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How bad research science has gotten: Chocolate files

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Here.  (But one must admit this is at least fun.)

I am Johannes Bohannon, Ph.D. Well, actually my name is John, and I’m a journalist. I do have a Ph.D., but it’s in the molecular biology of bacteria, not humans. The Institute of Diet and Health? That’s nothing more than a website.

Other than those fibs, the study was 100 percent authentic. My colleagues and I recruited actual human subjects in Germany. We ran an actual clinical trial, with subjects randomly assigned to different diet regimes. And the statistically significant benefits of chocolate that we reported are based on the actual data. It was, in fact, a fairly typical study for the field of diet research. Which is to say: It was terrible science. The results are meaningless, and the health claims that the media blasted out to millions of people around the world are utterly unfounded. More.

We cannot have an authentic discussion of design in nature or anything else if we cannot address authenticity in general.

And in any event, those of us who might need our money for other purposes should not be paying for non-authentic science.

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8 Replies to “How bad research science has gotten: Chocolate files

  1. 1

    It’s the journalism that is bad, including your own. Not the science.

    The statistical errors the authors exploited are well known and the corrections are taught in every college level research and statistics class. For example, the high probability of false positives with multiple tests dictates that significance thresholds be adjusted by means of the Bonferroni correction or something similar. The weakness of small sample size is addressed by study design that utilizes, in advance of any actual experimental manipulation, effect size and power to specify required sample sizes, results required for both clinical and statistical significance, etc.

    So the study was terrible science, deliberately so. In fact, it wasn’t science at all – it was fraud. How did it pass muster with 20 scientific journals?

    It didn’t:

    It was time to share our scientific breakthrough with the world. We needed to get our study published pronto, but since it was such bad science, we needed to skip peer review altogether. Conveniently, there are lists of fake journal publishers…Since time was tight, I simultaneously submitted our paper—“Chocolate with high cocoa content as a weight-loss accelerator”—to 20 journals.

    Our paper was accepted for publication by multiple journals within 24 hours. Needless to say, we faced no peer review at all. The eager suitor we ultimately chose was the the International Archives of Medicine. It used to be run by the giant publisher BioMedCentral, but recently changed hands. The new publisher’s CEO, Carlos Vasquez, emailed Johannes to let him know that we had produced an “outstanding manuscript,” and that for just 600 Euros it “could be accepted directly in our premier journal.”

    There was no science, no acceptance by scientific journals and no publication in a scientific journal. There was no “research science” at all, your headline notwithstanding.

    If journalists got excited about those results and trumpeted them across he land, that’s bad journalism, not bad science. Indeed, that is exactly the point of the exercise:

    You can thank people like me for that. We journalists have to feed the daily news beast, and diet science is our horn of plenty. Readers just can’t get enough stories about the benefits of red wine or the dangers of fructose.

    Given a headline like “How bad research science has gotten: Chocolate files” when there was no “research science” performed or published, and given your omission of the above details from your story, your journalism is no better.

    Only difference: it’s the demand for a constant drizzle of anti-science articles that drives the “News” at UD.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Why Science Is Wrong…About Almost Everything – book
    A ROLLICKING ASSAULT ON SCIENCE’S INABILITY TO ANSWER LIFE’S MOST IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
    http://www.amazon.com/Science-.....938398319/

    For instance:

    how scientific materialism fails medicine. – interview
    http://www.skeptiko.com/271-dr.....-medicine/

  3. 3
    daveS says:

    Why Science Is Wrong…About Almost Everything – book
    A ROLLICKING ASSAULT ON SCIENCE’S INABILITY TO ANSWER LIFE’S MOST IMPORTANT QUESTIONS

    In the course of the book, he discusses near-death experiences, mediums, telepathy, healing, psychic detectives, evolution, and much more.

    Heh. Speaking of ‘life’s most important questions’.

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    What will I have for dinner?

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    daveS, I use to be very skeptical of many of the claims on skeptiko, and still am skeptical somewhat of many of the claims (grain of salt and all that), but Alex Tsakiris, who is Author of the book I referenced, and host of the skeptiko show, has won me over somewhat, but not completely, with his balanced but penetrating interviews on these topics.

    For instance, in one of his interviews, he nailed, in a gentle fashion, materialist neuro-philosopher Patricia Churchland for her dishonesty on studies of NDEs

    Dr. Patricia Churchland Sandbagged by Near-Death Experience Questions – Skeptiko – Alex Tsakiris
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7a6ZaivvCnE

    that interview by itself was worth putting up with some of the other stuff on the show I find to be not well founded.

  6. 6
    daveS says:

    Thanks for the response, BA77.

  7. 7
    Seversky says:

    “Sandbagged” is right. The guy is dishonest. He doesn’t just interview his victims, he ambushes them. Of course, you could argue that anybody who allows themselves to be interviewed by him without checking up what he’s all about deserves what they get. They should realize that he’s not about understanding, it’s about undermining.

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    Seversky only you would complain that she was ‘ambushed’. Anyone who is remotely not biased can easily see that she was purposely dishonest and then evasive with when caught being dishonest.

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