Our communal love of science has already reached the profanity-laced profession stage, with many laypeople eagerly awaiting the latest bit of scientific research that supports or debunks coffee’s panacea status, in order to promptly share it with a triumphant “Boom, science!” caption. New studies are constantly being shared, though their conclusions often end up pared down to their most relatable, if not accurate, form. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver recently took exception with this “morning show-style” reporting of scientific findings, which has reduced most research to clickbait.
Oliver makes it clear that although science isn’t bullshit, most of the reporting on it is. “A new study finds” has become one of the most worrisome phrases in the English language (we bet we could find a study that supports that), because it usually prefaces the findings of a study that had too small a sample size, too narrow a scope, and/or has not been replicated. And yet, any tidbit with some research behind it can make the news, provided that it’s provocative enough. The segment seems a natural extension of Last Week Tonight’s collation of all the scaremongering moments offered up by local news stations. It also features some great jokes—“You cannot presume that 20 women can speak for all women. This is science, not the United States Senate”—as well as cameos from B.D. Wong, Peter Grosz, and H. Jon Benjamin in a send-up of TED Talks.