Newsnight follows up a Daily Mail article in which Susan Greenfield claims that social networking websites can reprogramme children’s brains. Jeremy Paxman chairs a brief debate between Ben Goldacre ( and Aric Sigman (who a few days earlier claimed in an article in Biologist that social networking websites are harmful to health.
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25 thoughts on “Newsnight Goldacre Sigman BBC2 20090224

  1. aphex303101 says:

    What an obnoxious character Ben Goldcare is presenting himself to be. Clearly if people are spending increasing times online which entails looking at screens for extended hours and forming new types of virtual relationships this will produce new affects that should be investigated. He contradicts himself when he attacks Sigman for being one sided when that’s all he’s doing. Goldcare is arrogant, wrong, suffering from bouts of megalomania and espousing ‘bad science’ in first person.

  2. ChaosMew161 says:

    The only man who I know of that was made a hermit by the internet is Christian Weston Chandler. And we’ve all learned lessons from him on how NOT to behave on the internet.

  3. BoboBloxham says:

    This Sigman bloke seems to point out the obvious and seems to make the assumption that using social media is implicit in using it too much… If you’re gonna comment on social media and it’s possible links to adverse health problems you should make your assumptions clear from the start surely?

  4. jonboyjon1976 says:

    I do love the idea some Mail readers have that if children were not on the internet they would be exercising outside in a healthy way and not sitting watching TV or listening to music all day as I did in the eighties when I was a kid.

  5. mrjedidja says:

    Your analogy is horrible. Jumping out of plane is fatal; you don’t need evidence because you already have it. Proving that people who spend a lot of time on social networks become lonely (and consequently develop cancer) is far less obvious than that. Further, current evidence doesn’t support your theory. And finally, the problem here is more about how Sigman ABUSES science to make people believe in stuff, which is just plain wrong and dumb.

  6. DJSpinoza says:

    There are thousands of really well designed studies out there related to, say cholesterol and CHD, millions spent on high quality, hi- tech research, lots of positive data, however if the initial assumption is WRONG – everything downstream is bullshit – that’s the problem with ‘evidence-based’ research – epistemology 101. Young doctors not being made aware of the limitations of clinic research, they’ve been oversold this notion that more science is always the answer.

  7. dil2111 says:

    Link doesn’t really work: Just Google “A comparison of results of meta-analyses of randomized control trials and recommendations of clinical experts. Treatments for myocardial infarction” by Antman EM et al and you’ll find it.

  8. dil2111 says:

    It is easy to medicine woolly since many things don’t have a discrete answer (a particular receptor or mechanism as they do in the biochemical sciences), with each patient being different and difficult to generalise. Psychiatry in particular doesn’t have a 100% sensitive/specific blood test or finding on a head MRI for a definitive diagnosis, but that doesn’t mean scientific methods are not employed by those who work within it. If not, that is their shortcoming and not the discipline.

  9. dil2111 says:

    As a medic myself, I agree some modern medicine done by doctors is not evidence based. That is unfortunate, but since humans are the practioners they are subject to the same sort of “myth believing” as other disciplines.
    Clinical medicine evolves and changes (like any other science) in that the answer is reached gradually, not instantly. It doesn’t claim otherwise.
    For instance, (see figure 1)

  10. DJSpinoza says:

    In fairness they both make decent arguments and without any evidence whatsoever – I might suggest moderate use is fine while both these individuals argue from an extreme perspective.

  11. DJSpinoza says:

    @dil2111 And since when did psychiatry become regarded as science? Much of what medics practice often has little scientific foundation e.g. cholesterol causes heart disease etc. Clinical science is woolly in the extreme when compared to biochemical sciences. Also the vast majority of medics have never serve little to zero time at the laboratory bench which gives them a pretty limited perspective.

  12. dil2111 says:

    He’s a medical doctor, trained in psychiatry (applicable to this discussion) and now research fellow in epidemiology at LSHTM. So I’d probably class him as a scientist.

  13. neighbour666 says:

    I’m not quite sure as to who, out of the three, is the more infuriating, condescending, patronising, smug, irritating twat. Ah! Got it! They all are!

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