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How to Decrease the Amount of Bullshit on the Internet

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Chances are you have a friend or relative who is constantly posting dubious “facts” on social media: that you can charge your electronic devices by plugging them into an onion, that entering your PIN in reverse at an ATM summons the police, or that this year Halloween falls on a Friday the 13th for the first time in 666 years. (Think about that one for a moment.)

We can laugh all day at our paranoid friends and computer-illiterate aunts for falling for Facebook hoaxes, but the basic offense here — passing along information without any attempt to verify it — is something most of us probably do all the time.

Bad information isn’t always obvious, and it probably wouldn’t occur to you to investigate a claim unless it sounded untrue to you from the beginning. There’s pretty good evidence that we’re much more gullible than we think: we tend to believe what we hear, unless it initially strikes us as unlikely.

After a belief passes the front door, it usually doesn’t get much scrutiny. It becomes part of your “body of knowledge,” which is just another name for your impression of the way the world is, and it remains there until some new belief utterly clashes with it and you’re forced to reconsider. We easily forget our reasons (if we ever had any) for believing what we believe, and we’re seldom asked for them.

Don’t take my word for it, but you can be almost certain that a lot of the things you “know” aren’t really true. I would bet money that some of the facts of life you currently feel certain about can be found on this list of common misconceptions. It may surprise you to hear for example, that sugar doesn’t cause hyperactivity in children, and that fortune cookies are actually Danish in origin, not Chinese or Japanese or American.

We do learn quite a bit about the world from direct experience. But clearly, most of our learning amounts to believing the beliefs of other people, whether they’re expressed in a Facebook post or in a textbook. You hear or read something, and if it seems true you’ll probably believe it. In all likelihood you’ll never try to verify that belief unless someone else challenges it, and it may never occur to you that it might be wrong. Once a belief has established itself, we freely tell others what we know, or think we know, and the process repeats. 

This indiscriminate passing-on of totally unverified information is a bad habit we human beings have always had. We seem to be more interested in making impressions on others than really knowing what’s true. The primary reason we had witch hunts for centuries is the same reason there are people (in 2014!) trying to reduce their belly fat by doing situps. Without self-doubt and respect for evidence, you can spend endless effort building abs you will never see, and spend three centuries fighting evil spirits that were never there.

Of course, we can’t verify everything we believe. And even when we do check, how do we know that the second opinion is correct? The sources could be wrong. So we have to check the source’s sources. The problem is that as you follow these rabbit holes, they split in too many directions. Following each one could potentially take forever, and there’s a creeping suspicion that becoming 99.99% certain of this one single belief isn’t worth the work it takes.

For example, if a friend or social media acquaintance tells you, “Sugar is poisonous! Didn’t you know that?!” and cites Dr So-and-So’s book as a source, do I need to read that book if I want to know if that’s true?

If I do read it, for the book to verify anything to me, I need to consult its sources, which probably amount to a pile of other books and some studies. Then I need to not only read these books and studies, but to understand them, and the efficacy of their methodologies, and by this point I’m hundreds of hours in the hole and way out of my depth. And I’ve only just begun, because it’s only fair to repeat this process with the books of each of Dr So-and-So’s detractors, and even then there’s no guarantee that any of them are right.

Of course, I’m not going to do this, but I am going to dig a bit deeper than the surface, and that much is worthwhile. Following rabbit holes until you hit bedrock isn’t necessary for getting drastically smarter about what you believe. Things can get a hell of a lot clearer after the first few minutes of Googling: Oh, Dr. So-and-So is actually a chiropractor, not a scientist. Oh, Dr. So-and-so sells “fat-burning” nutritional supplements. Oh, there’s a warrant out for his arrest.

All of these are unverified claims too, and none of them are absolute proof that Dr. So-and-So is incorrect, but my digging has definitely given me a good reason not to tell other people that sugar is poisonous, at least for now.

Adapting to The Age of Bullshit

You’d think having the internet at our fingertips would make us more sure about what we’re talking about. But the problem is that human beings are just not into the habit of verifying things. So instead of using the internet’s incredible power to verify what we hear, we use its incredible power to absorb more unverified information than ever, and pass it along at a greater rate than ever.

