Posts Tagged ‘evidence’

How to write a Cochrane Review

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017 | Science

Writing a Systematic Review for Cochrane is not difficult. Simply take a large amount of studies, explain why most of them are rubbish, point out that those that remain don’t provide enough evidence it works and finish by saying more research is needed to understand the impact on anyone who isn’t a young white undergraduate.

In fact, it’s so straightforward I have written a template…

Simply insert your variables you are away. Happy meta-analysising!

Expecting Better

Friday, August 26th, 2016 | Books, Family & Parenting

Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong and What You Really Need to Know is a book on pregnancy by economist Emily Oster. Oster is known for applying her economics to other fields having given a TED talk on re-thinking AIDs in Africa. During the pregnancy of her first child she got sick of uncited recommendations and decided to look at what the evidence really said.

Take alcohol for example. I wrote about alcohol and pregnancy last month. Oster’s review of the available evidence and theory behind alcohol use during pregnancy is that having up to one drink per day is fine after the first three months. Coffee gets the green light too.

There is no evidence that bed rest is beneficial for pregnant women. In fact, it is quite the opposite: laying around for weeks or even months on end is likely to have a negative impact on the mother’s health. Aromatherapy provides no benefit either, but not everything is out the door: having a doula at the birth produces much better health outcomes.

With each topic, each stage of the pregnancy and each taboo, Oster reviews the available evidence and produces a short summary at the end of each chapter explaining what is safe and what is not. This is by far the most important book on pregnancy I have read.


Casting Light on Evidence

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 | Foundation, Humanism

For the April meeting of Leeds Skeptics, Dr Paul Marchant presented a talk entitled “Casting Light on Evidence … & Evidence on Light”. The talk looked at how data is used on public policy making, to varying degrees of success.

IMG_4036 IMG_4038 IMG_4039

First aid

Sunday, March 17th, 2013 | Thoughts

I’m trained in first aid. I have a certificate to prove it and everything. There is a good chance you do too. If you haven’t, some people at your work will do – it’s a legal requirement.

I wonder what the evidence for its efficacy though.

Think about how much you remember from your first aid course. Probably very little. Indeed, in my experience speaking to first aid reps at various companies, they say they can remember very little from their course.

Even if they do remember something, those that do usually admit that when they were actually called on to deal with an accident, they were in such a panic that even though knowledge blanked from their mind. Given what we know about psychology, that is no surprise – unless you do this every day, you’re going to struggle with the pressure.

The one thing people do tend to remember is CPR, presumably because having to kiss a dummy seems rather strange and therefore sticks in the mind. This is unfortunate as CPR isn’t a particularly useful piece of first aid because the survival rates are so low, as I’ll go into detail about.

CPR is bad. If you need to give CPR, it means someone’s heart has stopped, so they’re probably going to die. In fact, as my first aid instructor explained, all you’re doing is keeping the meat warm until the paramedics get there. You probably won’t manage it, and even if you do, they will probably die in hospital as a result anyway. Survival rates from by standers giving CPR is 5%; you have a 1 in 20 chance of making it.

That isn’t because people aren’t trained to do CPR, it’s because when someone’s heart has stopped, they’re fucked. Even if you are in a hospital at the time, and a doctor is watching you, the odds are against you, and if a doctor isn’t watching, the unfavourable odds drop to 1 in 50.

My point isn’t that first aid isn’t useful – I think it is. But I think we need to teach it in a far more effective way. A way in which people come away with more than only one piece of knowledge, that probably won’t save anyone’s life anyway.

Ideally, we would teach it in schools so that everybody knows it too. Then hopefully at least one person will be calm enough to remember what they learned.

The Quest for the Historical Jesus

Monday, May 14th, 2012 | Humanism

At a recent Atheist Society meeting, Karel du Pauw provided a brick by brick deconstruction fo any claim that Jesus could have been a historial figure.

A similarly great deconstruction, though not as comprehensive as Karel’s, is provided by the film The God Who Wasn’t There and it is a subject I have previously touched on even though I don’t believe the question makes any sense.

Such talks really bring things into focus – not just for the fact that the Bible isn’t true, but also open up interesting questions about why people believe in it. Clearly, it isn’t because it makes sense from a historical perspective. There is simply no evidence that King Herrod had all the babies killed, there has never been anything like people having to return to their hometown for some kind of Roman census and there are someone simply forgot to tell the earlier writers of the books of the Bible that Jesus was an actual historical figure that actually lived on Earth.

Yet, lots of people, sometimes even smart people (though statically far less often than less smart people) believe it.

To me, it is a stark reminder of why it is so vital that we have groups like the Atheist Society. Clearly, rational thinking and evidence are not the only forces at work when people make a decision as to whether follow a religion or not. There are emotional factors to be considered too, and if we can’t provide for those in the same way that religious institutions do, critical thinking won’t win hearts and minds.