Review: Why Everyone Should Ask for Evidence

Catford April Meeting: Why Everyone should Ask for Evidence

Speaker: Stefanie Knappe

Miracle cures, claims about foods and medicines, advice about how often you should change your mattress – some of the things we are told in the media and advertising are not based on evidence. They are either untrue or not proven to be true.

Sometimes they result in terrible injury. Our speaker, the ‘Ask For Evidence Ambassador’ Stefanie Knappe, started by telling us about a young man who was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. He did some research and discovered that one cure being promoted to sufferers on the internet was actually industrial bleach.

Ask For Evidence’ is a campaign by the Sense About Science charity, which equips people to make sense of scientific and medical claims in public discussion.

The purpose of the campaign is to help people request for themselves the evidence behind news stories, marketing claims and policies. You can contact them for advice on how to ask a politician or company for the evidence behind their claims, and use an online form to make the request. They also gather data about requests and responses, to build public knowledge. If you get an answer you’re not sure about, the campaign team will explain what it means and whether it is sound evidence or not.

Stefanie gave many more examples of the various campaigns Sense About Science runs and their success in connecting journalists to scientists, so that the evidence is discussed in media stories.

Her talk provoked a lively discussion ranging from specific cases of unsubstantiated claims to bigger questions like what the limits of science are. Good one for another discussion!