A particular sort of delightful demoralization washed over me when I saw comedian John Oliver sum up years of my research in 19 hilarious minutes. Here are some things that you will learn from this segment:
- science is difficult,
- not all scientific research is fabulous,
- scientists are pushed to publish new and striking results, and are not rewarding for double-checking other peoples’ research,
- scientific research can be manipulated in ways that sacrifice its integrity,
- science is often distorted by the media to make it more newsworthy,
- people tend to be more interested in easily-digested, exaggerated, glamorized science, than in the nuts and bolts of how science actually works,
- and, farts don’t cure cancer.
These things undermine the credibility and authority of scientific research. We need excellent, credible, and authoritative scientific research to address public health challenges, environmental problems, climate change, and a host of other significant issues. This is one reason why it is important to think critically about how we produce, share, and use scientific knowledge.
John Oliver says all of this in a way that might not be safe for all workplaces, but is really funny.