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What the...? [Oct. 3rd, 2005|04:55 pm]
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Wheeeee, we've found a new science website to waste time on read. It has an interview with Ben Goldacre on it (yes, that's how we found the site in the first place).

He says his favourite scientist is Darwin and also mentions understanding clinical trials.

"[question]You told a recent Spiked survey that you wished people understood the British epidemiologist Austin Bradford Hill's 'criteria for causation'. (Editor's note: Hill pioneered the randomized clinical trial and co-discovered the connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.) Does this sort of thing get taught in school?


[answer]It doesn't get taught to kids and it should be. John Durant's work from the early 90s and other major quantitative analyses of the portrayal of science in the media have shown that science, in the media, in terms of the kinds of stories covered, is health. Things like the Bradford hill criteria – how to assess the validity and reliability and usefulness of evidence – are exactly what you'd need to be taught to parse the information on offer when you grow up, especially as it's given out so misleadingly and incompetently by the media."

We don't quote out of context*, so yes that was a bit long. We don't care. Never mind teaching evolution and scientific method in schools. We know of people with biology degrees that were never taught this stuff. Huh? We wonder if it is a good idea to create intelligently design scientists that know little about either of these things...




*er...except when we do.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: mysterycult
2005-10-03 09:32 pm (UTC)

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Uh... Hill's...
*Hurriedly googles*
Oh, okay, those.
*Instantly gets confused with Koch's postulates and then forgets everything*
From: amoebic_vodka
2005-10-03 10:01 pm (UTC)

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Phew. It wasn't us, you can't prove anything. It was that bad air...uh...over there.

We take it you did evolution as part of your degree. BOO?
[User Picture]From: mysterycult
2005-10-03 10:15 pm (UTC)

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Part 1A Natsci taught intelligent design, if I recall correctly. There was no mention of Hill's criteria, that was considered heretical and if you read about them in a book your supervisor would put a jihad on you.
From: amoebic_vodka
2005-10-04 09:16 am (UTC)

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We thought you had to read (or pretend to read) either The Red Queen or The Selfish Gene to get through the interview?

We were going to read all the books on evolution lying around next to the vodka, but we've been recommended the Science of Discworld books on another comment, so that's going to have to wait.
[User Picture]From: mysterycult
2005-10-04 09:29 am (UTC)

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Pre-interview, I read (or pretended to have read) the Blind Watchmaker and the Extended Phenotype. And something or other by Steven Jay Gould. And "The Science of Jurassic Park", which taught me everything I know about molecular biology. But none of these mentioned Hill's critera.
From: amoebic_vodka
2005-10-04 07:14 pm (UTC)

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We know all there is to know about molecular biology. As amoebas we have plenty of experience moving small volumes of liquid from one place to another.
[User Picture]From: pseudomonas
2005-10-05 09:39 am (UTC)

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You and your binge pinocytosis.
From: amoebic_vodka
2005-10-11 01:05 pm (UTC)

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We couldn't find any government advice on how many units of alcohol constitutes binge drinking for an amoeba. Much as we love vodka, we don't think we could each pinocytose more than unit of it in one night. Maybe between us...

We would have replied sooner, but we were busy over the weekend exocytosing all over the pavement and picking fights with any cell that looked at us funny.
[User Picture]From: pseudomonas
2005-10-11 01:07 pm (UTC)

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any cell that looked at us funny
Those crazy macrophages.
From: (Anonymous)
2005-10-07 03:40 pm (UTC)

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Hi, I'm the editor of LabLit.com (and the one who interviewed Goldacre). I wasn't taught Hill's theories in my college biology degree either but after encountering them later in life, as an active scientist, I realized that these rules are part of the spirit of the scientific method in general. It's mostly just common sense (ditto for Koch's postulate). Still, it would probably have been useful to have been taught them formally. But I agree with you; if science majors aren't taught them, there's little hope for everyone else.

Thanks for poking around LabLit.com!
From: amoebic_vodka
2005-10-11 01:24 pm (UTC)

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Oooh, more people reading our ramblings. Yay.

Understanding various aspects of how science works (peer review, experimental design etc) seems important to us. We don't doubt that the vast majority of scientists pick up any gaps they might have from their degree when they start a PhD. Or at least the areas that are relevant to their field. However, there's no point complaining about the public's attitude science when even non-scientists with science degrees don't necessarily know about how science works.

Sob. We just overheard some biologists claiming they don't believe in evolution and using the 'irreducible complexity' argument to justify it.

As Bill Bailey might say: "it's the sense of futile despair". We're off to sulk in the corner.
From: (Anonymous)
2005-10-13 10:56 am (UTC)

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It's totally depressing to hear scientists say they don't believe in evolution, especially when they mean natural selection and are lumping all evolutionary processes into the same bag. Do people who don't believe in "evolution" not believe in pedigree dogs or cattle?
From: amoebic_vodka
2005-10-16 12:38 pm (UTC)

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We really don't know what their logic is. After all we assume they believe that their antibiotic selection plates will actually select the bacteria they want. We also assume they believe their science is valid, despite evolution by natural selection and common ancestry of all organisms being necessary for many common biological tools to mean anything.

*points pseudopodia in general direction of the human genome project*
From: (Anonymous)
2005-12-05 10:23 pm (UTC)

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(me again, from LabLit.com...)
When I was a lowly high school biology major back in Ohio, I had a wonderful biology teacher who happened to believe in God . And he told us so (though it was probably illegal at the time -- now of course, George W. Bush would welcome such confessions with open arms), saying -- and I will never forget this -- "I have two hats. When I teach biology, I wear one hat, and when I go to church, I wear another". To this teacher, everything was Clear; provided that he was wearing the proper hat. The important thing was not to think about one thing while wearing the hat of the other camp. I truly believe there are people who can go through life compartmentalizing their belief systems in these sorts of ways. I have a friend who says it's impossible to be a Christian and a scientist at the same time, but I don't believe this is true. They just swap hats as it suits them. As I scientist, I can't behave this way myself, but I do recognize the ability in others to view the world in alternative ways as it suits them.