Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Anecdotal Evidence Is Not The Same As Proof

Today's inability to reason is brought to us by the "Moms" section of the Omaha World Herald.

The author is discussing chiropractic care for her infant, and somewhat predictably, a comment is made in the thread accusing quackery. Again, not terribly surprising, given the subject.

Scroll yourself down a bit and we find this response:

Posted by: Amy G on 03/10/10 @ 11:42 am:

@Quack, you have multiple messages here showing proof as to the benefits of going to a chiropractor. I go regularly as well and it has helped with head, neck and back issues and has helped me sleep better and have fewer headaches. My brother's chiropractor is the one that actually found irregular bone structure in his neck for which the chiropractor recommended he see a surgeon. He could've been paralyzed had he not found this out. Don't knock it until you've tried it!

I don't know that multiple responses in favour of chiropractic treatment on a message board at the Omaha World Herald really show "proof" of anything beyond the failure of modern education to teach critical thinking.

I like the logic of "Don't knock it until you try it." I mean hey, people think they get relief from trepenation, so if they all agree, then that's probably proof that drilling holes in your head is effective for something (I never really was sure why people do this to themselves). At any rate, you shouldn't knock it until you've tried it so eh, OK. I got me a hand drill and half a bottle of Scotch-what am I supposed to do next?

For the record, I don't really care one way or the other whether people go to chiropractors, or drill holes in their heads for that matter. I do however, care that the mob mentality of, "well,we all agree so it must be a fact", has impaired the ability to
understand the difference between proof, and anecdotal evidence.

So really, do I drink the Scotch, or apply it topically? Anyone?


Goody said...

Maybe this is a generational thing? These kids have been taught that decision making has to be by consensus, so they extend it to "we all agree, so it must be a fact."

Raymond said...

I just flipped thru an old college text on Critical Thinking and found this quote: "Trying to prove a proposition by citing what everyone believes amounts to confessing that no one has proof."

If I were in charge, I'd require two classes of EVERY student in America: 1) a class on critical thinking, revealing the many methods of pseudoreasoning (that politicians seem to use regularly); and,
2) a class devoted entirely to reading and discussing Carl Sagan's book, "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle In The Dark." He addresses pseudo-science and personal and larger society pitfalls of falling for it.

Goody said...

They don't teach science anymore. They DO teach that it is "just another theory."