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Science Idle

Why We Have So Much "Duh" Science 299

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.'"
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Why We Have So Much "Duh" Science

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  • by quietwalker ( 969769 ) <> on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @05:40PM (#36313010)

    Sometimes you need to state the obvious over and over again because it doesn't take much for a person to internalize a viewpoint that makes the obvious non-obvious. Like Lewis Caroll pointed out, 3 times seems to be enough.

    As simple examples, Snopes take on aspartame causing cancer & tumors [] and as an ant poison [] The FDA still ends up being inundated with this claim so many times a year that they end up retesting, just to humor the population.

    As a more loaded example, check out the belief systems of anyone who claims they are strongly religious. Or Truthers. Or Birthers.

    Sadly, it appears that the majority of the population needs to be told what is obvious over and over.

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @06:04PM (#36313270)

    Police lie to everyone, not just youth.

  • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @07:05PM (#36313916) Homepage Journal

    And for those reading in the far future: Today's XKCD [].

  • by Jack9 ( 11421 ) on Wednesday June 01, 2011 @07:20PM (#36314070)

    > "Common sense" is not a scientific argument. It lacks rigor.
    > more often than not, common sense is just plain wrong.

    You seem to have it out for common sense. Either way, I'm not sure how you could believe that common sense* is more often wrong. The number of common sense affirmations that are correct are literally innumerable because they are simple reasoning about the world around us.

    *What you call common sense and I call common sense may be different things.

    A study is not required for me to tell my children...

    Don't eat things harder than your teeth, they aren't good for you.
    People in the larger vehicle of a 2 vehicle crash, tend to have longer lifespans post-incident.
    People who have lost 1 of 2 matching organs, tend to follow physician advice more closely.
    Don't eat plants that a young animal ate, after which it immediately died.
    Don't shit where you eat.
    Don't hit people you don't know.
    Wash your hands after handling garbage cans.

    It's not hard to come up with these. It's how humans have operated, successfully, for millenia. The trick is to know how to craft the grant and produce a rigorous study.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.