Victoria from the UK's Sense About Science writes in with news about its Ask For Evidence campaign, a structured system for demanding evidence of sciencey-sounding claims from governments and companies, such as claims that wheatgrass drinks accomplish something called "detox" (whatever that is). The campaign has been remarkably successful to date, and they're looking for people to carry the work on in their own lives.
We hear daily claims about what is good for our health, bad for the environment, how to improve education, cut crime, treat disease or improve agriculture. Some are based on reliable evidence and scientific rigour. Many are not. These claims can't be regulated and many of us wouldn't want the level of regulation and policing necessary to prevent unfounded assertions. But every time one claim is debunked another pops up – like whack-a-mole at a fair. So how can we make companies, politicians, commentators and official bodies accountable for whether their claims stack up?
If they want us to vote for them, believe them or buy their products, then we should ask them for evidence, as consumers, patients, voters and citizens. Our Ask for Evidence campaign has seen people ask a retail chain for the evidence behind its MRSA resistant pyjamas; ask a juice bar for the evidence behind wheatgrass detox claims; ask the health department about rules for Viagra prescriptions; ask for the studies behind treatments for Crohn's disease, and hundreds more. As a result, claims are being withdrawn and bodies held to account.
This is geeks, working with the public, to park their tanks on the lawn of those who seek to influence us. And it's starting to work.