Archive for October, 2003

Crap Science Cont’d – shock discovery – Fish Feel pain when you lift them out of the water by a hook attached to the inside of their mouth

Sunday, October 19th, 2003

Crap Science Cont’d – Shock Discovery – Fish Feel Pain

The researchers, led by Dr Lynne Sneddon, say the “profound behavioural and physiological changes” shown by the trout after exposure to noxious substances are comparable to those seen in higher mammals.

see this

Another example of crap science. Fish change their behavior when you torture them. Wow that must have really taken a lot of hard work to figure out. Maybe it’s the way it’s reported but it seems to me you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that for example thrashing around and gasping for breath is a sign of being not all that happy with the state of affairs.

What amazes me about this is that people see it as something that has to be proven. I would have thought that proving that fish don’t feel pain (however that might be done) would be the perogative.

Fishing is truly an amazing thing. I remember they used to use images of men fishing to convey the tranquil life – I remember in particular one advert for Flora Margarine. I would love to see a comedy sketch where middle aged men sit on fishing stools and hook squirrels out of the trees so that they sqeal in agony – mixed with say a margarine advert. If you think about it the only difference is that the fish are not furry and they don’t squeal when you torture them. Otherwise everything is the same. “ah but we put them back”. Lovely.

Pseudo-science and codependent Variables

Friday, October 10th, 2003

You come across such blatantly poor science in the press. The above snippet is actually completely made up but reached several mainstream newspapers and web sites. See this for a debunking. There are so many findings published out there which if we stopped for 5 minutes to think about them we would realise that they were utterly meaningless. How could you possibly run a controlled experiment that would prove that????

For another example take a recent spate of articles about the science of happiness. See for example this. Reading the original new scientist article in detail I discover that all this was discovered by “a variety of methods such as asking people how happy they felt at random intervals over a period of time.” Nowhere is there any attempt to define what happiness is so that people understand the question in a standardised way. Nowhere is there any attempt to filter the effects of the fact that happiness is a status symbol in the west. You just ask people how happy they think they are and that is supposed to tell you if your public policy is working for example. Most people are embarassed to say they feel sad because it’s socially unacceptable.

Here’s another very poor science story. Marriage makes you live longer.

Haven’t these people heard of codependent variables.
1. If no-one wants to marry you you are more likely to be a miserable git who dies young of some psychosomatic disease. Just because there’s a correllation between two variables doesn’t mean that one causes the other. Sunshine makes people smile and wear less clothes. But we don’t conclude that smiling makes you wear less clothes or vice versa.
2. (linked to 1.) the sample of lifelong singletons is too small. Very few people are single their whole lives and those that are probably do so for reasons which are likely to affect their health. So you can’t say that the act of getting married improves your health or happiness.

Here are some more

Depression linked to heart disease
Mediterranean diet ‘extends life’(How can you possibly test the effect of two foods on longevity. First of all they can’t possibly have data on what people have eaten for their entire lives. Secondly they can’t possibly have enough controls who doesn’t drink red wine. How many teetotallers do you know?)