Karl Taro Greenfield wrote a great article in the New York Times explaining how quick we can be to talk out of our asses in the internet era. He argues that because we live in the Information Age, we’re expected to have heard of everything already, and so we feel increased pressure to avoid admitting when we don’t know what we’re talking about:

Recently I was on the phone with an editor who mentioned a piece by a prominent author. I claimed I had read the story. It was only later in the conversation that it became clear to me that the article had not yet been published and I could not possibly have read it.

When you have something printed in a major publication, they ask you to guarantee, among other things, that it’s free of erroneous statements of fact (or they’ll do it themselves.) To do that, you have to print it out, and underline every truth claim you make, and either verify it, eliminate it, or modify it so that it’s true (instead of saying “____ is ____” you might say, “I suspect that ____ is ____.”)

This is a humbling process. The first time you do it, you realize how often you’re poised to say something that you really don’t know is true. This step is left out, however, when we’re just chatting or Facebooking. In our day-to-day life we’re liable to be a lot more flippant about the truth than when a writer is preparing something for publication.

It would be sobering to have a transcript of everything you said on a given day, with every statement of fact underlined in red, then to have to spend a few minutes checking on each one to see if it’s true, or even likely to be true. I bet we’d all be shocked at how casually we make unqualified declarations about the world and the people living in it.

I’m calling myself out on this as much as anyone here. I don’t fact-check everything I say, on this blog and in person, and I don’t think it’s really feasible. But I am getting better at noticing that moment when I’m about to impart my “knowledge” to someone else, and qualifying it with, “My impression is…” or “I believe…” even if I feel fairly certain.

Doing this completely changes the kind of statement you’re making. Instead of making a claim about the way things really are, you’re just making a claim about your thoughts on the matter. You’re reminding yourself and the person hearing you that there is some degree of uncertainty (even if you don’t feel it) in almost everything you say.

That “I just know I’m right” feeling is not a reliable indicator that you’re right. In fact, it’s a good reminder to ask yourself how much digging you’ve really done on the question.

And that’s what I propose for making the Internet a little bit freer of nonsense: do a little bit of digging, as a habit, before you pass something on. I’m hoping this little bit of diligence becomes a normal thing to expect of each other, given that we live in an age where it’s easier than ever to both spread bullshit and to dispel it.

This diligence is especially important when you learn something that sounds particularly appealing to you — when you notice that you want it to be true. That’s a strong indication that you’re in danger of fooling yourself, and others.

Think of that feeling as an X that marks the spot where you ought to start digging, if only a little bit.

***

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Sandra Pawula October 20, 2014 at 12:00 am

Excellent point and one we can’t deny. Of course, we all do this. I don’t especially fact check most of my articles and it would probably give them more credence if I did. I think bloggers are encouraged to have strong opinions and be controversial to stand out and develop their “brand,” which can add to baseless words.

Thanks for this reminder. It’s a good one and I couldn’t resist reading this after seeing the title!

David Cain October 20, 2014 at 8:35 am

There is definitely something to gain in the blogging world by being bold with what you say. There is a way, though, to reconcile this boldness with a responsibility to the facts, and I am gradually getting better at it :)

RobertDee October 20, 2014 at 3:08 am

Great article. I’ve read many books by Robert Anton Wilson and model agnosticism was his great overlooked contribution to modern thought, in my opinion. If people acknowledged the relativism in their own statements perhaps the world would be a slightly saner place.

David Cain October 20, 2014 at 8:37 am

I haven’t read much of his but I know Robert Anton Wilson was a great advocate of admitting uncertainty when it’s there, and it seems to always be there. “The universe contains a maybe.”

david karapetyan October 20, 2014 at 4:06 am

Most people are not comfortable with not knowing. They’d much rather believe in something false than admit there isn’t enough information to determine things one way or the other.

Suppose I tell you that x + y = 5 and then ask you what is the value of x? If you studied algebra and did you homework then you know I haven’t given you enough information to determine the answer. It could be anything really because there aren’t enough constraints to say one way or the other. Most of life is a lot like that. It is just a jumble of insufficient information and instead of admitting that fact most people do the equivalent of plugging in x = 2.5 and y = 2.5 and call it a day.

