The mouse trap: Studies done on mice, not people

The next time you hear about interesting findings from the latest scientific study on health, be sure to pay attention to the subject of the study. Was it done on mice? Then don’t get too excited and don’t immediately change your lifestyle because of it.

Mice (and rats, fruit flies, zebrafish, roundworms – all common experimental subjects) are not people. Sorry to be so obvious but it’s easy to miss this when the news anchor on Good Morning America is just so enthusiastic. Results from experiments on them do not necessarily translate to results in humans. Human trials are an additional step – one that is difficult and expensive – so experiments on animals will occur first to provide data and decide whether to move ahead to human trials.

Here are some examples of studies that got widespread press coverage with headlines the sounding promising. But, the fact that they were done on mice might have been missed. Continue reading

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Beware of those who say they “know” what they saw

Yesterday evening, social media exploded and families erupted in argument over the color of a dress in a picture circulating on line.

Here is the picture.
the dress

I’ll admit I first saw the dress as white and gold. After seeing the degree of INSISTENCE of those who swore it was blue and black, I knew something was amiss. Was it a trick picture? An optical illusion? Yes, it was but it was all due to our brains.

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Trust experts or those who tell a good story?

Science is a way of knowing – it’s a rigorous process that ideally winnows away the possible options until the best answer remains for the present time. It’s the most reliable way of knowing because of how strict scientific testing is. It’s not perfect (because it’s done by humans, obviously, who will certainly make some mistakes), but it’s the best method we have. Consider the other options – intuition, imagination, revelation, tradition, personal observation. These can give us the illusion of knowledge but they are not as reliable to others and the pitfalls of using those methods abound.

When a body of experts, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control, or committees assembled by the National Research Council, evaluates all the published research and then issues recommendations based on the evidence they found, YOU OUGHT TO LISTEN CLOSELY. They probably know what the scoop is better than anyone. [Hall, H.,  Skeptical Inquirer, Nov/Dec 2014]

Expert_david tweet

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