Building a BS filter – “Expert” opinions

Hey Folks!

I’ve had one hell of a hiatus from writing, but have been meaning to get back at it for the last few weeks.  I’ve really been enjoying reading more research lately and creating the little sound bites of info from them (see them on my twitter feed here).  But I have missed the larger pieces of synthesis that come from reading all those bits of info and putting them into a longer, coherent and more contextual “article”.  Before I get into any particular topic I want to address something that I’ve had an issue with for as long as I can remember.  I think we all have issue with this in general (as we all tend to have some sort of BS filter), but either way, here goes.

Being extremely educated in one area and/or being considered an “expert” in that area does NOT make you an expert at everything.

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I can appreciate that people seeking you out, sharing your info, telling you you’re great and so on would blow your head up, but that doesn’t make it “ok” for you to start spreading misinformation.  I get that you understand research, and you might have knowledge on a related subject, but you’re only making yourself look ridiculous when you don’t acknowledge information that is above your pay-grade.

For example, at this point, when someone asks me about “Dry needling”, I let them know my level of understanding for it, then tell them that they’re best to speak with someone who does it regularly to get a more full understanding.  I may have a great knowledge of anatomy, physiology, neurology and even a decent steeping in traditional acupuncture, but I don’t have experience performing dry-needling, so I refer to people who do.

I’m not interested in debating people either, as I’ve made that mistake far too often.  If you are not an intelligent enough human being to recognize that most  things are not absolute, then you are wasting your time and more importantly you’re wasting my time by speaking on whichever subject you are completely closed to having an informed opinion on.

Then there is the questionable quality of journal articles (that is not limited to shoddy journals, even the NEJM or JAMA have had issues with quality) (link here).  Or good articles, that are written on bad, or even made up data that was never bothered to have been removed from the database it was created in (link here).  There is also the funny coincidence that research funded by either a pharmaceutical company or association that would benefit from a positive outcome, is more likely to find that positive outcome – but when the same study is conducted by independent researchers, the outcomes aren’t quite so rosy (link here).  And it isn’t stuff that “just happens in the states” (link here).

Now then…

I’m not saying we shouldn’t respect and value the opinions of people who have spent their lives devoted to absorbing, deciphering, and relaying information to those interested in hearing about it (I do it every day in trying to educate my patients!), but when that knowledge is based on research that could possibly be from untrustworthy sources, and those sources are more or less impossible to know, we need a new way to know when to trust that info and when not to.  Here are some ways to figure it out:

  • If it backs up a status quo that hasn’t been helping you, it’s questionable (i.e. If your calories in is greater than your calories out, you gain weight!)
  • If it’s got any “extreme” words – i.e. “always”, “never”, “certain”, or whatever else that suggests there is only one answer, it’s likely wrong
  • If you get sucked in, and ask a question that might be contrary to the “knowledge” being doled out, and you’re attacked or personally insulted, the person is upset because they’ve been caught.
  • If it’s a topic that is “in vogue”, and commenting on it would make that person more popular or highlight them in the media, and they haven’t spoken about it before, they likely don’t know much about it (i.e. “Neurosurgeon speaks out about Chiropractic care!”, is about the same as, “Fast food restaurant manager speaks out about Farming!”… what does a restaurant manager have in common with farming other than, maybe food?)
  • Anything that sets off your BS detector in general – i.e. “gluten sensitivity doesn’t exist!”, “Exercise is the answer to all your diet problems!”, “Stop working hard!  Do this one trick and make millions!” – you get the picture.  These are more obvious and more or less relate to the “extreme” words rule.

Good.  Hopefully that helps you guys navigate the %#@storm that is the state of “expert” opinions that seems so pervasive on the internet these days.

Back to improving peoples health through Chiropractic care, Nutritional consulting and Movement and exercise prescription (my areas of expertise, of which I’m constantly trying to improve upon).

Stay Healthy, Friends!

Dr. Adam Ball