science and journalism

“You’re gonna pay for it down the line.”

Frontline takes on the NFL over concussions.

Knowing what we do about the brain, it’s hard to imagine that repeated traumatic impacts to the head wouldn’t have some negative effect over time.  And it’s obviously not hard to imagine that the NFL would go to extreme lengths to avoid admitting this, given the money involved.

But the rigor of the reporting isn’t quite what you’d expect from Frontline.  For one thing, they don’t even bring up the problems with correlation.  In other words, just because NFL players suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), it doesn’t mean that playing in the NFL caused the disease.

Of course, it’s reasonable to think that it might have.

But NFL players are the definition of a non-random sample, extreme in almost every sense of the word.  What if higher levels of testosterone cause CTE?  Or use of PEDs?  Or forced retirement in your mid-30’s?  Or some other trait that many NFLers share?

I don’t know how you do this story without raising that issue.

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“Most Depressing Brain Finding Ever”

At Huffpost, Marty Kaplan is — somehow — surprised that prior beliefs influence how we interpret new information, even blinding us to facts.

But then he quickly realizes that this is — of course! — why “Fox News viewers” and “climate change deni[ers]” are incapable of seeing the obvious truths that are in front of them.

One obvious lesson of confirmation bias: It’s always easier to see confirmation bias amongst those who disagree with you!

HT Althouse.

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NPR: Ecstasy is “safe” but also entails playing “Russian roulette”

The CDC reports that over 80 thousand people die each other from alcohol-related causes.  And over 20 thousand people die from prescription drug overdoes.

But NPR is fear-mongering about 4 deaths from drugs incorrectly sold as MDMA, a drug that NPR declared to be safe and potentially beneficial last year.

Note that the DEA’s scare tactics are based on the potential that pills sold as ecstasy are not pure MDMA, an extremely infrequent problem that could be eliminated if the government ended its ban.

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