Throw That Grenade and Walk Away

This is an old article, but a good demonstration of a point I’ve repeated over and over.

You’ll note that the actual study here does not mention causality and provides only preliminary evidence of even a tentative correlation. The findings are observational, not numeric.

Yet media outlets have assigned wildly consequential weight to the results.

Could marijuana cause brain damage?
This study certainly doesn’t lock that door. But it also doesn’t really open it either. It’s more like standing at a closed door and smelling something on the other side. You’re not sure what it is, but you have a hunch it may be worth the effort to open the door.

Remember, with the exception of extremely novel work, nearly every study is a part of a larger literature. Knowing at least a part of that literature is key to being informed on these issues. When new results arise, they need to be understood in the context of the literature.

Sadly, the media can’t seem to handle the responsibility of accurately reporting on hard and social sciences. That is a real shame.

“You had one job…”

Because there is a very low level of accountability, media members can simply throw whatever grenades they want and walk away in an informational war zone.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s