Science and Law
3rd April 2013

Debunking Junk Science, for Lawyers

This joke pokes fun at our natural tendency to trust information just because it appears in print. But as any lawyer knows, you can’t believe everything you read – even if the information is published in a scientific journal or reputable news publication.

Debunking Junk Science, for Lawyers

Comedian Bob Saget once quipped, “Did you know men can breastfeed? It’s true; I read it….I wrote it down and then I read it.”

This joke pokes fun at our natural tendency to trust information just because it appears in print. But as any lawyer knows, you can’t believe everything you read – even if the information is published in a scientific journal or reputable news publication. Lawyers, politicians and journalists often disseminate scientific misinformation, or “junk science,” to strengthen a case, advance a cause, or capture the public’s attention.

                                        © Rinderart | Stock Free Images

Every experienced defense lawyer has been confronted with “scientific” information that just doesn’t seem to add up. To combat the persuasive power of junk science, it’s important to take a closer look at the research and analyze all of the data available.

The following online resources offer a wealth of information that counters assertions built on junk science. They are great sources to turn to for information related to your science-based cases.

• STATS – www.stats.org

Are you interested in the latest research questioning the purported connection between cell phone use and brain cancer? Do you want to know why a leading expert condemned the crusade against BPA? Do you question the supposed link between sugary beverages and obesity? You can find information on these topics and more on the STATS website, an affiliate of George Mason University that aims to correct scientific misinformation in the media and public policy. STATS offers analyses of the latest research on key issues and links to revealing articles.

• JunkScience – www.junkscience.com

“All the Junk That’s Fit to Debunk.” As its motto indicates, JunkScience.com’s mission is to reveal the facts behind junk science in the media and the courtroom. JunkScience takes on Global Warming theorists, the EPA, the American Heart Association and others.

• Bad Science – www.badscience.net

Dr. Ben Goldacre, author of the bestseller Bad Science, continues his campaign against junk science in his witty and insightful blog of the same name. In his book and blog, he exposes the tenuous scientific claims of newspapers, doctors, government reports and drug companies.

• Bjorn Lomborg – www.lomborg.com

Bjorn Lomborg, an adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School, a bestselling author, and a frequent media commentator, challenges mainstream concerns about the environment. In news articles and social media posts, he strives to focus attention on effective solutions to environmental issues.

• QuackWatch – www.quackwatch.com

QuackWatch is an international network of advocates who are concerned about health-related frauds, myths and misconduct. Activities include investigating questionable claims, debunking pseudoscientific claims, and distributing reliable publications, among others. Visitors can search the website’s vast database of questionable products, services and theories by topic.

• Science-Based Medicine – www.sciencebasedmedicine.org

Science-based medicine evaluates medical treatments and products in a scientific context. “Good science is the best and only way to determine which treatments and products are truly safe and effective,” according to the website. Recent articles have analyzed placebo prescribing, cancer screening tests, and SPECT scans.

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