Friday, January 30, 2015

Second Column in Skeptical Briefs

by Felipe Nogueira

As I explained in a previous post, I am regular columnist for Skeptical Briefs, the Newsletter of The Committe of Skeptical Inquiry, a leading skeptical organization. 

In the Winter 2014/2015 issue, released this month, my second column, an article titled Pseudoscience and Bad Science in the Brazilian Scientific American has been published. 

In this column, I talked about some bad articles that had been published under the siege of the Scientific American Brazil. It's important to emphasize, as I did in the column, that Scientific American Brazil is a different magazine from the one published in United States, with its own editorial process. The Brazilian magazine has the rights to translate contents from the original magazine and to add another articles written by Brazilian journalists or researchers.

The motive for my column was an article about anxiety published in October 2014 issue of Mind and Brain, another Brazilian magazine that has Scientific American's name on its cover. The article was written by a Brazilian journalist and Mind and Brain's sub-editor in chief. The problem of the article is that its last section is anything but science. It was a defense and recommendation of the use of accupuncture to treat anxiety flooded with pseudocientific claims, such as "Each emotion is related with an organ - anxiety is associated with the heart". You can see my translation of that section in the image below.

I also mentioned other two articles, both published in Scientific American Brazil. One was a pseudoscience piece of homeopathy published in 2012 and Harriet Hall have criticized it properly on Science Based Medicine blog here.

The other article I covered wasn't pseudoscience, but the author's conclusions about the marijuana health effects weren't supported by the data he presented, overstating the risks, saying, for example, that causality was established between marijuana use and psychotic episodes. However, the authors of the paper Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use, published in New England Journal of Medicine in 2014, concluded that we can't confidently say marijuana causes psychothic episodes, even that marijuana users are more likely to experience them than non-users.

Popularization of science is already lacking in Brazil. We certainly don't need to get things worse with such a big name as Scientific American featuring pseudocience and bad science in its Brazilians magazines.



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