Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Two Studies Walk Into a Journal

The first study finds that being overweight does not increase the odds of a heart attack or death. The second study finds people who get their protein from animal sources are more likely to get a heart attack or die.

The first study was based on observations from identical twins* whereas the second is worthless based on food questionnaires and follow ups. But, there's little doubt which will win the mindshare battle. The former I read about in an extremist crank's blog whereas I was made aware of the study about beans and tofu being superior through a fashionable technology blog; I can already hear the NPR segment and see the fluff piece in a checkout stand magazine and Reddit post "source".

As a former science teacher, I've come to regret the popularization of science which has resulted in a dumbing down of science rather than improving the scientific literacy of the interested population. On first glance, I figured that a more approachable and entertaining look at concepts could only be for the better but I now believe that in the long run, the fun Vsauce-style approach enervates rigor.**

* Identical twin studies ought to be the baseline for any epidemiological study. Studies based on questionnaires are literal trash.

** This despite what The Atlantic suggests regarding the popular channel. But The Atlantic has also been garbage for the past few years so no surprise. I resubscribe every now and then hoping it's stopped, or slowed, the grinding of its ideological axe. But no. America's balkanization is real. Inevitable.