Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Blatant scientific frauds uncovered in Japanese TV show

` The Mad Sci-Dizzle is back... though her computer is not 'all there' as of yet. I'm tired and coughing up blood as well, so I may need to rest a few days before carrying on with normal posting.
` In the meantime, I'll jerry-rig something for you all. It starts like this: Recently, I have been contemplating getting around to reading a new book of mine that talks about scientific fraud. Interestingly, I've found a related incident in a Nature article called: Japanese TV show admits faking science by David Cyranoski, Tokyo.

` Interested? I'll continue:

` This time, however, it wasn't the scientists who were doing the faking, it was the TV show they were on - a science documentary-style show from the Fuji Television Network called Hakkutsu: Aruaru Daijiten II, which covers dietary and health-related topics.
` The episode of Aruaru in question made the scientists being interviewed look as if they were saying things they definitely were not, much like what the outlandish Ramtha cult did to poor David Albert in What the Bleep do We Know? who complained in a Salon interview:
I was edited in such a way as to completely suppress my actual views about the matters the movie discusses. I am, indeed, profoundly unsympathetic to attempts at linking quantum mechanics with consciousness. Moreover, I explained all that, at great length, on camera, to the producers of the film ... Had I known that I would have been so radically misrepresented in the movie, I would certainly not have agreed to be filmed.
` In this instance, however, the manipulation was more direct; the words of foreign scientists on the show were purposely dubbed over in Japanese so that it appeared to have said things they had not! After a media investigation on the January 7 episode of Aruaru - promoting the alleged weight-loss benefits of a fermented soy paste called natto - Kansai Telecasting Corporation admitted to have done this false dubbing, as well as portraying fictional 'scientific evidence' as fact.
` One researcher of soy fermentation, Professor Kim of the U.S. (who wishes to remain otherwise anonymous), said that he was aghast when he saw himself supposedly championing some pretty far-out salubrious aspects of miso paste.
` According to the Nature article, he said; "They made it look like I said many things that I didn't. About 60% of the content was not correct." Though he had been talking about the way fermentation makes soy beans easier to digest and better for use as animal feed, Kim says that instead, "It looks like I am saying that miso can make you thin and even that it has certain neurological effects. ... I spent a half-day taking them round my laboratory and showing them results. They understood what I was doing."

` Apparently, they just didn't care.

` Similarly, Arthur Schwartz, who studies the effects that hormone DHEA has on aging at Temple University in Philadelphia was another such victim, not only having the claims of another researcher put into his mouth, but being portrayed as having conducted experiments showing that soy isoflavone can increase the levels of DHEA in one's body.
` In reality, according to a spokeswoman at Temple, "statements were wrongly attributed to Dr Schwartz and his research was falsely represented".

` Besides putting words in foreigners' mouths, the program also featured photos of people who had lost weight but who were not actually involved in their experiments, as well as completely fabricated statistics showing that the experimental subjects' fat levels had gone down!

` Other instances of fraudulent claims made by Aruaru have been caught, such as a 1998 episode in which Yoichi Nagamura of the Chiba Institute of Science ran an experiment in order to see if the tryptophan in lettuce made mice fall asleep.
` Simple enough, they fed the lettuce to the mice and waited around to see if they would fall asleep. "I was hoping to be on TV, and I hoped the mice would fall asleep," says Nagamura. However, they all agreed that nothing had happened at the end of two hours.
` He was later shocked when he saw that one of the mice in the experiment had been portrayed as having fallen asleep! Then, he was further baffled when another researcher named Makoto Tajima, who studies nutrition at the Jissen Women's University in Tokyo, popped up to explain that lactucopicrin (a.k.a. taraxacin) is the chemical in lettuce responsible for this reaction.
` In his (somewhat pathetic) defense, Tajima, having been a talking head on so many television shows, said; "We're used like TV personalities, I say what the program wants me to. ... If I didn't do it, they'd get someone worse."
` Nagamura explained that the incident was "too ridiculous" to bother complaining to those responsible, though he did make this clear while speaking to his academic and public audiences.

` Needless to say, this scandal has resulted in the show being canceled because it broke Japan's communications law against perverting the truth. This can be serious, as similar program had resulted in viewers being poisoned by parching white navy beans as it had instructed them to do in order to help themselves lose weight.
` According to nutrition researcher Kuniko Takahashi at Gunma University in Maebashi City, such inaccurate information - sometimes dangerously so - is a relatively widespread problem in Japanese health and nutrition shows. "They should all be treated with suspicion," she admonishes. However, if such censorship was enforced, she worries that "It would let the government tell us what was right and wrong."
` Even so, I sure do wish that the Discovery Channel family had to be more strict about what they presented - some 'science documentaries' were so painful for me to watch because so much of the information in them was either exaggerated, misinterpreted or completely wrong.
` This problem was summed up by the neurologist Ichiro Kanazawa - president of the Science Council of Japan - issued a statement that academic experiments should be applied not only to scientific experiments in academia but to television shows as well. He said; "Their goal is not scientific truth; it's ratings. They are under tremendous pressure."

` No kidding. With the amount of false information that has been presented as scientific on the Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, The History Channel, Animal Planet and others, I'm already familiar with false information and exaggeration involving everything to minor historical events or biological portrayals, to misrepresenting the attitudes of scientists, and even sometimes promoting all kinds of pseudoscience I once had naively taken to be truthful. (I'm glad that's over.)
` In fact, have already mentioned it a few times in the past, starting with a very interesting interpretation of a vision episode in the bible, a very interesting interpretation of a medical study (also, coincidentally having to do with religion), as well as another mention here (by another coincidence once more having to do with one person's religious views on the biological status of birds).
` As of now, the show Aruaru has been canceled and all 520 episodes are being reviewed by an independent committee that continues to find suspicious material.


G-Man said...

Ya know Sequin, The correlation between the effects of rotting legumes and oral hygiene, has been a fascination of mine for years. Thanks for the expose' uncovering the lies of the Japanese media..G-Man
( I have a pic you may find frightening )Click me

S E E Quine said...

` You're right, G-man, it's downright horrifying (and cute and wrong)! So glad you could share!