Let’s say you’re a scientist who wants to do some research on the Tooth Fairy. You could design your study to determine if the Tooth Fairy leaves more money for a tooth left in a plastic baggie under the pillow than for a tooth wrapped in a piece of tissue (as we used to do in our family). Or you could look at the average amount of money left behind for the first baby tooth to fall out compared to the last tooth. Or perhaps you might attempt to correlate Tooth Fairy proceeds with the income of the toothless kid’s parents.
None of these would be good research, according to Dr. Harriet Hall, editor of Science-Based Medicine. She explains:
“You can get reliable data that are reproducible, consistent, and statistically significant. You think you have learned something about the Tooth Fairy. But you haven’t. Your data has another explanation, parental behaviour, that you haven’t even considered. You have deceived yourself by trying to do research on something that doesn’t exist.” Continue reading