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Jul 9, 2000
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>>"It's a free world to believe what one wants" they proclaim.<<

To which I point out that while they may be entitled to their own opinions, they are not entitled to their own facts.

That said, you have a point about the difficulties in sorting out the wheat from the chaff. A study which is cited to back something up may well be golden, but it doesn't stand to reason that the citation is in context or that a given study says what somebody claims it does. A fairly simple remedy for that is to see the whole of the study for yourself. You might also want to consider seeing how it fared under the scrutiny of the peer review process.

you might also want to use the guidlines in Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit as much of what's there is evergreen.

There are some other links on that page you may find useful.
 
Jun 12, 2004
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To which I point out that while they may be entitled to their own opinions, they are not entitled to their own facts.

Well, that's the problem, Michael: When each person relies on her or his own beliefs and a uniquely selected set of sources, facts tend to take a personal perspective. This is where the constant debating comes in, as various beliefs boast different "facts," and a variety of sources serving to promote these "facts" seem to reinforce the respective beliefs.

What are the facts? Ask each person and you'll get a different answer.

Let's take the example of healthy foods. One book boasts certain truths regarding what to eat and why, while another book insists differently. Since these two books conflict on many points and findings, they both cannot be correct. Each book, however, insists that its stance is, in fact, truth, and each one provides a set of references to substantiate its case.

Of course, this isn't necessarily the same as the sea of people you post and argue online, most of whom who are likely not experts or have books published.

I do know what you mean, though: Facts are facts and are not liable to accommodate every person's personal beliefs. This, of course, is the case where facts do exist and beliefs ar not based on faith or opinion.



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it doesn't stand to reason that the citation is in context or that a given study says what somebody claims it does.

No, but each person reads that citation her or his own way. This is where POV comes into play. That person identifies and extracts one little piece and goes with it, even places it out of context to make a point, and that person argues with it until you submit to her or him or go away. Each person thinks s/he knows 'the truth,' and presenting her or him with source links doesn't always serve its purpose.

If I were to present your Carl Sagan link to many others who believe differently than we do, they would find fault with it, question it and make an argument of it, so that would not settle things. "Critical analysis," they'd call it.

Take the several debates between David Brown and Sam Halpern, for example. They both know the facts involved in the story, but they each either interpret those facts uniquely from the other or focus on different priorities which cast the facts in a light that conflicts with that of the other. People are not always going to agree on the facts for this and other reasons.


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A fairly simple remedy for that is to see the whole of the study for yourself. You might also want to consider seeing how it fared under the scrutiny of the peer review process.

Yes, and I agree, but then there is that POV thing again, along with each person's criticism and denouncement of that study. Others who believe a different way will find something wrong with it: "It wasn't conducted along purely scientific bases/means," "The subjects were not selected at random and therefore do not represent a broad enough demographic," "It is biased towards [fill in the blank]," "It is vague/ambiguous in some areas," "The author is not an expert in the field," "It was poorly written and so proper interpretation is difficult," "It has faulty logic because . . ." Take your pick.

Anyway, I know that you and I agree in many areas here and disagree in some, so there's no need to go on. You see my point, though.

Ooops! Digressed from the main topic here. Sorry about that.​
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>they both cannot be correct.<<

Actually, it's very likely none of them are. Fad diets are a dime a dozen and a lot of them are written by Md's. One would think that such people would know that ground and are often surprised to find out that this isn't really the case. Now if something was written by a trained dietician/nutritionist, that would be a lot more compelling.

>>If I were to present your Carl Sagan link to many others who believe differently than we do, they would find fault with it, question it and make an argument of it, so that would not settle things.<<

Maybe not for them, but it's not their health or well being on the line, it's yours. In light of that, go for objectivity and let the chips fall where they may. Keep in mind that real science is open to the possibility of falsification, and a good scientist will try to do just that. S/he'll look for confirmation and/or disconfirmation. Psuedo-science won't.

>>"Critical analysis," they'd call it.<<

And that would be one of any number of red flags to look out for. A good scientist would welcome that sort of thing and even invite it. Psuedo-scientists will not.

Bottom line: Use The Force Baloney Detection Kit my evil dark padawan. There are useful tools there which will help you keep the B.S. artists at bay...and out of your pocketbook!
 
Jun 12, 2004
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Maybe not for them, but it's not their health or well being on the line, it's yours.

No, this example I wasn't even using in the context of health, but in the context supposedly reputable sources in general. Presumably, Carl Sagan has had his detractors, those who are liable to question things he has said, and do so with yet more reference support. It keeps going on and on . . .


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There are useful tools there which will help you keep the B.S. artists at bay...

Again, whatever is "useful" is based on personal interpretation and preference. Even this has caused ongoing controversy. One person's top-knotch source is another's B.S.

Still, I agree that there are, indeed, true facts to certain issues, and the experts are likely to know them. Sometimes if you want to verify facts, you verify the background and legitimacy of the expert. Quite often, the expert's integrity equals the integrity of the facts.​
 
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