Science Credibility and Media Reporting

Science Credibility
Can you trust scientific reports? The Week for September 14, 2018, featured an article about a two-year study of scientific experiments reported between 2010 and 2015. The purpose was to examine science credibility by seeing if the studies contained bias by the researchers. In other words, were the researchers trying to prove their theories by finding false positives.

The people conducting the study examined 21 high-profile experiments and found further research confirmed only 13 of the 21. The problem here is not science, but the way funding is done and how the media treats research reports. To get funding, you have to get results. The media reports flashy results which people use to back up what they want to believe. A headline describing the results of a research study may appear in the media and get worldwide distribution. When later scientific investigations find the result was incorrect, the media rarely reports that the first study was bogus.

This is actually the way science works. Scientists distribute their findings to other researchers who duplicate the study. If they cannot replicate the results, they report it. The media often picks up the first study but not the later research that disproves the first. An interesting example of this was a report on the beneficial results of drinking alcohol. Several studies suggested beneficial effects from drinking small amounts of alcohol, but follow-up studies showed that as little as one drink a day increases the incidence of health problems.

The same page in The Week that reported on science credibility issues contained the information on alcohol dangers along with follow-up data on the damaging effects of marijuana. Some journals do well in reporting all the new data, and periodicals and websites like this one can point out some of these issues. However, we all need to be careful not to take a sensational headline in a major newspaper as proof of anything until later studies have verified it.

Paul warned Timothy to avoid “profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called”(1 Timothy 6:20 ). Any opposition to God will be false science, because the Creator of the knowledge we have will never contradict that knowledge. (Read Proverbs 8:22-36.)
–John N. Clayton © 2018