Tapu Misa: Challenging scientists and their science

A column by Tapu Misa published in today’s New Zealand Herald looking at the challenges of communicating science accurately via a media “ill-equipped to interpret and assess scientific evidence”.

An excerpt (read in full here):

“It’s easy to see why we non-scientists prefer absolutes and quantified risks to nuanced explanations and uncertainties. We want nice, simple answers. How deadly is the misnamed swine flu likely to get? Is Tamiflu as good as it’s made out to be? Is a flu vaccine the answer to our prayers? We want the kind of certainty that science can’t always give us.

“But we pay a high price for our ignorance.

“In his book Bad Science, Ben Goldacre, a doctor and Guardian columnist, laments the way “scientists and doctors find themselves outnumbered and outgunned by vast armies of individuals who feel entitled to pass judgment on matters of evidence … without troubling themselves to obtain a basic understanding of the issues’.

“‘Without anybody noticing, bullshit has become an extremely important public health issue, and for reasons that go far beyond the obvious hysteria around immediate harms …’

“Given the daily bombardment of ‘sciency-sounding claims’ in the media, and the deliberate distortions generated by corporate lobbies and cranks, Goldacre sees an urgent need for those interested in the truth to arm themselves with the skills to assess and interpret scientific evidence.”