9

After reading the question Is anecdotal evidence sufficient for answers? I realized that Mythbusters is basically just that - video-taped experiments meant to prove or disprove some hypothesis.

It's popular because it's fun, well-executed, and (most of the time) reasonably scientifically sound.

To answers of this site, it's also a third party source.

However, is mythbusting of this or similar kinds scientific enough for Skeptics? One of the main differences between Mythbusters and a site like Snopes is that Snopes usually cites some sources of its own (investigative), while Mythbusters is nearly entirely based on original experiments.

I hope I've framed this question in a neutral, non-leading manner, but my instinct tells me without sources of their own, the answer is no. What are your thoughts?

9

Mythbusters has been discussed and is considered a very good, but non authoritative reference.

They don't claim scientific correctness (and nor could they).

So it's fine to add a reference to Mythbusters in a question, or in a comment, but not as the only reference in a whole answer - you need to add an authoritative source.

  • I disagree there. See "Argument from authority". The point isn't adding an authoritative source. The point is making logical arguments and backing it up with as many sources as needed to make it evident. It could be just one, and I'd argue it could be none, but it's usually better at least 2 distinct trustable sources. Good point on non authoritative reference and link, tho! :) – cregox Jul 11 '13 at 11:26
  • They are not peer reviewed... and they make a tv show. – Sklivvz Jul 11 '13 at 16:23
  • Yes, but even if the were peer reviewed and not making an entertainment show, and were a valid authority, it doesn't mean it's enough nor needed. Not arguing anything about mythbusters here. – cregox Jul 11 '13 at 16:32
  • I disagree with your logic proposition. We are not a site for debating rational arguments and most people really suck at logic. I'd rather trust scientific sources whose logic and data has been reviewed by other experts... – Sklivvz Jul 11 '13 at 18:56
  • I agree. I'd just change "usually better" there for "almost always better" and I think it's in agreement. ;-) – cregox Jul 11 '13 at 20:13
  • Sklivvz: Actually, since they respond to the criticism of viewers (some of whom are scientists themselves!), it seems that they are peer-reviewed. There are many episodes dedicated to re-examining their findings under more rigorous conditions. For example: mythbustersresults.com/episode51 – Ernie Sep 21 '15 at 20:27
0

I agree with the ticked answer, this post is just to outline specific examples and explain why the show can't be considered an authoritative source.

Mythbusters should not be considered anecdotal evidence at all. Instead, in my opinion, they should be considered a notable claim only.

Here is a good example which demonstrates why mythbusters should be distrusted:

McDonalds made once an ad-campaign showing how they make food. They featured Mythbusters there.

enter image description here
I am Grant Imahara from Mythbusters and I spent years finding the truth now I am gonna across america to find out how Mcdonald's makes its food, so ask your questions and I'll find the answers...

In Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, John Oliver quotes Grant Imahara from McDonalds campaign MythBusters and responds to Imahara:

enter image description here

Yes I've got a question:

Why the fuck are you doing this? Please, round up your answer to the nearest dollar.

But I'm sorry, I'm sorry... Are you an independently investigating the company paying you to conduct an independent investigation?

He goes on saying:

I've been through the whole process. I know exactly what goes into this.

There is no fillers, no preservatives, no additives.

And this how John Oliver ends:

There is something little suspicious about the way they're celebrating the fact that their food was made of food.

After watching this criticism by John Oliver. It turns out that MythBusters claim that:

There is no fillers, no preservatives , no additives.

turns out to be completely ridiculous. McDonald's is full of additive. They even mention it themselves:

Richard Watts, head of the Children's Food Campaign at the food group Sustain said:

We are very concerned that about the heavy use of additives in McDonald's especially the ones identified as harmful to health in the Southampton study

Researchers at Southampton University have found that children who ingest certain additives are more likely to be over-active, impulsive and unable to concentrate. Four of seven E-numbers highlighted by the researchers are on the menu at McDonald's: sunset yellow (E110), quinoline yellow (E104), ponceau 4R (E124) and sodium benzoate (E211).

And what a coincidence, turns out kids were so fond of Grant Imahara and McDonalds hired him to check their stuff; the news article "Mom, why is the 'MythBusters' guy working for McDonald's now?" reported.

