Archive | Evaluating evidence

Free science literacy course launched

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Posted 27 October 2020

The University of Alberta is offering a free online course in Science Literacy intended to enable learners to “understand and use scientific evidence to challenge claims based on misinformation, and engage the process of science to ask questions to build our knowledge.” The course has no prerequisites, features a variety of guest lecturers, and can be completed at the learner’s own pace—roughly five weeks with five to seven hours per week of study.

Reference: Lyle A. UAlberta launches free online Science Literacy course. University of Alberta Faculty of Science, Oct 13, 2020

The modules of the course are: Introduction to Science; Pseudoscience; Critical Thinking; Scientific Methods; and Interpreting Evidence

About the Course

We are often told not to believe everything we read online or see on TV—but how do we tell the difference between sensationalized statistics and a real scientific study? Learn how to spot

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How to avoid becoming a super spreader of fake news on social media – Top tips

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Posted 02 April 2020

10 ways to spot online misinformation

By H. Colleen Sinclair* The Conversation

Propagandists are already working to sow disinformation and social discord in the run-up to the November elections.

Many of their efforts have focused on social media, where people’s limited attention spans push them to share items before even reading them – in part because people react emotionally, not logically, to information they come across. That’s especially true when the topic confirms what a person already believes.

It’s tempting to blame bots and trolls for these problems. But really it’s our own fault for sharing so widely.
Research has confirmed that lies spread faster than truth – mainly because lies are not bound to the same rules as truth.

As a psychological scientist who studies propaganda, here is what I tell my friends, students and colleagues about what to watch out for. Read the rest

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Landmark ruling for science journalists

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Posted 31 March 2020

By GroundUp Editors

Appeal committee of press council frees media from having to create false balance

landmark ruling by the appeal committee of the Press Council has clarified the obligations of science journalists in South Africa, with immediate implications for coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ruling arose from an article GroundUp published in March 2019, Quack claims about oxygen treatment are dangerous. The article, clearly categorised at the top as science, described how some companies are making unsubstantiated medical claims about hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This has legitimate purposes – like treating scuba divers who get the bends. But quack companies offer it as a treatment for cancer, autism and much else. Our report named a company making such spurious claims.

The company’s manager lodged a complaint with the press ombud. He argued his company should have been contacted for its Read the rest

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Are medical errors really the third most common cause of death in the U.S.?

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Posted 19 February 2020

Promoters of “alternative medicine” have exploited previous estimates of hospital deaths “due to medical error” to undermine the public confidence in medicine. Dr David Gorski has assessed the most recent Yale study and has provided an analysis of the study, below.

The claim that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the US has always rested on very shaky evidence; yet it has become common wisdom that is cited as though everyone accepts it. But if estimates of 250,000 to 400,000 deaths due to medical error are way too high, what is the real number? A recently published study suggests that it’s almost certainly a lot lower.

David Gorski on February 3, 2020

I say this at the beginning of nearly every post that I write on this topic, but it bears repeating. It is an unquestioned belief among believers in alternative medicine

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Responses to health misinformation in mass media recommended

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Posted 31 July 2019

Fifteen scholars at institutions in Canada have reviewed how health misinformation is spread through mass media and have recommended policy and communication correctives.

Reference: Caulfield T. and others. Health misinformation and the power of narrative messaging in the public sphere. Canadian Journal of Bioethics 2:52-60, 2019

They describe problems of: (a) misleading narratives spread through social media; (b) implicit hype of emerging therapies by the popular press, pseudoscience embraced by journalists; (c) use of “scienceploitation” language of quantum physics, stem cells, genetics, and microbiome research for hype; and (d) misleading narratives in health-related crowdfunding. They recommend four “legal and policy tools” followed by seven “social tools” in response:

  • Better enforcement of existing truth in advertising law, and/or improvements thereto
  • Regulatory policy change and enforcement for health professionals spreading misinformation
  • Policy outlining rules for and encouraging expert media engagement and the use of narrative
  • Litigation
  • Advocacy
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Prontuit: Kwalsalvers

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Posted 09 August 2018

The Afrikaans program on KykNet, ProntUit, led a panel discussion on pseudoscience, complementary medicine and alternative medicine. The 30 minute broadcast has been uploaded to YouTube.

Prontuit 6 Augustus: Segment 1 – Kwaksalwers

In Suid-Afrika word daar na raming ongeveer 155 000 ongeregistreede alternatiewe medisyne en produkte aan verbruikers verkoop wat van kitsgewigsverlies tot die genising van MIV/Vigs belowe. Baie van hierdie produkte word nie getoets nie en kan vrylik by apteke en sogenaamde gesondheidswinkels oor die toonbank gekoop word, met verbruikers wat onwetend hulself blootstel aan soms lewensgevaarlike konkoksies of bloot kwaksalwery. Hou hierdie middels enigsins gesondheidvoordele vir verbruikers in? Moet homeopatiese medisyne oor dieselfde kam geskeer word? Dr. Gary Gabriels, ’n chemiese farmakoloog van WITS, Mia Malan, redakteur van Bhekisisa – ’n Mail & Guardian-inisiatief  en dr. Harris Steinman ’n mediese dokter en verbruikersaktivis oor kwaksalwery het hieroor gesels. (opens in new browser Read the rest

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Ethical pharmacists should not sell quackery

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Posted 09 May 2018

Last week, Ivo Vegter, the editor of Daily Maverick, posted an article arguing that ethical pharmacists should not sell quackery. 

This week, in response he writes: “Last week, I argued for an “ethical pharmacist” certification for pharmacists who do not sell quack remedies, miracle diets and detox cures. This week, let me consider two of the responses I’ve had; one from a pharmacist, and one from a homeopath. One makes a good point, the other does not”.

This article is a worth-while read for a variety of reasons, and in particular for all those arguing that CAMs should have a ‘place in the sun’.

My first reaction was that there is no need to seek a balance between fact and fiction, science and magic, medicine and quackery.

Although a great part of the article addresses homeopathy, much of his argument can be applied to many Read the rest

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“Health freedom” arguments criticised

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Posted 5 February 2018

Professor William M. London’s May 2017 ‘health freedom’ movement versus consumer protection” webinar is now available online.

It includes:

(a) a brief history of health-related consumer protection,
(b) how the “health freedom” movement undermines consumer protection and pubic health initiatives, and
(c) why quackery should be considered a pervasive societal scandal.

The webinar was part of the “Talking Public Health Series” sponsored by the Southern California Public Health Association, California Baptist University’s Department of Health Science, and CBU Online.

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How to counter the circus of pseudoscience

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Posted 11 January 2018

An excellent article by Lisa Pryor in the New York Times, points out how orthodox health professionals are taught to consider all facts, consider emerging evidence, and a change in factors. These result in constant doubt, readjustment of opinion based on new facts, and constant re-evaluation of your opinion. How this compares with alternative medicine practitioners who have no doubt, only certainly, in spite of little training or expertise.

Most doctors, especially the good ones, are acutely aware of the limits of their knowledge. I have learned from those much more experienced and qualified than me that humility is something to be cultivated over time, not lost.

Our field is built around trying to prove ourselves wrong. In hospitals we hold morbidity and mortality meetings trying to show where we have failed, what we need to change, how we can do better. Our hospital work Read the rest

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