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  4. Lies, Damned Lies, and Science: How to Sort Through the Noise Around Global Warming, the Latest Health Claims, and Other Scientific Controversies

Lies, Damned Lies, and Science: How to Sort Through the Noise Around Global Warming, the Latest Health Claims, and Other Scientific Controversies, 1st edition

  • Sherry Seethaler

Published by FT Press (January 13th 2009) - Copyright © 2009

1st edition

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What's healthy? What's unhealthy? What's safe? What's dangerous? Watch the news, and it's easy to be overwhelmed by snippets of badly presented science: information that's incomplete, confusing, contradictory, out-of-context, wrong, or flat-out dishonest. In this book, Dr. Sherry Seethaler provides a "bag of tricks" for making sense of science in the news. You'll learn how to think more sensibly about everything from mad cow disease to global warming and make better science-related decisions in both your personal life and as a citizen. You'll begin by understanding how science really works and progresses, and why scientists sometimes disagree. Seethaler helps you assess the possible biases of those who make scientific claims in the media, and place scientific issues in appropriate context, so you can intelligently assess tradeoffs. You'll learn how to determine whether a new study is really meaningful; uncover the difference between cause and mere coincidence; figure out which statistics mean something, and which don't. Finally, drawing on her extensive experience as a science journalist, she reveals the tricks self-interested players use to mislead and confuse you, and points you to sources of information you can actually rely upon. Seethaler's many examples range from genetic engineering of crops to drug treatments for depression, but the techniques she teaches you will be invaluable in understanding any scientific controversy, in any area of science or health.

Table of contents

Preface  xvii

Introduction  xix

Chapter 1: Potions, Plot, Personalities: Understand How Science Progresses and Why Scientists Sometimes Disagree  1

Chapter 2: Who’s Who?: Identify Those Who Hold Stake in an Issue and What Their Positions Are  29

Chapter 3: Decisions, Decisions: Elucidate All the Pros and Cons of a Decision  43

Chapter 4: Compare and Contrast: Place Alternatives in an Appropriate Context to Evaluate Tradeoffs  59

Chapter 5: What Happens If…?: Distinguish Between Cause and Coincidence  73

Chapter 6: Specific or General: Recognize How Broadly the Conclusions from a Study May Be Applied  89

Chapter 7: Fun Figures: See Through the Number Jumble  99

Chapter 8: Society’s Say: Discern the Relationships Between Science and Policy  113

Chapter 9: All the Tricks in the Book: Get Past the Ploys Designed to Simply Bypass Logic  139

Chapter 10: Fitting The Pieces Together: Know How to Seek Information to Gain a Balanced Perspective  161

Conclusions: Twenty Essential Applications of the Tools  177

Acknowledgments  183

About the Author  184

Index  185

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