Teaching Bad Science

The levels at which bad science has penetrated our society are breath taking. Even teachers, who you would hope were able to teach the principles of good science to our kids, are falling foul of the woo and nonsense. Almost makes you despair for the human race.

Today, the BBC have reported that the Professional Association of Teachers are…

seeking an inquiry into safety concerns surrounding new wireless technology.

Shockingly, there have already been studies, inquiries and the like. Is the PAT unable to read the studies? Were there no science teachers available to explain the nature of scientific research? The mind truly boggles.

The BBC mention that the former Education Secretary pointed out the Health Protection Agency guidance was that there is no threat. Like all good woo-ist scaremongers, the PAT General Secretary replied with:

Mr Parkin said: “There is a view out there that you have no right to express concerns on such issues and that if you do, you are scaremongering or promoting so-called bad science.”

But he said that because some scientists were concerned about the risks, an inquiry was necessary.

Blimey – he may not know any science, but he is certainly an expert in woo, nonsense and debating skills.

Lots of people will start a sentence saying “I dont want to cause offence” then say something very offensive, “I dont mean to be rude” then say something rude and so on. Here Mr Parkin has started off saying “I dont want to scare monger with bad science” then scaremongered with bad science.

The first sentence is simply not true. People always have the “right” to be concerned about issues. Just because they are concerned does not mean it is not scaremongering or it is not bad science. Mr Parkin can express all the concerns in the world for all I care. For example, there is greater reason to worry about teachers abusing their pupils than the dangers of WiFi. Which concern should get priority?

As for the second sentence. Well… Because “some” scientists are concerned is not justification. This just shows Mr Parkin does not understand science. I could probably search through journals and find scientists concern about any topic, subject or technology he chose to mention. I am sure Mr Parkin is happy for children to be driven to schools – yet some scientists are concerned this is bad for their health. Some scientists are concerned that mixed sex schools inhibit children’s developments, conversely some scientists think the opposite.

Research has been carried out on the dangers of WiFi. It is valid research and presents little evidence of any risks for children. If future research shows differently, then the situation can be revised. Forming an inquiry every single time “some” scientists had a concern over things would be ludicrous in the extreme. If they are so concerned, the PAT can fund the necessary research… Unless they just want the government to reduce the education budget to carry out pointless inquiries…

This wonderful line from Mr Parkin really messed with my mind:

I have heard and read enough to make me concerned and I had been made aware of an accumulation of evidence which suggests that the non-thermal, pulsing effects of electromagnetic radiation could have a damaging effect upon the developing nervous systems of children.

The frequently-quoted current safety limits in operation refer to the thermal effects of such radiation and not the non-thermal effects.


Oddly, I am not sure if this is a result of the BBC’s editing or the way things were talked about at the conference, but it seems like the dangers from WiFi have been conflated with the risk of asbestos… Now that would be bad science.

[tags]Science, Bad Science, Scare, Woo, Nonsense, Teachers, School,Education,Health, Wifi, Electromagnetism, EM, Radiation, Asbestos[/tags]

5 thoughts on “Teaching Bad Science

  1. Good post, and cleverly written too.

    “Here _______ has started off saying “I dont want to scare monger with bad science” then scaremongered with bad science.” Just change the name the pattern is repeated everywhere you look.

  2. Thanks for the comment.

    Sadly you are right — it is pretty much universal that people throw crackpot science around with the claim it is not bad science… Even more sadly is fewer and fewer people are able to see through it.

    We are marching back to the dark ages.

  3. Damn. I saw an interesting discussion on this general topic recently and can’t find it now. I was hoping to link it to you.

    They listed about a half a dozen “scares” that have been brought up in the past few decades, based on “science”, where the overwhelming consensus of science actually said something quite different.

    For the average person, this is the way to approach these scientific questions – what is the consensus? It obviously doesn’t mean it’s right or that it won’t shift over time. It’s fine to probe and ask the questions. That’s what science does. That’s what makes it the greatest tool mankind has ever come up with.

    Science doesn’t “accept” – it challenges constantly. EVERYTHING in science is provisional. But we lose all sense of reality if we constantly jump out of our collective skins whenever new evidence is unearthed. As you point out, there is ALWAYS controversy. What is the consensus?

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