I'm annoyed by bad science. Poorly designed experiments. Bad survey design. Ignorance of the process of science.
For example, in an upper-level psych class in college, our textbook had an experiment. In an effort to find where thirst was detected in the body, the experimenters injected hypertonic saline solution into the hepatic portal vein (liver) and the jugular vein (neck) to see if thirst was detected in the liver or the brain.
Can you believe that? Someone (I assume a student) designed and proposed an experiment; that was reviewed by the instructor; that was reviewed by at least one committee (ethics). It was performed, written up and submitted for publication. There it was peer-reviewed and published. Then someone decided it was really cool and found its way into a college textbook.
No one, evidently, in that long, involved process knew that veins move blood towards the heart. Away from the organ. All that they measured was which would make the hypertonicity go systemic faster.
Last night I got a call:
"I'd like to ask you a few questions for a survey. What region are you in?"
"You called me. How can you not know what region I'm in?"
"Are you in Washington State?"
"If you knew, why did you ask?"
"What is your opinion on the changes to the health care law?"
"Federal or State?"
"Are you talking about the changes to federal laws or the changes to state laws? They both changed last year, right?"
"I... I don't know."
"How can you not know? You're trying to conduct a poll on a law and you don't know which law?
"The survey form doesn't say."
"Well, since I don't know what you're talking about and neither do you, I don't think I can help you. Good bye."
Okay, it was a little mean and maybe a little funny, but it also was wrong and infuriating. The only valid data possible from this survey is measuring the emotional reaction of people who don't know what they are talking about. Nothing else, because by the nature of it, no one COULD know what they are talking about.
What's your opinion on Blixismaciousness?
But this survey was designed and paid for and someone is going to use the data generated. Use it for what? Not to change the unknown and possibly imaginary health law. At least I don't think so. More likely to tell people what other people think: "80% of the people agree on "X" what is the matter with you?" "Over half the people surveyed in your district don't support your position, Senator." "Our survey indicates that people think this is a serious problem, so we need more funding."
If I hadn't hung up, I probably could have figured out what the survey was designed to elicit (and only really good surveys are neutral). Most people have never even seen a neutral survey. Either by design-- which seems quite common now-- or by subconscious bias in the designer, most surveys and many experiments are targeted at a specific result.
And there's some guilt in this mix of feelings as well. When everyone refuses to play the stupid game it only leaves the ones unable to see the stupid game still playing. Do they then wind up driving policy?