Posted by Pattie on 3/04/2006 10:47:00 PM

Top 10 Things I'm Tired of Discussing:

Number 7 -- Which study(ies)is(are) definitive.

One of the biggest misuses of science is the so-called definitive study. If science is worthwhile, then no single study will tell us all we need to know about anything other than the most narrow topic.

I rarely debate the merits of specific scientific studies often because I am not a scientist, I am a sociologist. My reading of scientific studies is usually a deconstruction of the ways in which science is presented in culture and discourse.

I regard presentations and critiques of medical studies with varying degrees of trust. The least trustworthy presentations are press releases and sound bites on television. Yet that is the source of most people’s information regarding scientific and medical data.

Instead of debating a particular study, it makes more sense to me to view an overall picture and question the source of my information. That, of course, takes more time than most people have or are willing to give. That’s okay, too. If you don’t have the time, expertise or knowledge to seriously question and understand the biases, hidden motives and honest scientific differences among studies that’s okay. That’s why we have specializations and variations among humans. Some members of society take the time and they share their information. But if you aren’t one of those people, then don’t repeat things you’ve heard or seen on TV or in a magazine.

If you haven’t skeptically looked at the data and read thoroughly the debates, then don’t tell me or anyone else about it like you know what you are talking about. If you do you are repeating memes, not adding quality to the discourse.

Please understand, I’m not saying that you can’t test a conclusion of a particular study with your own experience and then provide details of that experience with others. But rely upon your experience as you authority, not the science. Then leave open the possibility that other people have different experiences.

It boils down to a simple question that everyone should ask themselves of anything they think they know -- What is my source of information? If you can't answer that question with explicit details or if the answer is something pretty shallow, then there is a good chance you are simply repeating a script that you have been taught. Such a reptition is most likely making someone else rich and is misleading a lot of other people to also make that someone else rich. How to you avoid contributing to the perpetuation of bad information -- if you don't know how you know what you know, shut up! If you do know how you do know you know, then disclose it in detail so others can judge for themselves.

In any case, claiming that a particular study has answered our questions about larger topics is usually a sound byte and not good science. Buyer beware.