In our quests for health, longevity, weight loss, happiness, there is no shortage of people willing to take our money. A short documentary called "Here Be Dragons: An Introduction to Critical Thinking" exposes the most common tricks of the trade used by those who make questionable statements, and how to avoid the pitfalls of these tactics.
Here are some examples,Appeal to authority: This is the use of images authoritative – someone in a lab coat, celebrities, certifications, academic. An appeal to authority is an argument that attempts to establish its conclusion by citing a perceived authority who claims that the conclusion is true.
In all cases, appeals to authority are fallacious, no matter how well-respected someone is is possible for them to make a mistake. The mere fact that someone says that something is true does not prove that it is true. Of course there are also cases in which the authorities alleged is not an authority on the subject in question.
Ancient Wisdom: The argument usually goes like this: Our wise ancestors X used to treat conditions of Y. They understood the natural world and had access to the knowledge that we no longer have.
E 'is illogical to think that the ancients were more familiar to us today. Ancient "wisdom" also brought us the theory of bare ground, bleeding, 30 years old. Who cares if it was used in the 11th century China … – Does it work?
Confirmation Bias: This is the tendency to search for or interpret new information in a way that confirms their preconceptions and avoid information and interpretations which contradict prior beliefs. This is why many people believe in psychics, asking hundreds of questions and make hundreds of probing hypotheses. Remember the correct aspects of what they say and think they know everything about us.
Correlation / Causation: Many people confuse correlation with causality. Events that occur together, do not necessarily have a relationship of cause and effect. Taking a supplement around the same time as a cancer goes into remission is an example. The immediate thought is supposed to be the supplement. Autism / vaccine debate is similar – the diagnosis is usually after receiving vaccinations. Symptoms of autism happen to be diagnosed at about the same age as vaccinations. In conventional medicine, doctors used to think that hormone replacement therapy lowered the risk of coronary heart disease, but when put to a process that actually increases the risk.
Red Herring: A distraction to follow a logical line of thought. September 11 conspiracy theorists love red herrings. Skeptical: "Who crashed the planes?" Conspiracy theorist, "Dick Cheney had special interests in the Middle East"
Test Verbosity: Laying out huge volumes of information – that give the illusion of being carefully studied. It is not the quantity of information, but rather the quality. The people who cite pages and pages of "evidence" I do not expect anyone to consider and respond.
Mystical energy: Many promoters of quackery claim a sort of mystical energy, life force, or those who pass through our bodies and can be exploited and manipulated. It seems plausible, because it is a sound scientific word. The energy is a measure of the ability of something to do work – period.
"Healing Energy" – a popular alternative therapy received bad news about 10 years ago. A study published in JAMA showed that Therapeutic Touch (TT) operators could not even detect the energy field that claim they can manipulate. This was a true blind test – i (TT) operators did not know if the hand of the experimenter was there or not. If they can not even detect the energy field, how they can manipulate to do well?
Repression by the authorities (conspiracy theory): We've all heard the 911 conspiracies, pharmaceutical companies suppress natural cures. Now, I'm not going to pretend that Big Pharma does not have a considerable influence of study, but if there was a "cure" for something, pharmaceutical companies would jump on it.
All Natural: Mistletoe, botulism, asbestos, bubonic plague … – All "natural". If we were so inclined to broaden the definition, then so are the tsunami. Natural does not always mean better or safer. It is a marketing maneuver.
Ideological support: Many people argue that it is moral, ethical or politically correct to accept their demands. This is to distract people from the fact that there is no scientific support for their demands / product. The best example here is veganism.
It would be nice if the critical thinking are normal high school curriculum. Having an open mind is good, but there is a fine line between openness and credulity. Good science is done in laboratories, not on blogs, long marches or Oprah. Use your best judgment and remember, if it does not make sense …-scientific and common sense is nonsense.