David Cain October 20, 2014 at 8:39 am

Wow, that is some lazy algebra.

x = 5 – y if I’m not mistaken. But you’re right — it is really common to just come up with an answer that sounds good and move on. It is so strange that in general humans really aren’t all that interested in knowing the truth, if it doesn’t make us sound good or win us an argument.

jazzgillum October 20, 2014 at 9:44 am

“Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder ‘why, why, why?’
Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land;
Man got to tell himself he understand.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

DiscoveredJoys October 20, 2014 at 4:08 am

Thumbs up from me. When I was camping (a school society) as a boy the leader (who was also a Scout Master) explained how he would try to qualify his statements ‘It seems to me…’, ‘Most people believe…’, ‘I’ve read that…’ and so on. This struck me as a sensible way of not being consumed by your own certainties. He still believed in some weird things though…

I’ve tried to follow this way of speaking myself. People can think you are being ‘wishy washy’ at first (a problem in employment) until they find out that your considered views are generally more reliable and dispassionate.

I’ve also noticed that many people don’t listen well and don’t even hear your qualifying statements – so good luck with your efforts!

David Cain October 20, 2014 at 8:42 am

This is something I came to admire about my Dad as I grew up. He was a very opinionated person, but when I’d ask him a question, he wouldn’t just say “This is the way it is: _____.” He was very careful to frame everything, especially moral questions, with this kind of uncertainty because he wanted me to come to my own conclusions. I now see that kind of qualifying as a pretty reliable sign of thoughtfulness in people.

Juanita Grande October 20, 2014 at 4:13 am

Good readin’ and I loved the link to the list of “common misconceptions”.

Now, more in this instant age of internet content, it is paramount that we indeed do the research before just C&P-ing (quite possibly), someone else’s day into paranoia. And theirs into another’s…

: J

David Cain October 20, 2014 at 8:44 am

Yes, especially when it comes to timely issues like disease outbreaks, food recalls, et cetera. Snopes.com has a daily list of the most common internet hoaxes going around on any particular day.

David Magness October 20, 2014 at 5:58 am

Guilty of perpetuating the bs but I have greatly improved :) Love the use of “I” statements as a means to combat the issue.
Another good post, David!
Cheers, mate.

David Cain October 20, 2014 at 8:44 am

Thanks David

BrownVagabonder October 20, 2014 at 7:30 am

I have found one of the main ways to refute bullshit on the internet is to try it for myself. After I started noticing a lot of gluten-free advocates online, I decided to try it for myself to see if I noticed any differences in my body. Same thing with journaling, juicing, and jamming. Try all of these hyped up diets, or items for yourself, if you can, so you can refute or support the large amount of data that is on the internet. Thank you for this post!

David Cain October 20, 2014 at 8:50 am

I am a huge supporter of appealing to personal experience, too. But there’s a good reason to be cautious here. Many people develop unwarranted feelings of certainty because of their personal experiences, and draw inappropriate conclusions.

For example, if you cut out gluten and find that you feel better, many people think this is sufficient evidence to believe that gluten is bad for you, and will happily spread this “knowledge” on the internet. But there could easily be other factors. If you cut out bread, you may be feel better because you’re eating fewer calories overall, or you’re eating healthier foods in place of it, or maybe some other habits changed along with it that can account for the difference.

If the question you’re trying to answer is simply, “Do I feel better when I no longer eat gluten?” then you can find a meaningful answer from self-experimentation. But many people believe it also answers the question, “Is gluten bad for humans?” and this is a totally different question that requires a lot more testing to answer with any confidence.

Michael Eisbrener October 20, 2014 at 7:50 am

Your humor is interesting…. Fortune cookies, despite being associated with Chinese cuisine in the United States, were in fact invented and brought to the U.S. by the Japanese. The cookies are extremely rare in China, where they are actually seen as symbols of American cuisine. … per list of common misconceptions….

What if EVERYTHING you believed is a lie? Truth believed is always a lie. Truth is only an experience and the tale told about it never complete.

David Cain October 20, 2014 at 8:55 am

Truth believed is always a lie. Truth is only an experience and the tale told about it never complete.

