Opinions PLEASE: Considering writing an article series here on science and critical thinking...

  • Delivis

    Posts: 2332

    Oct 20, 2008 11:43 PM GMT
    What do you all think?

    We seem to live in a time when science literacy is low, critical thinking is even lower, anti-intellectualism is high (at least in the US), pseudoscientific and nonsensical claims are more common than ever, and common sense is in short supply.

    And while this is generally true everywhere and across all subjects, some subjects seem to be more fertile breeding grounds for misinformation and unsupported claims than others. Areas like health and fitness are notoriously bad in this regard: unregulated and untested supplements and products making outrageous claims, advertisements and infomercials for overpriced workout equipment citing dubious studies, new fad diets appearing on a regular basis, outright "cures" for every illness imaginable being marketed. You get the idea.

    For some reason in some areas people's bullshit detectors work a lot better than others. Generally if even the average uninformed Joe or Jane goes into a used car sales office they can sense if something is fishy about what the sales person is offering. When it comes to other claims, like health and fitness related ones, some people seem to swallow the silliest claims hook, link, and sinker.

    So, I have some inclination to write about topics that would clear up common misconceptions and help sharpen people's critical thinking skills and bullshit detectors in all areas where dubious claims are made, with perhaps some more focus in the health and fitness areas.

    Articles would include topics such as specific commonly advertised products, supplements, and remedies, specifically so called “alternative medicines”. They will also include things like common logical fallacies, layman’s guides on how to read scientific literature, how medical studies work and what they mean, as well as how the scientific method in general works.
  • Delivis

    Posts: 2332

    Oct 21, 2008 12:06 AM GMT
    Oh dear, after reading that thread on microwaves i think that will have to be one of my first topics if i end up doing this....
  • MikePhilPerez

    Posts: 4357

    Oct 21, 2008 12:14 AM GMT
    Based on you're OP I feel, and I maybe wrong, you think you have all the answers and everything else is wrong icon_question.gif

    And trust me, insults will start flying here also just like the microwave thread. It will be interesting to see who throws the first one.
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    Oct 21, 2008 12:20 AM GMT
    Delivis, sweetums, you'd have to get people to read it first and then there is getting them to understand it..

    The reason literacy is down is people don't want to think for them selfs, its to much effort and then they have to take responsibility for it which means when they stuff up (and they will), they have to take the blame.. Which would be terrible of course!
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Oct 21, 2008 12:23 AM GMT
    Generally a waste of time, but by all means roll that rock, Sisyphus.
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    Oct 21, 2008 12:24 AM GMT
    I'm curious how true those claims are and how much the whole "Back when I was your age I walked 3 miles uphill barefoot in the snow ..." thing influences this.
  • farfle

    Posts: 105

    Oct 21, 2008 12:27 AM GMT
    mindgarden saidGenerally a waste of time, but by all means roll that rock, Sisyphus.


    lol...I agree, please carry on...it should be quite interesting
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    Oct 21, 2008 12:28 AM GMT
    Thinking other people don't have the answer isn't the same as thinking you have the answer. Whatever "the" "answer" is. What was the question again?

    Why are people so jaded? Rationalism is the way to a better life!
  • Delivis

    Posts: 2332

    Oct 21, 2008 12:31 AM GMT
    So from what i gather so far many seem to be of the extremely pessimistic opinion that everyone is a true believer of one kind or another whose opinions and beliefs are completely unmovable by evidence.

    I assume there are some people out there who are simply looking for good evidence based information, but who knows how small or big that group is..icon_smile.gif
  • MikePhilPerez

    Posts: 4357

    Oct 21, 2008 12:35 AM GMT
    Delivis saidSo from what i gather so far many seem to be of the extremely pessimistic opinion that everyone is a true believer of one kind or another whose opinions and beliefs are completely unmovable by evidence.

