If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, you probably see a lot of posts with the words “study finds” in the headlines. Here are a few examples, taken from a quick search of Facebook on Monday morning:
- Study Finds Monkeys With Smaller Testicles Scream Louder to Compensate
- Study Finds Cheese Triggers the Same Part of the Brain as Hard Drugs
- Study Finds Smelling Farts Makes You Live Longer
These are just a few examples of the Study Finds Industrial Complex, in which the media takes scientific studies — some of which aren’t even valid in the first place — adds a layer of bullshit, and then delivers them to our televisions and Facebook feeds. John Oliver takes bad science writing to task in the latest episode of Last Week Tonight.
Take the fart-sniffing article: The source is a 2014 study that found that treating distressed mouse cells with a compound called AP39 could protect mitochondria. If the authors of the article read the actual study — instead of the countless articles misinterpreting a quote in a press release — they would have noticed it had nothing to do with farts, or smelling them. Nothing.
Bad science writing is especially prevalent with studies of food, which — on a regular basis — tell us that coffee/wine/chocolate/etc. can cure cancer/obesity/depression/etc., despite mounds of conflicting evidence. As Oliver points out, not only do these studies give us poor guidelines for how to live, they have also led lots of folks to mistrust science and think that climate change isn’t real or vaccines cause autism.
Regardless, Study Finds You Don’t Want To Miss This Show. Watch above.