I think I know what you’re saying, but we have to acknowledge that there is such a thing as conceptual truth, and without it we couldn’t even navigate our lives. When you sat down at your computer to type this, you could not have done it if you did not believe it was true that there is an internet, and that your computer will allow you to use it — even though you had no direct experiences of these truths when you made the decision to do so.

But it is worth distinguishing between knowledge as present-moment direct experience, and knowledge as belief. Both are in operation at all times and both are necessary.

Cookie Clicker October 20, 2014 at 8:30 am

So where is the cookie click counter?

David Cain October 20, 2014 at 8:52 am

It’s at 56 clicks right now. Not bad!

Dragline October 20, 2014 at 10:36 am

This reminds me of a section of Nate Silver’s “The Signal and the Noise”, where he points out that its a mistake to believe that a new mode of communication will lead to a more enlightened populace.

Instead, what usually happens first is that misinformation and disinformation is more widely spread to support particular viewpoints, often leading to conflicts. He cites the aftermath of the invention and widespread use of the printing press as the prime example.

I completely subscribe to the notion that we ought to express ourselves in casual conversations not as authorities on particular topics, but merely transmitters of information that we believe to be reliable. And we ought to be able to articulate why we think the information is reliable.

But there are many who would prefer to do the opposite for emotional or other, usually attention-seeking, reasons (self-appointed gad-flies, trolls, etc.) If you must engage with such people, its usually better simply to say “hmm — why do you think that?” than offer your own opinion or counter-statement.

David Cain October 21, 2014 at 10:13 am

I’m just beginning to understand how wholly emotional most of our debates are. It seems very rare for someone to be more interested in learning what’s true rather than coming off as already knowing. I notice this tendency in myself every time I respond to a comment that contradicts what I post. This blog has been a huge learning experience for me in that regard.

Arthur October 20, 2014 at 10:47 am

Good article! I listened to something similar to this a month ago on a creative mornings talk.

Victoria October 20, 2014 at 10:57 am

Such a great article! And so, so, true. A great reminder to watch my beliefs and how I share them as “facts”. Thanks.

Terri Lynn October 20, 2014 at 11:33 am

Its all made up! Every bit of it. :) Who first decided that the sky was blue? He/she made it up, someone agreed and no one questioned it. It has become our truth. But does that make it true? ;)

David Cain October 21, 2014 at 10:17 am

We can easily get stuck in a philosophical black hole on this topic if we like. You don’t truly know what blue is to me, or even that I exist. It could all be a solipsistic computer simulation.

But in reality we do act as though there are truths external to any one person’s perception, and we have to in order to function. If I’ve already got my shoes on and I ask you to grab my blue jacket from the closet, there is no question you know what to do. So we can deal in facts, even if a clever philosopher can make a case that there’s no real ‘knowing.’

Terri Lynn October 22, 2014 at 11:08 am

I agree wholeheartedly. Getting stuck in philosophy is not useful. But navigating from there is. Life is much less serious when we are not navigating from rigid constructs of reality. It is also easier to have a constructive conversation when we are not defending our ‘truths’.

Anonymous October 20, 2014 at 11:44 am

dear david
Facing strange times in my life, Didn’t know why it is happening to me but
with situations, with peoples, or anything i not being able to stand all the way for my beliefs or my stands / or kneel down and didn’t stand at all, just give it all.
just hanging in the middle. what do you think? why it is happening and what i can do. needed help to survive, i end up in situations where i can be beaten up as iam not strong enough or it can destroys my relations with peoples around me.

David Cain October 21, 2014 at 10:18 am

It’s hard for me to understand what you’re asking here. Can you elaborate?

Anonymous October 22, 2014 at 8:15 am

David it is like whenever I Say something or try to take a stand i find myself in trouble with other peoples and i feel my social circle is shrinking as a consequence.

Len October 23, 2014 at 1:00 am

Anonymous, I’ve gone through, and am still going through, a similar thing.

I still haven’t quite worked out what the exact reason is, but I think I’m slowly realising that it was / is due to the makeup of my familial and social circles.

See, I have had and have experiences where I can put my beliefs forward, or engage in a conversation or a bit of debate, and not feel like I’m being obliterated, hated, disrespected, etc. by the other(s) involved.

