Sunday, January 30, 2011

The danger of reading about science online

The Boy is a chemical engineer, and now when ever I mention "an article I read" or "a story about a study I heard on the radio" instead of it just getting the response of "Oh, that's kinda cool" he picks it apart. This happened a few minutes ago when, while on slashdot I came across this article that, at first glance to someone who is NOT a scientist or involved in the sciences, seems to say that there is a gene for being religious, and that it is spreading. My reaction to this was, "Wait, WHAT?" to which The Boy said that's insane. Which when you think about it, it is. People are less religious now then they were fifty years ago. I dug a little deeper, and checked the source of slashdot. That led me here.

The Boy looked over and asked "How the hell did you end up on phyorg?"

"I followed the link to the source article. Are they reliable?"

"Hit and miss," he said simply.

So I dug deeper then that, to the actual article here says something very important that the other two do not. Two very important facts, actually. It states that the research was done under the assumption that such a gene existed, and that fertility was culturally based. Kind of different then the initial article I found, isn't it?

I even took it a step further, I checked the validity of the source the article came from. The royal society is the scientific consultant to the UK parliament. I think that counts as them being a viable source. Satisfied that I had sifted through the internet to find scientific truth, I stopped my reading on the subject.

I only hope that this makes you think twice before thinking something you read on the internet is viable information.

1 comment:

  1. Ooooh. Sciencey.

    Have you checked out the book or website Bad Science? It does things like this really well.