The Observer re-drafts the universe with untruth and distortion

8, October 2007

On 7 October 2007 readers of The Observer were greeted with the headline that “Forensic DNA tests ‘reveal traces of Madeleine’s body on resort beach’” (the article was written by Mark Townsend and Ned Temko and is available here). At first glance this latest installment in the long-running saga of the disappeared child promised a follow-up to the previous stories that some of her DNA had been found in her parents’ car.

Unfortunately, the article inadvertently reveals something much more disturbing – the cynical exploitation of the case by a shyster given credibility by The Observer (and other UK newspapers). The ‘forensic tests’ were carried out by a crank using a secret ‘quantum’ device with a secret energy source. It’s the sort of thing you would expect to find in a science fiction novel,  and has no relationship to science. But the Observer reported this gobbldigook as news, and in doing so relied upon  multiple untruths and distortions, which are outlined below. Read the rest of this entry »

Mobile phones damage hearing – according to dodgy research

29, September 2007

Another story claiming to show the dangers of mobile phone radiation has been doing the rounds of the predictable press – for example in the Mail,  the Telegraph, CTV, and Fox News.  As of 27 September Google provides over 800 hits for the story, some of them from sites offering specialist information for people with hearing impairments. Read the rest of this entry »

A language of bullshit?

23, September 2007

In an open society, and especially in scholarly research, we are used to discussing the merits of ideas. In doing so we judge their merits using a variety of factors, but most important are evidence and logic. People should change their minds when they are confronted with evidence that contradicts their position, rather than reject the evidence. It may take a long time, and prejudice never seems to go away, but science and is based upon the assumption that through discussion and review the illogical and implausible will be eclipsed by ideas which are supported by better evidence, or evidence at all. This process has served us well, the scientific method has provided innumerable benefits. Read the rest of this entry »