When I really look at it, most of the people in my life since I was a child (first my family and the the friends I chose / was drawn to) tend to be fairly insecure when it comes down to it. Outwardly, they tend to be confident, almost dominant, yet when challenged they tend to lash out.

It’s hard to really know, though.

I wish you all the best in your struggle (and I know it can be such a struggle sometimes).

kiwano October 20, 2014 at 11:59 am

A similar habit that I employ to expressing my uncertainty in my statements (possibly a sub-habit) is to express attribution in the statements too, e.g. “I read in the newspaper the other day that…” or “I think I remember a Wikipedia article mentioning…”

I do this to the point where I once told a friend (as a sort of inquiry, as he’s an expert on the topic being discussed) something like “I vaguely remember someone telling me several years ago that […] which may of course be mangled by all the time it’s been rotting in my brain” only to have him respond with something like “Your memory is working quite well (on this point at least), as that’s entirely correct, and I’m pretty sure that I’m the person who told you several years ago, probably back when […]”

It’s also handy because several of the discussions I have are technical enough that e.g. a mainstream news article can be expected to have simplified things enough to have lost most of its accuracy at the level of detail being discussed.

David Cain October 21, 2014 at 10:20 am

That sounds like a great habit to me. Do you find that there are a lot of times when you can’t remember where you picked up a particular belief or impression?

mariavlong October 20, 2014 at 5:47 pm

I find that the caption or first phrase of a blog post or update, or what have you, is the only thing that get’s read before impulsively replying as in agreement or as intending to correct, or as offended. Very similar to what we do face to face: redacting our response in our heads while the person is still talking.

David Cain October 21, 2014 at 10:21 am
Jacqueline October 20, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Here’s another to add to the list of “is this really true, and how can we know?” You mention witch hunts and evil spirits, well “I read in many places” that for centuries women were the main healers using herbs, etc, and when men started developing “medicine” they were threatened by the women’s knowledge and so made claims of “witches” and “evil spirits.” Just goes to show that even when providing examples for a blog post one may be spreading more misinformation.
Also, I have been waiting for your update re: your Soylent experiment. Frankly, I was quite surprised you would even consider putting that in your body.

David Cain October 21, 2014 at 10:33 am

I have read a fair bit about witch hunts recently, and it seems to be an unfounded belief that european witch hunts were primarily motivated by misogyny, rather than religious belief or other factors. The accusers were often women, and 20 to 25% of the victims were men. More info here if you are interested:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch_trials_in_the_early_modern_period#Causes_of_the_trials

Also, I have been waiting for your update re: your Soylent experiment. Frankly, I was quite surprised you would even consider putting that in your body.

Why?

Dragline October 22, 2014 at 10:01 am

On witch hunts, I’d highly recommend the chapter “Witch Mania” from Charles Mackay’s classic “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.” Here’s an audio excerpt:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdMjenLn5GM

yopizzashere October 20, 2014 at 7:14 pm

Fortune cookies are actually invented and brought to the U.S. by the Japanese according to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortune_cookie

David Cain October 21, 2014 at 10:35 am

Well done calling me on my bullshit!

Click the source I linked to.

Dan October 20, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Forgive me for being presumptuous, but I think you would LOVE Robert Anton Wilson’s “Prometheus Rising” (and just the author, in general). In addition to delineating the “8-circuit model of the mind/consciousness” (which, while perhaps not set-in-stone science, can serve as incredibly useful tool/metaphor in uncovering one’s own unconscious thoughts, beliefs, imprints, conditioning, etc…), he goes into great depth on a language system called “E-Prime” (or, “English Prime”…borrowed from the work of Alfred Korzybski). In a nutshell, with the wise realization that “the map is not the territory” and “the menu is not the meal” as guidance, it tries to eliminate the “…’is’ of identity” (along with any other form of the verb “to be”) from your day-to-day speech (and, ultimately, your thought process). Bob tried to put it in practice as often as he could, even using the technique to write entire books, but it is by no means an easy task. Here, he explains it further:

E and E-Prime
http://www.rawilson.com/quantum.html

I feel like your essay speaks directly to that system.

