Jesus did (not) cure someone of the flu

This week we got a quick and entertaining lesson in the way science sometimes works… or doesn’t work. Just last week, someone asked me how to tell good science from...

This week we got a quick and entertaining lesson in the way science sometimes works… or doesn’t work.

Just last week, someone asked me how to tell good science from bogus science. My first, not entirely adequate response, was that you should check whether it’s been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

There’s lots of reasons why that response is not completely adequate, and one of those reasons was highlighted recently by an article being published in Virology Journal about how Jesus cured a woman of the flu.

Within three weeks the article was retracted but the fact that it got published in the first place shows that peer-review does not qualify something as good science.

I won’t say much more about this, but instead direct you to some good discussions of the debacle.

- Ivan Oransky, editor of Reuters Health, has a good overview of the debacle on his new and noteworthy blog Retraction Watch.

- Bob O’Hara has a funny discussion of the original article in This Scientific Life, written before the retraction. The editor of the journal posts his apology and retraction in the comments to the post.