    I assume there are some people out there who are simply looking for good evidence based information, but who knows how small or big that group is..icon_smile.gif


    I have changed my mind in the past, and I'm sure I will in the future.
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    Oct 21, 2008 12:40 AM GMT
    I'm one of those people who's opinion can always be swayed with a good argument and cold hard facts delivered in an unemotional tone that neither attempts to beat anything else up in the process nor tries to leverage of someone else without background.

    but, I think the posts where more about you writing them, it comes across as you knowing more and having all the correct answers, which of course you don't.

    But then, your a uni student, I've not met many uni students who didn't think they knew all the answers even if they claim black and blue that they didn't hehehe icon_razz.gif
  • Delivis

    Posts: 2332

    Oct 21, 2008 12:44 AM GMT
    Excellent Phil. Very commendable. One meme that seems rampant in US culture in particular it seems that a change of mind is considered a sign of weakness - "flip-floppers" i think they are called.

    A similar thread of thinking appears in many anti-scientific thoughts, where the fact that scientific views change and build on themselevs over time as new evidence comes in is seen as a sign of weekness whereas idealogical views which are immutable are signs of strength. Boggles my mind it does!

    But to answer your previous question MikePhil....

    No i do not pretend i have all of the answers, nor would i write articles off the top of my head without doing research. What i do claim to be at least somewhat adept at is knowing how to sift through research and evidence and weigh the strength of the evidence appropriatly in a scientific manner. The topics i have already come to strong conclusions on are ones that i have already done extremely thorough research on. But even then i am always open to new evidence should someone present it, as any scientist or rational minded person should be.

    Some of the topics i would write about i do not know all that much about and part of my impetus for writing such articles would be for my personal education as much as anyone elses.
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    Oct 21, 2008 12:49 AM GMT
    I understand what you are saying. if you don't have common sense it is very apparent in the kitchen. You can only be so efficient if you cook like a housewife or a child with downs syndrome.


    I think this would be a good idea and if anyone gives you hell about it fuck them, at least you enjoyed writing it. However, I would make my tone neutral as possible, you know how these catty queens can be sometimes.
  • farfle

    Posts: 105

    Oct 21, 2008 1:10 AM GMT
    um...okay, after reading the microwave thread I've changed my answer...don't do it...you'll only raise your blood pressure and stress level...do your research for your own enjoyment and use it when necessary...
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    Oct 21, 2008 1:29 AM GMT
    Now I have to go read the microwave thread. BTW, Delivis, do you see this a a lecture series, or an open forum? And while I did see you mention doing research, do you have any particular credentials for this undertaking?
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    Oct 21, 2008 1:43 AM GMT
    farfle saidum...okay, after reading the microwave thread I've changed my answer...don't do it...you'll only raise your blood pressure and stress level...do your research for your own enjoyment and use it when necessary...


    I have to agree. While your intentions are honorable... I just saw all kindas if horse shit written on the Microwave post.

    Remember the quote on your profile:

    "You can't reason someone out of a position they did not reason themselves into." (my new favorite quote of the week!)

    What's worse is that you'll be getting in fights with people who get their info from wikipedia rather than recent (<4yrs. old), peer-reviewed, and relatively unbiased scientific articles from respectable and well-known scientific journals.

    PS: If you go through with it... which I'd of course support you... look up Kevin Trudeau. You'll have enough material for a decade worth of posts! lol
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    Oct 21, 2008 1:47 AM GMT
    farfle saidum...okay, after reading the microwave thread I've changed my answer...don't do it...you'll only raise your blood pressure and stress level...do your research for your own enjoyment and use it when necessary...


    You do not do something because it would be easy, you do it, because it will give you something, it will give others something and it will be good.

    cjcscuba1984, Wikipedia aint that bad, you just need to take everything with a grain of salt, regardless of its source, including books, scientific journals, PhDers and anyone else.

    Let commonsense prevail icon_razz.gif
  • coolarmydude

    Posts: 9190

    Oct 21, 2008 1:49 AM GMT
    You can bring a horse to a river, but you can't make him drink the water.

