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Episode 1 – Rigorous or Ridiculous?

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Welcome to Science Monkey! In today’s episode, Graham and Ray talk about pseudoscience and why we are still engaged with it, even in the modern, technological era. We also shamelessly plug our books, Words Well Put and Nothing To Do With Skin. And Graham recommends his translation of Six Records of a Life Adrift, by Shen Fu.

Some of the things we mention include: a University course that has some anti-vaccination elements, a questionable diet described in the New York Times that purports to miraculously “cure” autism, why people tend to fall for pseudoscience, and a 1997 Wall Street Journal advertisement, masquerading as a peer-reviewed science paper, called “Science Has Spoken: Global Warming Is A Myth”.

We introduce our segment, Rigorous or Ridiculous, in which we discuss whether a study is good or… not. Today, the papers we tackle are “Association between breastfeeding and intelligence, educational attainment, and income at 30 years of age: a prospective birth cohort study from Brazil” and “An Open-Label Pilot Study of Homeopathic Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Youth.”

Oh, and Ray is deeply embarrassed that he temporarily forgets what an “open label” study is.  Deeply, shamefully, devastatingly embarrassed. (But Graham guessed correctly.)

TERMS used in today’s podcast: prospective, longitudinal, association, correlation, continuous variable, dichotomous variable, open label, control group, pilot study. (See the glossary for the full list.)

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