Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Parable of the Shoe

We usually require that children tie their shoes, as to prevent possible tripping. No research needed here in my opinion. Maybe kids who do not tie their shoes don't actually trip more often than kids who do; however, the issue is so petty, that it doesn't seem worth the effort it would take to research it.

But now let's say that I was a concerned advocate. I noticed a massive increase in ankle and knee injuries among students. I notice a trend among kids to wear their shoes untied. I suspect based on my own knowledge and experiences that the two are linked. Being a concerned person I advocate a law be passed that would require kids to have tied shoes. To enforce this law, a small fine can be assessed if a child is caught with untied shoes.

Maybe my observation that when kids have untied shoes they trip more isn't a good enough standard. I have taken a petty issue and made it a more serious one. Now it is time for research.

When the research comes back we find that "yes" lots of kids do have untied shoes, as is fashionable, but the style requires short laces that can not possibly trip the child. Also, there has been an impressive increase in both sandlot and organized soccer, which upon investigation seems to be the cause of the increase in injuries.

What I am hinting at, is that there are all sorts of things that quickly modify a petty issue, into suddenly requiring real research. This includes:

1. The possible danger of treatment

2. The expense of the treatment

3. The time involved in the treatment

4. The required participation of others, in the treatment

5. The legislation of some issue related to the treatment

6. And the claim that an anecdote is sufficient proof for broader acceptance or usage


Fundies Say the Darndest Things!

The last claim in particular is what we see so often in alternative medical circles. Unfortunately, the advice of our myth busting friend Adam Savage to “reject your reality and substitute my own” doesn’t work in real science. When you advertise or give a testimonial about the effect of a treatment, you intrude into the realm of science and epistemology. What you say will be put under scrutiny, to see how well it holds up.

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