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Francesca recommends a book: Critical thinking edition! | Manolo for the Big Girl

Francesca recommends a book: Critical thinking edition!

Francesca has been greatly enjoying a wonderful, informative, and thought-provoking blog by a nurse, Junkfood Science.

Here is the “subheading” of the blog, which will help you see why it is so superfantastic:

Critical examinations of studies and news on food, weight, health and healthcare that mainstream media misses. Debunks popular myths, explains science and exposes fraud that affects your health. Plus some fun food for thought. For readers not afraid to question and think critically to get to the truth.

Before reading this blog, Francesca knew that newspapers and magazines and television often gets science wrong — because most people are just not very good at interpreting scientific studies — but she had no idea how often.  It is truly unbelievable how often a newspaper will tell us something along the lines of “study shows that fat people keel over and die ten horrible deaths before they are 28!” when in fact the study cited just says that “people whose BMI’s are over 45,000 are more likely to have a stroke by the time they are 72 than people whose BMI’s are 44,999.” (Francesca exaggerates, but you catch her drift.)

Anyway, to educate yourself, dear Manolo reader, about how to spot mathematical and scientific fallacies in your mainstream media, Francesca suggests you begin with the superfantastic, easy-to-read, and short-and-to-the-point book, Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: The Manipulation of Public Opinion in America.

Francesca hath spoken.

4 Responses to “Francesca recommends a book: Critical thinking edition!”

  1. daisyj April 24, 2008 at 1:20 pm #

    I haven’t read this book, but I definitely agree with the principle. As a biologist myself, I can’t tell you how infuriated I get by the amount of pseudoscience and statistical manipulation that gets passed off as facts, and the lack of critical thinking that people apply to interpreting them. Or, as my grandfather always says, don’t let the other guy do the math for you.

  2. Twistie April 24, 2008 at 3:04 pm #

    I love Junkfood Science! As a longtime sciencephobe, it’s helped me take baby steps in understanding how to read results of studies critically and decide which information is helpful and which is hysterical skewing of flawed evidence. I highly recommend it to anyone trying to figure out what to take seriously in health reportage.

    Now to start reading that book.

    daisyj, I think I like your grandfather.

  3. Melissa B. April 26, 2008 at 9:06 am #

    DaisyJ, I feel your pain. It’s amazing how you can get people to take even the weirdest claim as fact when you say “they’ve done studies showing X.” That kind of phrasing drives me absolutely up the wall. Who are “they”? What kind of “studies” did they do? What was the methodology? What kind of data did they collect? Where was the study published? “They’ve done studies” is not real information!

  4. class-factotum April 27, 2008 at 5:05 pm #

    My favorite stupid journalist example: A few years ago, the Austin American-Statesman reported that because X% of the blood samples taken at the UT Health Center were HIV positive, X% of the entire UT student body was HIV positive.

    No consideration of the fact that students who go to the health center are not necessarily representative of the entire student body (they go because they are sick or need BCP) or that the ones who have blood drawn are really not representative (because they are sick enough to need blood drawn).

    Reporters should have to pass a test showing they understand probability and statistics before they are allowed to do anything with numbers.