Newspapers are built to make money on their visitors so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they jump on every interesting study. Unfortunately, journalists rarely care about the truth and as a result they publish falsehoods.
This is why everyone should take a crash course in bad science so you can look at a study and within a few seconds estimate if it’s realistic or not. I’m not saying that researches consciously lie about their results but sometimes they draw conclusions that are not really there.
There’re two commonly mentioned examples on this:
As ice cream sales increase, the rate of drowning deaths increases sharply. Therefore, ice cream consumption causes drowning.
With a decrease in the number of pirates, there has been an increase in global warming over the same period. Therefore, global warming is caused by a lack of pirates.
Both of these examples show that correlation does not imply causation and most people would guess that the correlation between ice cream and drowning is caused by great weather – not ice cream leading to drowning.
Watch the video above with Ben Goldacre and you’ll be able to spot problems in almost every amazing study published in todays newspapers.