The ad trades on Mr. Imahara’s reputation with kids and families as a scientist who dispels urban legends and myths on the Discovery Channel.

Mr. Brag responded also in an email:

This campaign is just a desperate attempt to try to change people's minds about the beleaguered junk food brand- – but it misses the mark. Yes, people are concerned about what is in McDonald's food, but they're also concerned about how it's being marketed, especially to kids. Instead of making changes that actually address these concerns, the corporation comes back time and time again with more marketing to change people's perception of its food instead of actually changing the food itself.

One could argue that Mythbusters is produced Discovery Networks, a company who started as a single channel in 1985, The Discovery Channel, is authoritative due to its reputation and phenomenal success. Not on Skeptics Stack Exchange. Discovery Communications is an entertainment company; they also produce endless shows about ghosts, demons and possessed house, examples:

Those shows have extreme power of conviction; New York Times Culture editor Mike Hale characterized ghost hunting shows as:

pure theater

.and compared the genre to professional wrestling or soft core pornography for its formulaic, teasing approach.

LA Times staff writer Ed Stockly wrote

the paranormal/supernatural-investigation subgenre that has cropped up on cable television over the last few years, which includes Ghost Hunters, Destination Truth, Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters International and a few others promises to take a skeptical approach in its investigations and to rely on science to confirm or disprove paranormal claims. So far not one has been able to consistently keep that promise.

Discovery Networks paranormal shows aren't evidence of paranormal existence; Mythbusters is at the same level of authenticity.

After outlining those examples, we can conclude that Mythbusters can't and should never be trusted by Skeptics Stack Exchange.

  • Note that Grant doesn't work for Mythbusters anymore since August 2014 (techtimes.com/articles/13788/20140822/…). The ad is from November 2014. – Sklivvz Jun 1 '15 at 13:50
  • Oh, so he did the ad after getting fired from Mythbusters? – George Chalhoub Jun 1 '15 at 14:43
  • I think you may be making a good point (and I think it's true and interesting to consider that Mythbusters offers value in recognizing a claim's notability), however, why does this read like a hit piece on Mythbusters? Of course the show is entertainment, but, I think the line Sklivvz has drawn is already sufficient. Mythbusters is non-authoritative, but it's also valuable (in questions, comments, and answers) to see what happens when a claim is evaluated in practice. – Nicole Jun 2 '15 at 20:42
  • @NickC: Right, Sklivvz's answer is sufficient. This post just outlines specific examples. – George Chalhoub Jun 2 '15 at 20:46
  • Let's not forget that John Oliver's show itself is also entertainment. I don't actually see any examples here devaluing the content of Mythbusters, but instead an attack on the character. I am not sure the character argument supports the conclusion "Mythbusters can't and should never be trusted by Skeptics Stack Exchange", although as long as we are talking about as an authoritative source, I suspect we still agree on the conclusion despite different reasoning. – Nicole Jun 2 '15 at 20:52
  • Your logical fallacy here is: false cause. You claim that Discovery Network makes claims that are provably untrue, so therefore all claims made by other shows on Discovery must also therefore be untrue. This is also guilt by association, claiming that because Mythbusters is loosely associated with Ghost Lab, it must therefore be about as trustworthy. This is a terrible argument. – Ernie Sep 21 '15 at 20:18
  • @Ernie: lmao, no this is not what I said. what i said is that discovery makes shows that are pure entertainment and profit and not based on evidence, therefore it isn't reliable (i didnt say that all claims made by discovery are false, i just said that we put an interrogation mark on all their shows). ps: your comment is a fallacy called strawman – George Chalhoub Sep 21 '15 at 20:25
  • 1
    How is this a strawman? Because I simplified your entire answer of "Grant Imahara was paid by McDonald's to produce 'evidence' to an unsuspecting public after he left the show" and "Discovery networks also produces this list of crap" to, quote: "Discovery Networks paranormal shows aren't evidence of paranormal existence; Mythbusters is at the same level of authenticity"? Where is the discussion of any of the actual content of Mythbusters? You mention nothing of it, choosing instead to attack other things entirely. – Ernie Sep 21 '15 at 20:42

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