Articles to 2015-01-30

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First the link to this week’s complete list as HTML and as PDF.

As often happens, Ling et al. become honest towards the end of their article. Contrary to what the title and abstract imply, they do not expect their new antibiotic to prevent resistance, but only for it to take longer to establish itself. Not quite the same thing, is it? Of course what all this does not address again, is the neutron bomb approach of all antibiotics. 99 % of our microbiome is benign or even vital and all antibiotic treatments strongly affect its composition with as yet unknown health effects.

In their comprehensively sourced and endnoted book Oreskes & Conway call the article by Hirayama a flagship study and the proof about passive smoking. So it came as a bit of a surprise, that they did not cite it. All they give is a (partially wrong) citation of a secondary compilation, which also does not cite but only mentions the study, though this time with just enough detail to make my search successful. As it turns out subsequent comments pointing out errors and shortcomings shoot it so full of holes as to make it quite worthless. This was already obvious from the article alone. Their main published result is not for nonsmoking wives of smoking vs. nonsmoking husbands, but rather for nonsmoking vs. smoking husbands between 40 and 59 years of age and employed in agriculture. If that doesn’t shout “undisclosed data dredge”, than what does?
    This seems no accident. The book is an unashamed and open ad hominem from beginning to end and pure journalism of admittedly brilliantly written prose. Citations for the most important claims consistently turn out to be wrong, and in what can be found, the position of authors like Alvin Weinberg turns out quite different from what is claimed. What it is not, and does not even try very hard to be, is an evaluation of science. Their ludicrous explanation of peer review and statistical significance (p. 154--157) is a travesty. They have no idea what a confidence interval is and how it is different from significance.
    As disclosure I will admit though, that I too tend to doubt everything I hear and not to bow to prevailing authority, according to Thomas Henry Huxley the basic requisite for scientific thinking, but in their clearly stated view it makes me too one of the bad boys. So be it.

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