Today the British Psychological Society’s research digest has highlighted Lobato & Zimmerman‘s recently published research on how people reason about controversial (*) scientific topics. Their research asked participants to justify their position on evolution, climate change, genetically modified foods and vaccinations.
The researchers found that 34% of participants simply restated their thoughts with no justification. Of the remaining 66% who attempted a justification, 20% were subjective. Subjective justifications favoured personal experience, cultural identity, false reasoning and conspiracy theories over scientific evidence.
45% of participants said that no new evidence would change their minds for at least one of the four topics investigated.
This research is interesting because it questions the received wisdom that giving people more factual information about a topic will enable them to come to a valid conclusion. It could certainly explain why a ‘referendum on the facts’ about Brexit may still deliver the same verdict as in June 2016. Brexit, as the Prime Minister and her cabinet demonstrates, has become an article of faith.
Which brings me to the topic of cancer. Judging by some of the reviews on the Cancer Research UK Facebook page, scientific knowledge about cancer is controversial. Many of the reviews made me feel sad. Others made me angry. Some examples and the facts (even though it appears that facts may not be powerful for some):
Cancer research has NO intention of finding a cure, merely conning people out of money on the premise of such a possibility … You manufacture antiquated TREATMENTS that eventually kill the sufferer! More patients die from CHEMO than cancer!
In the 1970s, only a quarter of people diagnosed with a cancer survived. More than half now survive for at least ten years.Novel chemotherapy drugs and other treatments developed through research programmes are responsible for this dramatic improvement in survival rates.
Cancer Research UK is a scam!!! Established 1902 and stil no cure? Makes big pharmaceutical companies billions so, ever wondered why there’s no cure?
As cancer is not a single disease, it is unlikely that there will ever be “a cure” for it. Many different approaches will be required. Cancers that used to kill quickly in 1902 but now have a five-year survival rate of around 100% include cervical cancer, prostate cancer, many thyroid cancers and early stage breast cancer. My own non-Hodgkin lymphoma has a rapidly improving survival rate thanks to improved chemotherapy drugs, stem cell transplants and immunotherapy.
Why give cancer patients fatty food and sugar WHEN cancer thrives on sugar.
There’s no scientific evidence that removing sugar from your diet improves your survival chances.
And then there’s the comments from the green crayon brigade that really aren’t worth any response at all, but just make me angry.
A cancer charity that doesn’t tell you what causes cancer, or how to cure it. A low fat plant based diet both prevents and cures cancer. Please watch **** and **** and stop supporting corrupt charities like this one.
… what in hell are you researching there’s a cure already it’s called marijuana …
Scare tactics 1 in 2 people will get cancer? Smoking is down, Drinking down yet cancer rates are up..really why don’t you just say everyone will get cancer so just give us all your money.
The cancer research shop window displays have no mention of the ww1 100 years memorial. No poppies. No ” lest we forget” message. Nothing.
THE CURES ARE KNOWN BUT HIDDEN. VITAMIN B17, CBD OIL ETC
I could go on, but there’s only so much stupidity I can cope with in one day. Nick Clegg is certainly going to have his work cut out cleaning up fake news or whatever it is he’ll be doing at Facebook in 2019.
(*) The participants were 244 American university students and staff, which may explain the inclusion of evolution as one of the controversial topics.