Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Research suggests

Whenever I read those words I reach for my logic gun.

The latest research suggestion is that a person who smokes one cigarette is twice as likely to go on to smoke a few more than another person who smokes one cigarette.  (I simplify the maths for blog-effectiveness, of course.  But not the logic.)

I’d have thought that most people (usually kids) who decide to try a cigarette (or anything else dangerous, for that matter) do so either because they are peer-pressured to, or because they want to, and will probably go on to try a few more, at least ‘for a period’ (undefined).  The detailed commentary on this ‘research’ does make this qualifying point among several others – for example, that it was a self-selecting sample drawn from widely variant populations and can therefore be considered as, at best, ‘only an estimate’ – but that doesn’t stop the journalists (I’m drawing on the reports in the Guardian and the Times) from headlining this as if it’s in any way factual or significant.

I have no axe to grind here, as I stopped smoking several months ago and don’t intend to start again.  I’m just against spurious science.


  1. This is so true. For a period of time I have believed that up to a number of research reports have been presented as suggesting that the estimates of the results of their research suggest a trend in an undefined time-specific and non-gender specific direction which has been suggested as indicative, but always with a caveat that this is only a notion of trend-related indicators and a presentiment of the necessity for further research, with a range of options, going forward.

  2. I can do no better than repeat my Facebook post from a couple of days ago - "Sometimes, those who carry out surveys jump to conclusions with little real evidence. Two of ‘em in the paper today - one, that cigarettes are so addictive that trying a single one makes most people take up the habit. Tim and I both smoked a first cigarette. I never intended to take up smoking and I never have, though I’ve smoked all, or part of perhaps 20, over about 40 years. Tim always knew he wanted to smoke regularly and so he did. If I hadn’t been a surly teenager who resisted peer group pressure, I might have too. But other factors weren’t mentioned because, I guess, they might not lead to the conclusion they wanted.
    The second is that animal mothers of babies, as well as humans, are very likely to carry the babies on their left side and it’s deduced that this must be an evolutionary trait. It doesn’t mention, so I suppose they don’t know, whether those animals tend to be right handed, so keep that arm free, as the majority of humans are and do. Does a left handed woman carry her baby on her right or left? I don’t know. It doesn’t say."
    Which, as you have already read it is mostly a reply to Richard, but not using such long words :)

  3. I hope y'all didn't take my words too seriously, let alone literally. The nouns came into my head and seemed to go with a variety of adjectives, verbs, prepositions etc. to illustrate that verbosity might sometimes win. Further research would be required to establish whether there was any linguistic sense in it. I think we know the answer already.

    1. Hee hee - it all went so far over my head that I was simply, vastly impressed.