Tuesday, 21 February 2017

ARGH! How to give your journal a bad reputation

Received on 21 February 2017:

Dear Dr. Richard J Edwards,

Good Morning…..!

We are in shortfall of one article for successful release of Volume 3, Issue 2. Is it possible for you to support us with your transcript for this issue before 28th February? If this is a short notice please do send 2 page opinion or mini review, we hope 2 page article isn’t time taken for eminent like you.

We are confident that you are always will be there to support us.

Await your response.

Brittney Reeves
Advanced Research in Gastroenterology & Hepatology (ARGH)

Begging for a two-page article in a week from someone who doesn’t even work in the field… ARGH indeed!

Sunday, 5 February 2017

An ode to Trump

There once was a Donald called Trump,
Who springs high when Bannon says jump,
His empathy’s lacking,
His sanity’s cracking,
A scary yet pitiful chump.

Friday, 27 January 2017

In Defense of Science

From the Evolution Directory (evoldir) mailing list today:

Governmental scientists employed at a subset of agencies have been forbidden from presenting their findings to the public. We have drafted the following response for distribution, and encourage other scientists to post it to their websites, when feasible.

Graham Coop
Professor of Evolution and Ecology
UC Davis

Michael B. Eisen
Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology
UC Berkeley

Molly Przeworski
Professor of Biological Sciences
Columbia University

The message, for any affected US scientists out there:

We are deeply concerned by the Trump administration’s move to gag scientists working at various governmental agencies. The US government employs scientists working on medicine, public health, agriculture, energy, space, clean water and air, weather, the climate and many other important areas. Their job is to produce data to inform decisions by policymakers, businesses and individuals. We are all best served by allowing these scientists to discuss their findings openly and without the intrusion of politics. Any attack on their ability to do so is an attack on our ability to make informed decisions as individuals, as communities and as a nation.

If you are a government scientist who is blocked from discussing their work, we will share it on your behalf, publicly or with the appropriate recipients. You can email us at USScienceFacts@gmail.com.

I’ve also heard a rumour that Michael Eisen is running for senate. That would be cool - we need fewer Trumps and more science-savvy politicians.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Is it fair to compare "Alternative Facts" with "Alternative Medicine"

I came across this “meme” on Facebook today:

“The very concept of alternative medicine exists to create a double standard where the rules of science and evidence are stood on their head specifically to manufacture the result that is desired by cranks, charlatans, snake-oil salesmen, and self-proclaimed gurus. There is no alternative medicine. There is just medicine. Either it works or it doesn’t work.”
-Steven Novella

The inevitable retort was: but what about some “natural/traditional” medicines that have not been thoroughly studied. These might work. So, surely it’s an unfair comparison?

My response to that is this:

When people bullshit based on their gut feelings, they can also be right sometimes. It’s only when someone looks into it do we know whether it is actually fact or fiction. “Folk medicine” and natural products may have good (or bad!) effects but it is wrong to imply that they are medicine until we know whether/when they work.

In the same way that an opinion is not an “alternative fact”, a natural product that somebody thinks might do something is not “alternative medicine”.

Then, of course, there is the less generous - but even more apt - comparison of bare-faced lies with bare-faced fraudulent treatments like homeopathy - things demonstrably false that are being badged at truth under the label “alternative”.

I just hope that the war on “Alternative Facts” is more successful than the war on “Alternative Medicine”. The real problem with taking action based on made up stuff is that reality doesn’t care how well-meaning you are, or how much you want it to be true. Hopefully, America will not suffer too much at the hands of reality before Trump and/or his cronies realise this.