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Back August 3rd, 2009 Forward
Mad Science, Evolutionary Psychology and Science Reporting today.

I'd like to take a moment to whinge about the quality (or lack thereof) of science reporting in the media. I've always had a rather keen interest in scientific discovery, and the processes involved. However, these days I tend to find myself rather disappointed by the way these things are reported. There's an uncritical emphasis on the flashy stuff, the stuff which causes controversey, and the stuff which reinforces the status quo, rather than an active, questioning style of discussion.

For example, this report is an interesting one, covering a possible link between human behaviour and physical structure creation within the human brain. However, the report about it raises more questions than it answers. So here's my list of questions:

  • What size sample group was tested?

  • How many races, ethnicities, cultural groupings, and similar were represented within the sample group?

  • How many age groupings were represented within the sample group?

  • Did any of the members of the sample group need to wear spectacles for visual correction?

  • Did any of the sample group identify as being transgender and/or intersex, and if so, were their results more appropriate for their physical/genetic gender presentation, or their culturally dictated gender presentation?

  • Where are the scientists obtaining their theory about varied gender roles in food collection within prehistoric human society from?

  • Can they prove the influence is from ancient cultural behaviours rather than modern cultural behaviours?

  • Is there any evidence to support their theory which isn't culturally and anthropologically biased?

  • Has this study been repeated on a different sample group?

  • Has the study been repeated by a different team?

  • Did the researchers state the result they were expecting beforehand? Did the data they received match up to the result?

  • If the study has been duplicated, by whom, and were they expecting a similar result or a different one?

  • Is anything in this media report an even vaguely accurate statement about the study, or is it just a regurgitated press release?

Basically, from the information in the ABC report, I can't find the information to be able to assess this study on its own merits. I'd love to have a link to the actual paper, or even an abstract of it, so that I could do the reading myself. This is the one area where online news could really leap ahead of print, audio and visual media - the ability to link to the actual results of the study, so folks could read it with their own eyes, and process it with their own brains. As it stands, though, I'm stuck with a sketchy report, without even details of which volume and issue of the British Journal of Psychology the study was published in.

So, in the meantime, I'll dismiss the whole thing as so much evo-psych bullshit making too much soup out of the one onion, and carry on with my reading on everything else. After all, the whole topic is one which has pretty much been pulled out of the "oh, this'll cause the feminists to grumble" bag.

Current Mood: cranky cranky
Back August 3rd, 2009 Forward