There is a very simple test that can be applied to virtually any piece of "research" these days.

I call it The Bullshit Test.

Basically it consists of a list of words which can be suffixed with little mini phrases such as "if only I had more money" or "if only I could prove it".

Perhaps the best way to illustrate the game is to give an example.  I came across a "research" today [as did Legiron who demolished it from the scientific angle] which is the perfect testbed.  I will highlight the relevant Bullshit Words, and insert the relevant suffix phrase.

Obesity could be a contagious condition which spreads in the same way as bugs such as C.diff, scientists have suggested [if only they could prove it].

A huge study of bacteria in the human gut has found that one-third of species produce spores which survive in the open air and can potentially [but not actually] move between people. Scientists now believe [but they haven’t proved] that many diseases and conditions are triggered or exacerbated by changes in gut bacteria.

But the new research suggests [but not proves] that those microbes can live outside of the body and be ingested, potentially upsetting populations of healthy bacteria in the gut and triggering disease.

It could [possibly maybe might] explain why some illnesses run in families.

Scientists are confident [and given shed loads of more cash, might be able to prove] that by mapping the bacteria in the gut of healthy people they should be able to reset the balance.

You get the drift?  Basically it's a case of using hazy vague words to sound convincing but just admitting that they're chancing their arm and trying to justify their existence.

There are of course a few variants to the Bullshit Test.

There is the good old "science is settled" line. This is such an appallingly unscientific statement that no true scientists would ever utter it.

Then there is the Implication Result.  This is where they discover some element in A which is also found in B [i.e. they discover Formaldehyde which is used in embalming fluid].  This implies that the element is lethal but they omit mentioning that the dose makes the poison and that the quantities they have found are so miniscule that they can only be measured using sophisticated laboratory equipment.

Finally there is the irrelevant study.  This is where they actually do discover something but it is so irrelevant that it is only done to get their names in print.  For example, Ebola is a nasty little bug that essentially causes the body's internal organs to dissolve into a mushy mess, but some scientists discover [through extensive research] that it also causes toenails to drop off.  So fucking what?  If my internal organs are dissolving I don't give a shit about my toenails.  There is a nice example of this where they confirm "that smoking has bad effects on a man's semen".  So fucking what?  If you're supposed to be dying of cancer, emphysema, heart disease and every other "smoking related illness" then I doubt you're worried about your little Wrigglers.

Of course the vast majority of "research" ends with the ultimate Bullshit Words – "further research/study is needed".

No need to translate that one?

Give us more money.


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The Bullshit Test — 8 Comments

  1. I am confident that lots of potentially useful research on a multiplicity of topics is believed to attract grants from industrial and government sources, which suggests that researchers are happy to be gainfully employed as a result of this funding. But obviously more research, funded by more research grants, is needed to prove this with 99% certainty. Does anybody know of a funding source I could apply to?

  2. I enjoy the line, "Skirts, (and/or Dresses), are strongly associated with breast cancer"

    The 'further research needs to be done,' is an advertisement which is saying, "We have an available FUNDING BIAS that would benefit your interests and our University has a prestigious name that rubber stamps all of the lies were are willing to prove on your behalf."

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