A little more on RAW, the underlying principle of his philosophy was “I know I’m wrong, I want to be less wrong”, which – as you have deftly pointed out – is very different from our current internet culture, where the underlying philosophy is “I’m right, and I want you to know that”. And if you go to any online discussion or debate, you find people declaring certainties loudly, people with very fixed positions that they can express in 140 characters that they hunker down and defend, and don’t listen to anything else, and attempt to drown out all the others. Bob, on the other hand, thought that what you believed imprisoned you, and that convictions create convicts.

Great guy with a great sense of humor, I recommend checking out more of his work (starting with “Prometheus Rising”…the concept of a “reality tunnel” was a revelation to me). Here’s another bit of his in the spirit of the essay (short clip):

Robert Anton Wilson – Don’t Believe In Anybody Else’s BS (Belief System)
http://youtu.be/cFxVWp5QjH8

Anna October 20, 2014 at 9:52 pm

Decent post.

Do you think that changing your sentences to “I believe…” will make you more egocentric? Rather than trying to see reality, you’d be polishing that personal filter?

On another hand, do you think “I believe” grammar will affect your ability to discuss or debate with people?

I ask since, as a first person singular aficionado, my syntax unfortunately makes me overly introspective and able to hide behind the “it’s just my opinion” cop out.

David Cain October 21, 2014 at 10:39 am

Why is it a “cop out” to admit your uncertainty? If anything is tantamount to “hiding” it’s false certainty.

holly October 21, 2014 at 6:36 am

I’m a psychologist and have recently started blogging because I’d like to pass on psychological information in a humorous way. Scientific writing is very cautious as it should be. Research doesn’t “prove” but it builds on knowledge which is being refined. But most people, myself included, find reading scientific writing about as exciting as watching my toothpaste dry out. So when I write I make statements based on research from reputable sources, not my Aunt Fanny, but they still may be overstated because I’m not including all the usual disclaimers. We all have a responsibility to consider the information in a thoughtful manner, not something we do naturally. Or even have a lot of extra time for.

David Cain October 21, 2014 at 10:41 am

Yes, you are right. Casual conversation can’t be as careful linguistically as scientific writing, or else we’d never want to talk to each other. And I’m definitely not calling for that — just for slightly more than zero verification when we pass along statements of fact to each other, most of the time.

Someone October 21, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Hey,David,why do you close the comments on your old entries?

David Cain October 21, 2014 at 1:16 pm

I have it set to close comments after ninety days, because spam was causing a huge problem. Every day I had tons of spam comments on any number of the hundreds of articles on this site.

I also don’t want to discuss most old articles any more. I am always refining my positions on things and changing my mind, yet people are commenting/questioning/criticizing old articles as if I’m just saying these things now and I have a responsibility to explain myself in regards to how I thought about something four years ago. This is really tedious and I’m not interested. But it also doesn’t feel right to leave their people’s questions unanswered. So I just close the comments.

uncephalized October 21, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Nicely said.

I think there’s another side to this, too. I’ve tried in my writing online, whether getting into a comment “debate” (it’s an art to keep one of those from devolving into mutual name calling in the first 15 words!) or writing a long, speculative blog post, to leave room for uncertainty. I’ll write something that reads like “It’s possible that X might be the case if B and C are true, but you’d have to check if A actually leads to B and I’m not sure anyone knows about *that*.”

I don’t remember all the time but I try to be in the habit. And yet the replies seem to come at me as though I had written, “X is the Truth and anyone who disagrees with me is a big dumb butt-kisser, ha ha!”

And after a while of that level of discourse (rare, merciful exceptions granted) you just start… sinking. Because it’s easier that way.

He who fights trolls…

Which is an excellent argument for *not hanging around with trolls*, I guess.

David Cain October 22, 2014 at 10:04 am

“X is the Truth and anyone who disagrees with me is a big dumb butt-kisser, ha ha!” is by far the most common way for people to debate things. I am doing the same as you — really trying to just state my feelings and my reasons, without picking up a particular flag.

Simon Somlai October 21, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Cool read David,

Love your writing style – Do you recommend any resources on improving your writing or did you learn this by practicing?