    What you are trying to accomplish has already been done:

    FFDlarge.gif

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    Oct 21, 2008 1:52 AM GMT
    Red_Vespa saidNow I have to go read the microwave thread. BTW, Delivis, do you see this a a lecture series, or an open forum? And while I did see you mention doing research, do you have any particular credentials for this undertaking?


    Ha, my curiosity has also been piqued! Who knew that a blown up microwave could stir such controversy? And kudos for asking the credentials question, Vespa. I was wondering the same thing, myself.

    Let me give you an example, Delivis. I read lots of fitness magazines, forums and articles. I learn new stuff, all of the time, especially about fitness and nutrition. Now, when I go and share my new insights with my better half, he generally balks...that is, until he sees the same information in print with a bunch of letters after the author's name.

    Here's an aphorism that I think would apply to your venture: People don't care what you know until they know that you care. That's perhaps a tall order for a broad and diverse forum audience, but people will notice right away if all you're doing is playing the I'm right/you're wrong game. Nobody listens to that and you're just inviting flame wars by doing so. If you take a neutral tone, as Greygull suggests, you should go for it (but don't forget to wear your teflon armor).
  • Delivis

    Posts: 2332

    Oct 21, 2008 1:52 AM GMT
    I am extremely aware of Kevin Trudaeu. He is one of the most infamous modern snake oil salesmen in North America.

    And i would not mind the inevitable criticism i would be sure to get..icon_smile.gif

    And i think for the layperson, Wikipedia is usually a very good place to start looking for answers. Conserpavedia on the other hand...oh dear.
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    Oct 21, 2008 2:05 AM GMT
    Delivis saidIAnd i think for the layperson, Wikipedia is usually a very good place to start looking for answers. Conserpavedia on the other hand...oh dear.


    Yes... but that is all Wiki is--a good place to start. One shouldn't cite their references from wiki though.. which is what I was talking about a few posts above.

    "Rule Numero Uno: When doing research for a paper or anything in academia, icon_evil.gifNEVERicon_evil.gif cite from Wikipedia!"
    -Dr. Mullin-- Quantitative Chemistry Professor, University of New England

    (haha)
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    Oct 21, 2008 2:15 AM GMT
    farfle saidum...okay, after reading the microwave thread I've changed my answer...don't do it...you'll only raise your blood pressure and stress level...do your research for your own enjoyment and use it when necessary...


    Delivis, I think farfle is right on. Several people brought scientific evidence to that thread, and it didn't convince any of their detractors. The audience you could potentially influence would find logical or scientific arguments persuasive, but that set is likely already well-informed.

    mindgarden's "Sisyphus" comment is prescient, hilarious too...
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Oct 21, 2008 2:35 AM GMT
    i think it's a great idea.

    i get the feeling that the gay community specifically falls prey to pseudoscience all the time. A good portion of the community seems to like books like the secret and get involved with stuff like acupuncture, astrology, and homeopathy.

    I'm not looking to pick any belief vs non belief fights out there at all. All i want everybody to do is look directly at evidence in a non biased way and when you do that stuff like astrology and homeopathy come up false.

    There are some really good skeptical podcasts out there,

    Radio Lab
    Point of Inquiry
    Skeptoid
    TED talks
    Skeptics Guide to the Universe
    This American Life.

    I suggest that anybody that is interested in science at all but might need some help give these podcasts a try.

    so, yeah, i think this would be really good. A lot of people, especially in the states need a good dose of science.
  • Delivis

    Posts: 2332

    Oct 21, 2008 2:38 AM GMT
    I agree with the above list of podcasts. I would include a few others as well, like Science Talk (by Scientific American) and Astronomy Cast.
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    Oct 21, 2008 2:51 AM GMT
    anyone with itunes, check out iTunes U, more specifically, the science section.. its ripper, I've downloaded gigs from there.