Catalyst and psuedoscience

Catalyst and psuedoscience

Submitted by James Purser on Tue, 02/16/2016 - 22:49

Hrmm, I think I'll let Upulie lead on tonights episode of Catalyst.

"It misrepresents scientific risk assessment; cherry picks data and is carefully constructed incitement"

For those of you who didn't watch or havent yet caught it on iView, tonights episode of Catalsyt was called "Wi-fried" and billed as exploring the potential health effects of the surge in wifi enabled devices.

The first warning sign that this episode was going to be problematic was the presenter involved. Dr Maryanne Demasi was the presenter on the controversial double episode in 2013 on Statins. That story claimed to expose the truth about Statins, but really pushed a line of pseudoscience and misinformation from people who had a vested interest in selling "alternative" therapies.

Leaving aside the title of the episode, the second warning sign came with the intro to the episode.

NARRATION
You can't see it or hear it, but wi-fi blankets our homes, our cities and our schools.

Dr Devra Davis
Children today are growing up in a sea of radiofrequency microwave radiation that did not exist five years ago.

NARRATION
Our safety agencies dispute that wireless devices like mobile phones cause harm.

Dr Ken Karipidis
Don't think it's good enough to say at the moment that mobile phone use does cause cancer.

Dr Devra Davis
Cell phones emit pulsed radiation...

NARRATION
But some of the world's leading scientists and industry insiders are breaking ranks to warn us of the risks.

Let's have a look at that shall we?

We start with a slightly scary statement. Wifi is blanketing our homes and schools. 

Then we lead in with the "expert" reinforcing the previous scary statement with another scary statement,

The Narrator gives us the "but the authorities say we shouldn't be worried" line

Then we return to the "expert" with another scary sounding statement and the Narrator breathlessly revealing that some brave scientists are Breaking Ranks! to tell us the truth.

Ye gods. This rubbish belongs on A Current Affair not the ABC.

Ketan Joshi wrote up a guide to tonights episode, in fact he did it yesterday and it matches up so well with what actually happened. If you haven't seen the episode I suggest you sit down with the post open and tick off the elements as the episode progresses.

This sort of thing really annoys me. It's hard enough to combat psuedoscience like this without what should be the most respected science program in the country joining the ranks of the kind of people who push products like anti-radiation patches for mobile phones. There are already reports of people, worried by tonights episode trying to contact their schools to express concerns about their kids being swamped by evil cancer causing wifi.

Yup, parents are trying to organise an urgent meeting on Wifi with the principal. Woohoo @MaryanneDemasi, you did it. #catalyst

— ?? ???? (@glengyron) February 16, 2016

 The crazy thing is that of all the main stream media orgs in the country, the ABC is generally the best one around. It even has a dedicated science section that I use to grab stories for #lunchtimescience because it's a source I can trust. Things like tonights episode of Catalyst can only do damage to the reputation that has been built up over the years by good, solid science reporting.

So where does that leave us?

Well, in my opinion, Catalyst as a flagship program is useless. I cannot trust that it will deal with scientific controversies with rigor if it can't even handle something as simple as the wifi thing. 

Bring back Beyond 2000.

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