John Oliver turned his scientifically proven brand of satirical ire on the media and science for 19 minutes of greatness. Daily, we are subjected to scientific studies that essentially contradict themselves. You can’t go on Facebook without wondering how something is going to both heal all your ailments and increase your risk of death.
“There are so many studies being thrown around, they can seem to contradict one another,” Oliver said Sunday. “In just the last few months, we’ve seen studies about coffee that claim it may reverse the effects of liver damage, help prevent colon cancer, decrease the risk of endometrial cancer and increase the risk of miscarriage.”
“Coffee today is like God in the Old Testament,” he continued. “It will either save you or kill you depending on how much you believe in its magic powers.”
It’s a spot-on commentary of what has turned into a cottage industry of the media and scientific press releases churning out what amounts to clickbait. Wait, I can drink Starbucks and cure cancer? That’d be a no and even if you wanted to reduce your risk with coffee, most studies are testing multiple cups of straight, black coffee.
Not the milkshake masquerading as coffee from your friendly barista. Oh, and you have to drink four cups before the study turns out anything remotely measurable. Good luck trying to sleep after downing that much caffeine.
Oliver kept up the pressure throughout his skit, hammering academia for turning into Hollywood in that sexy sells. “Scientists know nobody is publishing a study called “Nothing is Up with Acai Berries,” Oliver noted.
John Oliver Popping Champagne
In one of the funnier bits, he takes on a widely cited study on rats that concluded three glasses of champagne per week may delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A KTVU anchorman thought it was ‘fantastic news!’
“No it isn’t!” said Oliver. “Aside from the fact that if you are celebrating with champagne three times a week, your standards of celebration need to be much higher!”
The jokes aside, he pointed to the fact studies conducted on rats are not always applicable to humans and questioned why the media was not explaining both how the studies were conducted and what the results say. Notice the word ‘may’ in the study’s conclusion on champagne.
John Oliver and Today
His biggest critique was saved for the Today Show. The show describes itself as ‘living for scientific research.’ In Oliver’s bit, he showed co-hosts Natalie Morales and Tamron Hall arguing over the benefits of whole milk citing various studies. Al Roker jumped in: “You find the study that sounds best to you. And go with that.”
“No! No! No!” Oliver said, slamming his hand against his desk. “If you start thinking that science is a la carte, and if you don’t like it, another study will be along soon, that is what leads people to believe man-made climate change isn’t real. Or that vaccines cause autism—both of which the scientific consensus is pretty clear on.”
“Is science bullshit?” Oliver asked at one point. “No, but there is a lot of bullshit currently masquerading as science.”
And there lies the problem. Too many studies bombard news feeds with the latest ‘evidence’ that a certain compound cures this, or don’t eat that, it’ll kill you.
It’s a great segment and well worth a watch. Clear off 19 minutes of your day and laugh at the absurdity that is our media.