Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Skepticism vs. Bias

I've been reading over a website at the suggestion of someone who seems to trust it on a biblical level. I'm not going to post the site for you here because I am flabbergasted by it. On this particular website, the authors had much to say about non-mainstream, popular things in an attempt to expose them as fraudulent. From the best that I can tell (as much as I could stand going through it) they made no attempt to personally experience (and therefore prove or disprove) these things. They also make no effort to prove the things that they are trying to support.

I used to say that the best way to convince me of your opinion is not to tell me that mine is wrong. Tell me instead why yours is right. Give me logic, science, whatever is at your disposal (other than 'because I said so') and I'll listen. Then give me a chance to tell you, by science or logic or whatever, why I have the opinion I have, and now we can discuss it like civilized human beings. This website was not like that at all. It was all 'this is wrong, that is wrong, and that over there is wrong, because it's not what I accept." Ladies and Gentlemen, you are not making a compelling argument.

There is nothing wrong with a healthy dose of skepticism. Even if it's just something like "I've never seen it proven, I've been unable to test for myself, I can't find it plausible." That's fine. That doesn't mean it's not plausible, but it's ok to be a little skeptic now and then. When everything that doesn't fit into your world view is not plausible, then we have a problem. We have a prepossession that's more like an outright bias. It's not about trying to find the answers. It's about everything else being wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I'm not going to support this website by posting a link. But what I will do is urge everyone, skeptics and critics and all out prejudice people alike, you can keep your reservations, but please test, experiment, and experience for yourself before you make such final and public judgements. Also remember that what works for me may not work for you, but that doesn't mean what works for me is any less valid. Yes, this works both ways. If you think you know the site I'm talking about and you love it. Good for you. It didn't work for me.

And an extra note for you die hard skeptics out there; a truth that I have come to realize. Some things cannot be proven by a human's means. That doesn't mean they aren't valid, just can't be measured. Sometimes, you really can benefit from a little bit of faith.

5 comments :

Anann said...

Oh my gosh...Truer words never spoken. Reading your blog just improved my day immensely. :)

Fyrecreek said...

Happy to oblige!

I'm somewhat sure the friend who recommended this particular site to me reads this. I regard this person among the king of skeptics. But they often quote it, often tell me to check it out. I did. Even with my open Anthropological mind. I was not impressed.

Where science may fail (or is not involved at all), a little bit of faith isn't going to hurt.

Anonymous said...

Haven't been reading in a while..catching up a tad. I thank you for checking it out--even if you disagree, that is fine! But thank you for being open minded enough to check it out. I will agree the tone of many articles is rough, but I think a lot of old men in medicine are rough characters--somewhat paternalistic.

Spiritually, I have faith in many things. But for me, in order to be able to recommend something for others in my work, I have to have more than faith to base it on, which is why I am skeptical of many treatments. As a pagan, I follow the "Harm none" rede, as well as a doctor I follow "First, do no harm". So I try to find proof that something will first, not hurt my patient, and second, will be effective. Nothing is 100% safe or effective, of course, but I like to see some kind of scientific studies if possible. Unfortunately, since we all know different treatments can affect people in different ways, and we can't control for every mitigating factor in every instance, just saying, "Well, it worked for me, therefore it will work for you and you should try it" is just not enough proof of safety or efficacy. And believe me, even when we docs think we are getting good information from researchers, mistakes and/or outright fraud still occurs--the vioxx and hormone replacement issues, for example. In fact, if I'm skeptical about treatments, those 2 examples are more likely the reason than anything else! There is a definite sense of betrayal when you are fed wrong or misleading information, which you then pass on to patients unwittingly. So, of course, now I'm extra careful!

I think there are a lot of promising things out there--we just need to study them a bit more carefully.

BTW--I'm just as skeptical of our government, the FDA, and the pharmaceutical industry, though it may not come out that way! What we have here is government by special (corporate) interests, and that definitely gets in the way of patient safety as well.

PS--Thank you for calling me "friend", I like that! ;) You ladies are a lot of fun to "talk" with--gets my noggin muscle workin'! Laurel

Fyrecreek said...

Laurel, I knew you would know the site I'm talking about. This was actually also recommended to me by someone else, who has a very similar opinion structure as you, only without any faith thrown in. That's mostly why I looked through it, it was coming at me from everywhere! Every other e-mail I get from him has something new from that site quoted or referenced or something.

I absolutely agree that many things could benefit from some more study. And I'd be there ready to read up on what they find.

PPS: You are a friend! Anyone who can get people thinking 'outside the box' or otherwise is worthy of more than a passing hello! :D

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear it! And I enjoy having friends outside of my little world here--helps KEEP me thinking "outside the box"!

Sorry about the jury duty (more recent blog)--sounds like a real bummer...