John Oliver Finally Calls Out The Bullshit “Science” We’re All Sick Of Seeing On Facebook
A quick scroll through your Facebook feed can make you second-guess everything you thought you knew about science. Luckily for anyone plagued by the overwhelming amount of ridiculous studies that come out every day, John Oliver questioned bullshit science on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight in the hilarious way he tackles any serious issue.
“Science is constantly producing new studies, as you would know if you’ve ever watched TV… and when studies aren’t blanketing TV, they’re all over your Facebook feed,” Oliver said, mentioning recent headlines shared on social media like “Study Finds Liberals Are Better Than Conservatives At Smizing,” “Research Says Your Cat Might Be Thinking About Killing You?,” and “Scientists Say Smelling Farts Might Prevent Cancer.”
The late-night host pointed out that there are so many goddamn studies these days that they completely contradict one another. “In just the last few months, we’ve seen studies about coffee that claim it may reverse the effects of liver damage, help prevent colon cancer, decrease the risk of endometrial cancer, and increase the risk of miscarriage,” he explained. “Coffee today is like God in the ‘Old Testament’ — it will either save you or kill you depending on how much you believe in its magic powers.”
After a certain point, Oliver quips, all that ridiculous information can make you wonder if science is just bullshit. “The answer is clearly no, but there is a lot of bullshit currently masquerading as science,” he said Sunday.
The British comedian doesn’t blame scientists for this. Rather, he thinks the problem is heightened pressure to come up with new discoveries and not enough emphasis on the follow-up replication studies that can actually confirm that results are true.
Another issue Oliver raised about the current scientific field is the practice of “P-Hacking” — collecting lots of data and analyzing it until you find something significant, but nonetheless meaningless. For example, if a survey finds that a majority of women who drink coffee also have long hair, it isn’t automatically true that drinking coffee results in hair growth. (Though if that were true, I’d have the longest hair you’ve ever seen.)
It’s also problematic to blindly trust studies done on incredibly small sample groups or funded by industries with a bias about the outcome. While Oliver explained that neither automatically makes a study incorrect, “it is something the media reporting on it should probably tell you about.”
The late-night host is worried that this miss-reporting of science will allow corporations peddling harmful products to claim the science isn’t in yet on whether or not their goods could kill you, just as the tobacco industry did for years.
So, the moral of the story is: don’t trust every crazy study your Great Aunt June posts on Facebook.