Thursday, August 28, 2014

Looking Behind the Current

Recently several of my long running discussions with internet friends on the web have heated up. These conversations often include lurkers adding pithy comments and a good deal of arguments not supported by anything resembling facts. When citations are given, they often come from specious studies done by pseudo-research institutes often funded by conservative or liberal private funds. Then there are the wildly non-scientific "science" statistics tossed out like just because someone wrote them down that makes them valid.

On that note I would like to point you to an article on: How to read and understand a scientific paper - a guide for the non-scientist.  I don't expect you to actually attempt the process suggested in this paper, though it contains wise, clear and unbiased advice. But simply reading this "How to" article should provide some much needed cautions about using internet data to support your political or social arguments. Ignore the first paragraph of the piece that dips into the 'vaccine controversy,' the remainder of the article is free of social or ideological agendas.

Hmm, let me rephrase that last statement. The article is prejudice in that it rests the entire argument on the foundations of science. If you are one of those who doubts the scientific method and the evidence based findings of science, this article will not dissuade you. And furthermore, what the hell are you doing reading my blog, you vacant-minded neanderthal. My apologies to our extinct cousins.

Seriously, take just a few minutes to consider that access to basic scientific research is available to all of us thanks to the internet. You don't have to rely on anyone else to interpret the data or summarize the findings, you have complete and open access to these studies right at your fingertips. It might take awhile to glean the information through some of the obtuse language, but remember as the article points out; often scientific language uses unfamiliar or dense terminology to obtain the necessary specificity that scientific research requires.

Go to the primary source when you can, don't rely on those with political or social motives who are going to twist and spin the truth to support their position.

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