The Promotion of ‘Bad Science’ (Scientific Literacy) – Anna Best, Isla Keith, Briony Elizabeth, Rebecca McQuet.
The concept of scientific literacy is the known as the understanding of scientific concepts and the theory behind it. The understanding of the literacy will help to process scientific decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs and economic productivity. (Durant, 1994) Someone who understands scientific literacy will be able to intelligently identify the scientific issues underlying national and local decisions. They will have the capacity to assess the quality of scientific information and link back to its source and the methods used to create it. They will also have the skills to read scientific based articles and will be able to participate in conversation and discussions about it. (Deboer, 2000)
An example of where a lack of scientific literacy has led to inaccurate media promotion is a discovery made by Johannes Bohannon, Ph.D; who found that chocolate actually assists weight loss rather than increasing your BMI. (Bailey, 2015) However, Johannes Bohannon is a created alias and the individual behind the experiment is actually a journalist who holds a Ph.D himself, but in molecular biology of bacteria. (Bohannon, 2015)
He was asked by a German reporter to aid for a documentary about ‘bad science’ being the reason behind fad diets. To make it look like a legitimate experiment they ran tests and trials with subjects who were provided with different diets; however, the results did not mean anything and the articles the newspapers published were not based on any authentic research. (Bohannon, 2015)
Their paper was accepted for publication and their fake science discovery was shown in headlines in 20 countries, in several different languages and had even been discussed on a televised news program. (Bohannon, 2015) Articles appeared in newspapers including The Daily Mail article “Pass the Easter Egg”, The Daily Star and magazine “Shape”.
The purpose behind this experiment was to prove that bad science, if carried out in a seemingly professional way, can be advertised as genuine and believed by members of the public and by this example it is true. (Godoy, 2015)
The teaching of fair testing in a school environment is a simple way of introducing the idea of scientific literacy to children. The two concepts link to one another to allow children to opportunity gain a greater understanding of the importance of learning science. (The School Run, 2017)
Changing the variables in order to carry out a fair test links with the idea of scientific literacy. Children will gain knowledge regarding the scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, thus defining scientific literacy. The pupils will use the concept of decision making when carrying out their fair test when deciding which variables to manipulate and change. A fair test experiment is a good way of helping children to understand the meaning of scientific literacy and how it is used in our daily lives. (Science Buddies, 2002)
Linking both scientific literacy and fair testing when teaching primary science will allow children to broaden their knowledge and understanding regarding the importance of scientific literacy and the concepts and ideas that define it.
Bailey, S. (2015) Pass the Easter Egg! New study reveals that eating chocolate doesn’t affect your Body Mass Index! Available at: http://ohttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3018945/New-study-reveals-eating-chocolate-doesn-t-affect-Body-Mass-Index-help-LOSE-weight.html (Accessed: 5 February 2017).
Bohannon, J. (2015) I fooled Millions into thinking chocolate helps weight loss. Here’s how. Available at: http://io9.gizmodo.com/i-fooled-millions-into-thinking-chocolate-helps-weight-1707251800 (Accessed: 5 February 2017).
Deboer, G.E. (2000) ‘Scienti®c literacy: Another look at its historical and contemporary meanings and its relationship to science education reform’, JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN SCIENCE TEACHING, 37(6), pp. 582–601.
Durant, J. (1994) ‘What is scientific literacy? | European review | Cambridge core’, European Review, 2(1), pp. 83–89. doi: 10.1017/S1062798700000922.
Godoy, M. (2015) Why A journalist scammed the media into spreading bad chocolate science. Available at: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/05/28/410313446/why-a-journalist-scammed-the-media-into-spreading-bad-chocolate-science (Accessed: 5 February 2017).
Science Buddies (2002) Doing a fair test: Variables for beginners. Available at: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_experiment_fair_test.shtml (Accessed: 5 February 2017).
The School Run (2017) What is a fair test? Available at: http://www.theschoolrun.com/what-is-a-fair-test (Accessed: 5 February 2017).