“I don’t fact-check everything I say, on this blog and in person, and I don’t think it’s really feasible. But I am getting better at noticing that moment when I’m about to impart my “knowledge” to someone else, and qualifying it with, “My impression is…” or “I believe…” even if I feel fairly certain.” – Haha, so true :D Can’t go wrong if you take that route.

Some statements need nuances but off-course you can’t expand every statement into a 4000+ word well-researched article, who likes to read that?

Just give your perception of reality and it’s ok. Don’t claim to be right nor to be wrong.

Nice blog btw man! Will be stopping by more in the future, you got some interesting articles (any must read in your opinion?)

Take care,

David Cain October 22, 2014 at 10:41 am

I learned by writing a lot. I would like to take a writing class but I’m scared of homework.

And no, I don’t recommend turning everything you say into a thesis. But I think we do have to at least suggest that we are right sometimes. Otherwise the viewpoints of those who do will become the prominent ones. It is perfectly okay to represent a viewpoint, but it’s better for all of is if you share your reasons too.

Thanks for the kind words and I hope you keep stopping by!

Jenn October 22, 2014 at 1:41 pm

I’m not discussing the topic so you might consider it a spam,if so,I don’t mind if you delete it. :) I just wanted to say thank you,this site helps me get through though times right now and I really appreciate that.Thank you! <3

Tallgirl1204 October 22, 2014 at 11:39 pm

I want to say thanks too,,not only to David but to this community. I recently posted something on another blog that was about a matter of faith, which I readily acknowledged was not the exact same thing as science, and was taken to task for being wishy washy and not science-y enough– that is, I readily acknowledged that what I believed is not provable and I have never said it was, and got taken down because I believe things that can’t be proven. I appreciate that your blog allows us to explore that space where faith and believe operate, and to also take time to examine those beliefs for their own value. And I appreciate the tone of the commentariat which allows that to go on.

Sebastian Aiden Daniels October 23, 2014 at 12:01 am

When you said that fortune cookies were Danish I thought “WTF.” I didn’t notice the link at first and so I went to do some hard research to cementify what I thought was the truth surrounding fortune cookies. I found information to back up my beliefs and then I came back and saw the link and clicked on it. “Ohh, I’m an idiot hehe.”

You are right that there is way too much bs out there. I’d love to have conversations with someone where we have to fact check our things, I think most people would get frustrated though. I hear people spitting out stuff in conversations and I just smile and think uh uh, I don’t believe you until you can back that up. Raising your voice doesn’t make you right.

ikechi October 23, 2014 at 12:42 am

Excellent points that you have raised and I agree with everything that you have said. Funny thing is that our world is screaming of too much information, most of which are unverified. True, that the best we can do is to research the information before absorbing it. Thanks for sharing.

Lynnie October 25, 2014 at 11:28 pm

David, I enjoyed your thought provoking article and your positivity. And I appreciate your candor and authenticity in your writing. However, since I am a health advocate, I feel I need to address only one point that might prove misleading to many that you made in this interesting and thought provoking post.

I will start with the disclaimer that I am not a doctor, nor a licensed or medical professional. With that disclaimer set forth and now put aside, know that I am a much focused student of health and nutrition, and when it comes to the body and our continual decline in health as a country, I am a bulldog. I am saddened with the rate of disease in our country, and in the world, and the role our diet plays in the decline of our overall health.

In this post on your blog, you presented as not only a “misconception”, but a fact (basically popular myth debunked), that hyperactivity in children is not caused by sugar. I base this on your statement: “I would bet money that some of the facts of life you currently feel certain about can be found on this list of common misconceptions. It may surprise you to hear for example, that sugar doesn’t cause hyperactivity in children.” You proceeded to use an article by Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope as your source to back up your claim.

Mr. Adam referenced studies on sugar and hyperactivity in children published in 1995 in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in his article on children and “a sugar-high”, and then a single study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology in 1994 by Daniel Hoover and Richard Milich on sugar and hyperactivity on a group on 31 boys ages five to seven. These are studies that the sugar industry has relied upon to tell us all it is okay to eat loads of sugar and that sugar is good for our children.
http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/sugar-killing-us-sweetly-0

I am on a mission to do my part in helping the American people to take responsibility for their own health, and to learn how to rid themselves of chronic disease which is large part is due to the Standard American Diet (SAD). Too many people are suffering from obesity, heart disease, allergies, migraines, autoimmune diseases, and so many chronic illnesses today (mostly preventable and even reversible!), which have truly become an epidemic in our society. And because children’s bodies have not fully developed, they are even more susceptible that adults are when it comes to toxins in the body, one such toxin being sugar (this will be made clear if you read the studies I present to you below).

