Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Debunking Health-Related Myths

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Debunking Health-Related Myths

Article excerpt

Too many Americans ignore science. A recent study quantified the problem (Pew Research Center 2015), showing large gaps between scientists' understanding and the public's beliefs:

* 88% of AAAS [American Association for the Advancement of Science] scientists think eating genetically modified foods is safe, while only 37% of the public does.

* 68% of scientists--but only 28% of citizens--think eating foods grown with pesticides is safe.

* 87% of AAAS scientists say climate change is mostly caused by human activity (another source cites 97% consensus among scientists [Cook et al. 2013]), while only 50% of the public agrees.

* 98% of scientists say humans have evolved over time compared with 65% of the public.

The cover of a recent National Geographic cites these viewpoints as evidence of a War on Science: "Climate change does not exist. Evolution never happened. The Moon landing was fake. Vaccinations can lead to autism. Genetically modified food is evil" (Achenbach 2015).

The public's mistrust of science has grown so deep that science educator Bill Nye started traveling the nation a few years ago to battle deniers of evolution and climate change. You can join the fray on the health front by making sure your students aren't falling for these fallacies:

1. Germs can't attach to food that falls on the floor if you pick it up within five seconds ("the five-second rule").

2. Feed a cold; starve a fever.

3. Coffee stunts your growth.

4. Spicy foods can cause ulcers.

5. Swallowed gum stays in your stomach for years.

6. Eating carrots improves eyesight.

7. Reading in dim light damages your eyes.

8. Too much TV is bad for your eyes.

9. If you cross your eyes, they might stay that way.

10. Tanning gets rid of acne.

11. You need to wait an hour after eating before swimming.

12. You can tell the gender of a fetus by the shape and height of a pregnant woman's belly.

13. Cats can steal the air from a baby's mouth.

14. Dogs' mouths are cleaner than people's mouths. …

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