Journalists suck at science

Over the last year or so I’ve developed a taste for scepticism. I’m finding myself questioning the reporting of news more and more, but mostly I’ve just been appalled at the quality of critical thinking in the media. I’m also distressed to see that our planet seems chock full of people that are happy to believe any old crap if they set their mind to it.

The media's MMR hoax
The media's MMR hoax

Most of the British news media are ignorant of science, at least, that’s the logical conclusion considering the lack of objectivity when considering news stories that feature anything vaguely science-related. Ben Goldacre is the exception to the rule – a journalist that actually knows what they’re talking about, especially where medicine-related news is concerned. He’s a physician by trade and writes a weekly column in the Guardian concerning poor science practice and the shocking quality of reporting of such things.

Ben expands on his Guardian column on his blog – Bad Science. I subscribe to the blog feed and I’m often entertained by his dismemberment of various news stories on pseudoscience and other quackery, especially his article on poo-specialist and closet Terrahawk impersonator Gillian McKeith.

I was especially pleased to read one of his latest articles on one of the British press’s darkest hours – the reporting around the MMR link to Autism. Ben postulates that the media needs to take a good look at itself over the way it’s reported on this whole mess. He also points the finger at Leo Blair (or rather, his parents) for giving members of the British public more reason to try and avoid giving their own children the MMR vaccine.

Ben points out, quite correctly, that there is no proof that the MMR jab causes Autism. In fact, there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary. MMR is an important boost to an infant’s immune system and the media’s insistence in fueling this hoax has put many, many children at risk.

Don’t believe the anti-vaxxers. The evidence suggests that vaccinations do not cause Autism. No matter how loudly people may shout to the contrary (and they do) just about all the research into MMR (and associated international alternatives) shows that the jab gives children way more benefit than any potential risk.

Don’t put your children at risk due to this media frenzy. Immunise.

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