We’re suckers for scientific studies. If researchers find the best time to drink coffee or a concerning link between bacon and stomach cancer, we want to know! But for each useful study—that is, one with a large enough sample size that leads to statistically significant findings and replicable results—there is plenty of research that is junk.
John Oliver recently poked fun at these flawed studies (and the weight we give them) on his show Last Week Tonight. If you don't have time to watch the full 20-minute video (though trust us, it's worth it), you can jump to the five best moments:
1:40: “There are now so many studies being thrown around, they can seem to 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. 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.”
4:50: “There is no reward for being the second person to discover something in science. There’s no Nobel Prize for fact-checking, and, incidentally, ‘There’s No Nobel Prize for Fact-Checking’ is a motivational poster in Brian Williams’s MSNBC dressing room.”
7:38: "Some of this is on us, the viewing audience. We like fun, pop-y science that we can share like gossip—and TV producers know it.”
14:50: “In science, you don’t just get to cherry-pick the parts that justify what you were going to do anyway; that’s religion.”
15:50: “Do you love science in all its complexity but wish it could be a little less complex and a lot less scientific? Introducing TODD Talks, where the format of TED Talks meets the intellectual rigor of morning news shows.”