Science writer Alex Berezow joined Stu Burguiere to talk about junk science, fake news and why you should stop believing “X delicious food causes cancer” articles.
One of the biggest junk science stories has been the report that Nutella, a chocolatey spread made from hazelnuts, causes cancer. Stu pointed out that one issue is how people share articles on social media; research has shown that the majority of people who share a story haven’t actually clicked on the article to read past the headline.
Berezow noted that another big problem is the journalism industry. It’s a journalist’s job to go to the original source and comprehend the research before writing a story, but with the rise of digital media, every website can fire off an article without really understanding what the science is saying. Scientific research can be mangled in the process.
“It’s almost like a high-tech, digital version of the game of telephone that we used to play in kindergarten,” Berezow said.
Stu wondered why people are so eager to believe that Nutella, meat, palm oil and other foods or ingredients cause cancer. “We seem to want to believe that Nutella is going to kill us,” he marveled. “Nutella is one of the greatest substances ever created. Why on earth, where does this urge inside of us come from to put ourselves in constant peril?”
People fear cancer and don’t understand it, so they want to find a simple scapegoat that supposedly causes cancer and can be avoided, Berezow explained.