While I am not comfortable in this role, I cannot ignore it when people who potentially have the ability to influence a large number of people, put out as fact something they may not fully understand, or may not have not taken the time to research fully, (e.g., sugar does not cause hyperactivity in children.). When it comes to health and the health of our nation – and especially the health of our vulnerable children – I will step out and try to point out a few more credible studies that might be beneficial before more people are affected due to a misconception or more erroneous information.

To that end, first I present to you the 1995 article
http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=391812 which your source, Mr. Adams, used to answer his readerships questions about children and sugar-highs, which was a series of real but “short-term” studies. I emphasize the phrase short-term because the issue with sugar is not so much a short term issue, as it is an excessive and chronic use of sugar that creates a serious problem (medically proven and substantiated), by reducing dopamine in the body. This doesn’t even begin to take into account the problems with insulin resistance, diabetes, feeding hungry cancer cells, premature aging due to glycation, or the cascading events that sugar promotes in the body with the chronic ingestion of sugar.

Contained in the following article from PubMed.org (a tax payer funded public searchable database of published scientific and medical literature which holds a treasure trove of medical studies like this one), is again the study your source quoted (which was then unfortunately left as fact), that explains both the 1994 study and the 1995 studies, and then goes further to explain what happens when the body is exposed to chronic and excessive sugar consumption: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3598008/

In case you don’t get to it, here is a portion of what you will find in this article:

“In this article, we revisit the hypothesis that excessive sugar intake may have an underlying role in ADHD [Attention Disorder Hyperactivity Disorder]. We review preclinical and clinical data suggesting overlaps among ADHD, sugar and drug addiction, and obesity. Further, we present the hypothesis that the chronic effects of excessive sugar intake may lead to alterations in mesolimbic dopamine signaling, which could contribute to the symptoms associated with ADHD. We recommend further studies to investigate the possible relationship between chronic sugar intake and ADHD.”

I hope this information is helpful to you and to your readership and is not construed as coming from a negative space. I truly hope you understand that my reaching out comes from a place of deep love for humanity, and hope that we all begin to take responsibility for our health as a nation rather than simply taking a pill for every ill. And I truly hope that it is clear that it is not my intent to take away from your post that sincerely helps others to think deeply, and profoundly, about how they view their world. Thank you for your time and the opportunity to comment.

Respectfully,

Lynnie Wennerstrom

mmKALLL October 30, 2014 at 9:50 am

But where are your sources for telling us that when you have something printed in a major publication, they ask you to guarantee the facts!?

I totally have to spend an entire day just recording everything I say and then analyzing the statements I do.

holly November 2, 2014 at 8:22 am

Ah yes, critical thinking. I’ve spent years working to get my psychology students to apply this but as a friend of mine once said, “if it ain’t true it ought to be.” We all do this sometimes.

Guney Ozsan November 24, 2014 at 6:33 am

Great article! Reading this made me have this disussion:

The roots to this may back to the herd mentality. This may be how we survived in the wilderness. You should immedietaly believe when you hear a predetor alert, rather than verifying it.

Now there are no predators but danger of having a belly fat. So we follow our instincts. And socially, for the majority it is more comfortable to be surrounded with people having same beliefs. So we prefer adapting our beliefs to the beliefs of people around.

You are right that internet carried that process to an extreme level. On the other hand not just the information (right or wrong) has greater liquidity, the discussions as well has greater liquidity too. This is where I see hope.

Thanks for making this nice blog.

Su November 30, 2014 at 6:04 am

Hi David, Hi raptitude community,

just a brief and unhumble remark: since quite a while now I realise
how liberating it is for me do add “imho” to my assessment. Having been
on this planet over 4 decades has made me realise I had to change my
POVs quite often now – and there’s no guarantee that my believe of today
is my superstition of tomorrow, imho ;)

cheers, Su

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