from the taking-nothing-for-granted dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Eryn Brown writes in the LA Times that accounts of 'duh' research abound as studies show that driving ability worsens in people with early Alzheimer's disease, that women who get epidurals experience less pain during childbirth than women who don't, that young men who are obese have lower odds of getting married than thinner peers, and that making exercise more fun might improve fitness among teens. But there's more to duh research than meets the eye writes Brown as experts say they have to prove the obvious again and again to influence perceptions and policy. 'Think about the number of studies that had to be published for people to realize smoking is bad for you,' says Ronald J. Iannotti, a psychologist at the National Institutes of Health. 'There are some subjects where it seems you can never publish enough.' Kyle Stanford, a professor of the philosophy of science at UC Irvine, thinks the professionalization of science has led researchers — who must win grants to pay their bills — to ask timid questions and research that hews to established theories is more likely to be funded, even if it contributes little to knowledge. Perhaps most important, sometimes a study that seems poised to affirm the conventional wisdom produces a surprise. 'Many have taken the value of popular programs like DARE — in which police warn kids about the dangers of drug use — as an article of faith,' writes Brown. 'But Dennis Rosenbaum of the University of Illinois at Chicago and other researchers have shown that the program has been ineffective and may even increase drug use in some cases.'"
Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know
what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true.
-- Bertrand Russell