The Twitterverse and blogosphere are positively quivering in outrage about the way the media covered Nature Neuroscience’s recent paper suggesting a molecular role for pain relief in a mouse model for acupuncture. This blog post is not about the science or the finding; and to put it into context, I don’t believe there’s evidence that acupuncture works beyond placebo in humans, either, either before this paper or after.

But what intrigues me is the response of the non-mainstream media (i.e. Twitterers and bloggers). All of their complaints are valid, particularly the often restated point that “mice aren’t humans and you can’t extrapolate”. But what strikes me is that you could levy the same charge against many, many papers published weekly in high-profile journals that use animal models to study human diseases or biology. Some of these papers are covered by science bloggers, who are just as critical, but somehow not nearly as outraged. I just think it’s interesting that because what’s being studied is something people don’t believe in, making overstated claims about mouse models is somehow more repugnant than what happens every day in the press.

Is it because giving the apparent stamp of scientific approval to alternative medicine is ultimately more harmful than validating this week’s cure for cancer? I think that’s probably the most likely explanation, but would be curious to know what others think.