The term "junk science" refers to inaccurate analysis and data that is used to skew opinion or push agenda. Junk science may be used by a variety of people for a variety of purposes. The best way to be able to identify junk science examples is to know who are the users, what are the popular topics, how was the information gathered and what was the source of the information.
Users of Junk Science
Some examples of those who may utilize junk science and their reason for use include:
- Media: To sensationalize or increase its audience. Additionally, biased media sources may use junk science to support their own agenda.
- Lawyers: To win cases or deceive judges and juries.
- Social and political activists: To support their own agendas and build membership.
- Government regulators: To change the opinions of others or increase their scope of regulation.
- Businesses: To advance their brand or degrade the products created and sold by competitors.
- Politicians: To perpetuate their agenda, to bad-mouth an opponent's record, and to garner votes.
- Scientists: To propel themselves forward in their field for the purpose of awards or compensation.
Junk Science Topics
Some examples of topics about which junk science has allegedly been used include:
- Wind farms' creation of carbon dioxide
- Environmental sustainability and its affect on jobs
- Climate change
- Energy subsidies
- Deepwater drilling
- DNA research
- Food safety
- Vaccinations and side effects
- Arctic sea ice
- Coal as an energy source
- Radioactive waste
- Nuclear energy
- Fossil fuel imports
- Genetically modified food
- Artificial sweeteners
- Animal consumption of antibiotics
- Cloud seeding
- Caffeine consumption
Evaluating Legitimate vs. Junk
It can be a challenge to determine if information is junk science. In order to find out if what is being reported is legitimate information, or unfounded or skewed junk science, readers and watchers of mainstream media must develop strategies to tell fact from fiction.
Some things to look for when determining if information is junk science are:
- Careful analysis of the quality and sources of the information
- Resources used to get the information by the source
- Level of known bias of the source of the information
- Snopes.com – a website dedicated to uncovering incorrect information and providing legitimate support for its claims
- Quackwatch – a website dedicate to debunking myths regarding medical or health related information
- Climate Skeptic – a website whose purpose is to debunk myths about aspects of climate change information
- JunkScience.com – a website created by Steven Milloy who gathers information to support or debunk the latest information in the media
- Junkfood Science – this is a blog by Sandy Szwarc intended to cover issues presented by the media regarding nutrition
- Mythbusters – Mythbusters is a television show on which the hosts create experiments and activities to determine if well known scientific information is fact or fiction
- John Stossel – a media reporter who questions information regularly
- Local news reporters who do investigative work
Consider the Source
When the science about a subject is controversial, consider the source of the science. For example, a tobacco company study showing that cigarettes don't cause lung cancer or aren't addictive is likely to be a good example of junk science. The tobacco companies have a financial interest in deceiving you on the addictive and dangerous nature of their product.