is often proved by a method known as P-Hacking.
This process involves collecting a large amount of variables and then tinkering with the data until you are able to find something that counts as statistically significant, but could essentially be completely meaningless.
So finding a way to make the pre-determined outcome of the study look as if that conclusion came about from a real scientific method of evaluation.
This can be achieved by using only a very small sample size of subjects, relying on studies only performed on mice or rats to conclude ‘proof’ of something in relation to humans, and the manipulation of data altogether, whether it’s included, excluded or re-arranged oto support the presupposition of any scientist.
One of the biggest reasons that scientists get away with this fraudulent method so often, is because so many regular people who hear about a study, by reading a headline or watching the news, don’t bother to look into the details of the it to find out for themselves whether a legitimate method was used or not, and these studies are almost never replicated.
Scientists do not get paid to replicate studies so unfortunately, many claims are made and taken at face-value, but in reality if many of these studies were re-done in the exact same manner, a different outcome altogether might emerge.
Are you more likely to believe a study that was conducted once, or a study that was conducted multiple times with different variables and a wider range?
Also, if a study tells you that drinking champagne or eating junk food is good for you, are you more likely to do it in the future because science told you its okay?
The problem is, generally we just accept what is handed to us. It is because of this that scientists can just continue performing these studies in this way without any criticism or backlash from the public. Surely if science says blank, it must be true? So the scientists who are publishing these often fraudulent studies are receiving praise instead of backlash.
John Oliver goes into this whole charade in great detail in the video below.
Video: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
As John Oliver points out, this whole process can actually be dangerous because it means that we are being duped into believing that certain things are healthy for us when they actually aren’t and while other things could be good for us, like exercise, we may opt for drinking a glass of red wine instead -this is pure madness when you think about it and it’s entirely unfair.
It means that corporations who have the most money will always be able to get the results they want, no matter what the truth in the matter is. This is entirely unfair even for people who actually bother to do the research.
This just means there is little funding for scientists to perform and publish studies without compromising integrity as they are being overshadowed by big, bold, misleading headlines.
How To Navigate Through The Bullshit
Luckily, although it can be difficult there are a few things you can do to help separate fact from fraudulent, so you can more easily be able to find out the truth about important issues, especially when it comes to your health.
As a writer for Collective Evolution it can be quite challenging at times, there are many people who won’t even consider a study, albeit scientific that is made because the study at hand is not peer-reviewed.
It seems as though many colleges and universities are teaching that if something is not peer-reviewed then it is not scientifically sound and should not be trusted as a credible source.
This is simply not true, there are many independent studies that are conducted that do not have the funding to be properly peer-reviewed mainly because they don’t have the support of the big corporations behind them with the vested interests of the outcome of the study.
What does peer-reviewed mean anyways, well quite frankly, literally that peer-reviewed or reviewed by peers.
- First things first, find out if possible, who is funding the study.
- Look at their method of testing
- Look at the amount of subjects tested
- Were the subjects humans
- What was the duration of the study
- Does the study even match up with the headline or title?
- Was the study a double-blind study?
- Has the study been replicated with the same results?
- Use critical thinking
That last point is very important, if something sounds completely too good to be true, then it probably is. use your head, don;t just believe hat is more appealing to you, be smart about what you read, don;t take anything at face-value, and most importantly, question everything.