Daily Mail in Bullshit Mormon Zombie Porn Stats Shock

The Daily Mail are back on the trail of mandatory internet porn blocking, courtesy of a survey by the National Association of Head Teachers which claims that 90% of parents want a default setting on computers and smartphones which prevents the viewing of adult material. And at the very end of the article, the Daily Mail provides a few statistics and a quote from Floella Benjamin, who’s now a Lib Dem Peer:

Research has shown that 90 per cent of children aged eight to 16 have viewed porn online, often unintentionally. The average age a child first sees inappropriate images is 11 and around 80 per cent of teenagers regularly access porn. Younger children are also at risk, as studies have shown that they now… Read more »

Step Away from the Statistics, Harriet…

In just the last week or so we’ve seen Iain Duncan Smith publicly rebuked by the UK Statistics Authority for making claims about the government’s policy of capping benefits that were “unsupported by the official statistics published by the department” and Michael Gove caught using unscientific polls commissioned by UKTV Gold and Premier Inn in an effort to dismiss serious criticism of his new National Curriculum by leading academics. One should not, therefore, be surprised to discover that a poll conducted by Ipsos Mori on behalf of the Royal Statistics Society and Kings College London shows that just 9% of the general public believe that politicians use figures accurately when talking about their policies while just 7% place any kind of trust… Read more »

Suicide, Hyundai Adverts and Ben Goldacre

Another week, another internet generated furore to pick over, this time in regards to a now with drawn viral advert by the Korean car company Hyundai, albeit one that puts me in the rather unusual position of having to criticise Ben Goldacre for pushing a bit of dodgy science. You probably saw it for yourself but if you didn’t the back story here is that Hyundai released a rather clever if highly unusual viral video advert to promote the environmental credentials of one of their cars which depicted a man trying, and failing completely, to commit to suicide by piping the car’s exhaust through in the passenger cabin. The punchline of the ad is, of course, that the car’s exhaust… Read more »

‘Typhoid Fiona’ and Sex-Selective Abortion

So, there I was looking through the public bills section of the Parliament website for the new Lords’ amendments to the defamation bill when what should I notice but a new bill, introduced less than a week ago, calling itself the Abortion Statistics Bill. Hmm… A quick search of Hansard later, what we find is that it’s a ten-minute rule bill introduced by the Tory MP Fiona Bruce, who’s also the vice-chair of the All-Parliamentary Pro-Life Group and currently chairing the sham inquiry into abortion on the grounds of disability that I started to pick apart only a few weeks ago – rest assured, there is more to come on that ‘inquiry’ in the near future. If we cut through… Read more »

Why are there discrepancies in the DoH abortion data?

Apropos of yesterday’s lengthy article on the anti-abortion lobby’s sham ‘inquiry’ on abortion and disability, we know have a transcript of a second oral evidence session to play with and of the witnesses called one name leapt immediately off the page, that of a Daily Mail journalist, Beezy Marsh. Marsh, who worked for the Daily Mail as health correspondent from 1998 to 2005 and who still writes for the newspaper, today, as freelancer, stood out because she has form for pushing anti-MMR stories long after it became apparent that there were serious issues with Andrew Wakefield’s original research. Her 2006 article, ‘Why I am terrified of trusting MMR‘, which appeared in the Telegraph and drew a direct response from Ben Goldacre, is particularly… Read more »

The Anti-Abortion Lobby’s Sham Parliamentary Inquiry

Britain’s small, thoroughly unrepresentative and unremittingly dishonest anti-abortion lobby has found a brand new toy to play with – the sham ‘Parliamentary inquiry’. We’ve seen one of these already, Claire Perry’s so-called ‘independent Parliamentary inquiry into online child protection’, which at least had the courtesy use the word ‘independent’ to hint at the fact that it had no actual official status as a parliamentary inquiry. I took a look at the evidence base that underpinned Perry’s ‘findings’ – naturally – and, well, to call it risible would be to afford it far more praise than it deserves. It nevertheless received the uncritical press coverage that she’d been angling for despite several obvious red flags, not least the fact that printed… Read more »

The Great Abortion Divide

It’s not at all clear who actually coined the aphorism that there are ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ but whoever it was was wrong. Statistics are nothing more than meaningless figures until someone sits down to analyse and interpret them and it’s there that the problems arise. In, fact it would be more accurate to say that there are liars, damned liars and people who either lie about statistics or abuse them to lend an unmerited degree of degree of credibility to their lies. The most prolific serial statistics abusers in modern society tend to be politicians and journalists and it’s to latter that we turn our attentions in this article. Yesterday, the Office of National Statistics released it’s latest… Read more »

Drug Innovation and a Wiki-diddling Quack

Having done my fair share of politics in the last day or two I want to come back to a story which appeared on the BBC news website last week only for it to slip quietly under the radar without gaining much in the way of attention:

Fears the number of new medicines available to patients in the UK is declining have been rejected. Researchers found the number of drugs introduced during the last 30 years had in fact increased slightly, the BMJ Open journal reported. This comes despite persistent suggestions they have dwindled, the Birmingham University team said. Researchers came to the conclusion after analysing data in the British National Formulary guide on drugs. They looked at how many new… Read more »

Teenage Pregnancy, STI Infections and Emergency Contraception

It’s been about six weeks since I last slapped Dr Peter Saunders around – metaphorically speaking, of course – but as he’s decided to give me an early Christmas present with a typically misconceived article on teenage pregnancy, STIs and emergency contraception who am I to decline an opportunity to break out the intellectual claws. The headline claim that Saunders makes is that free emergency contraception increases rates of sexually transmitted infections and by way of support, for once, he actually has a couple of published studies from reputable medical journals, specifically: Durrance, C. P. (2012), The effects of increased access to emergency contraception on sexually transmitted disease and abortion rates. Economic Inquiry. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-7295.2012.00498. Girma S, Paton D. (2011) The… Read more »

Did marriage equality scare off Spain’s heterosexuals?

I am unashamedly a fan of the work of fact checking organisations and websites, not least amongst which is the excellent Full Fact. However, as a stats hound myself, I am also very much aware of the limitations and occasional pitfalls of the standard fact check model used by most such organisations., particular when claims are based on statistical information. One is that the statistical information on which a factual claim is based may not, of itself, shed much light on the accuracy of what is actually being claimed. Correlation does not, of course, automatically imply causation and although a particular statistic or trend my appear, when taken at face value, to support a particular conclusion there may well be… Read more »