Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sorting out the science

Here is a common sense article that focuses on nutrition but is applicable to many issues where science is used to sway public opinion, such as environmental issues. It concludes with this advice:

  • What can we do about making food decisions? How can a reasonable person make a judgment about what to do?
  1. Do not expect perfection. This is an often neglected phenomenon of science. Absolute clarity on any issue is rare. Tolerate some ambiguity.
  2. Some things, particularly about food and nutrition, are still unknown. We've accomplished a lot, but a great deal needs still to be learned. Time often resolves the issues. What seems confusing now may be very clear in 10 years.
  3. Use your good judgment. Radical food changes are rarely necessary but sometimes changes in food behaviour seem reasonable and can be justified. My grandmother was a wise woman and so was my mother, but they were not always right. I don't think I could survive a regular diet of what was standard in my grandmother's home.
  4. Be skeptical. Wisdom is uncommon. Absolute wisdom is rare.
  5. Don't overuse any single food or food group. Exercise. And don't believe everything you read.
I especially endorse the sentiments on wisdom and not believing everything you read/hear. The problem with common sense is that its not that common. Subsequently, we have a culture that celebrates the cult of the expert. The problem being, that many claim expertise but few really have it. The imposition of authority often is an admission that the expertise that is claimed does not have enough robustness to withstand scrutiny.