Last Updated on October 2, 2021 by David Vause
I see these arguments come from the Left and the Right, people with no advanced education and people with liberal arts or engineering degrees. The former surprises me. If they don’t teach analytical or critical thinking to students in liberal arts programs, our civilization is doomed.
“They say…”, “Some people believe….” are entirely meaningless ways to advance an opinion or argument. Vague references to the unidentified are references to no one. At best, you can get some people to say or believe pretty much anything. That’s not saying anything at all.
“My great-grand-aunt ….” is only one step beyond the previous one. Anecdotal evidence is often inaccurately attributed or remembered and invariably statistically irrelevant.
A video on YouTube is evidence for nothing. There is no review of content for accuracy or truthfulness. Anyone can post pretty much anything and make any ridiculous, unsubstantiated claims.
The previous point is a specific example of social media generally. Believe nothing you read on FaceBook, Instagram, TikTok, or the other myriad social platforms. Nothing ensures that what you are reading has any relation to reality. The alternate reality on which the Right thrives originates in social media and is maintained by some hugely irresponsible news organizations, including Fox.
This brings me to news organizations. A right-wing extremist foreigner owns Fox News, and the outlet reflects his bias and bigotry. One can argue this endlessly, but no independent source will support the counterargument to this assertion. As support, I offer:
Strive to use neutral news sources. Any Liberal or Conservative source owned by a traded company is going to be prone to clickbait.
Now some would say that the sources I use above are elitist. This is a slur used by both the Left and the Right. An ad hominin attack on the references I list has no content. Elite experts are simply going to do a better assessment of news neutrality than a random populist on the street, conservative or liberal.
Anyone who is making a profit from the message is suspect. This is true as much for book authors as it is for some late-night infomercial.
Presence on the New York Times Best-Seller list likewise doe not confer authority. Sales volume drives position on the best-seller list, not honesty or accuracy. As such, the list is little more than a high-brow Nielsen Ratings.
The universe is not Manichean: things do not neatly classify into opposite sets. Human endeavor cannot achieve complete objectivity, yet this is not grounds for abandoning the effort to be objective. Peer review is a human activity and inevitably flawed. It does not follow that the Western scientific tradition is a useless effort, or that we should adopt the New Age thinking that believing anything you wish is a legitimate way to know things. This logic applies equally well to small-scale matters. Refined sugar is unhealthy. From this, there is no scientific or logical basis to conclude that all carbohydrates are also unhealthy. Likewise, counting calories is error-prone and probably not a useful thing to do. Compounding the issue is that foods are digested very differently. There are major differences in the way foods are digested resulting in variations in satiety, energy response, energy storage, and impact on health. But this does not mean that calories do not count. Unless you are an endurance athlete in heavy training, you really do not need that 1,000 calorie meal.