Can we trust Science?
I’ve been getting pulled into many discussions regarding health, exercise, and nutrition lately and the trend is clear: Everything needs to be SCIENCE BASED.
This is a good thing, or at the very least, the idea is good.
It’s good to want to support your thoughts and findings with some kind of testing to see if what you’ve seen or done is replicable or that it was just a combination of circumstances.
There are, however, some issues to the current use and limitations of science that I have problems with and I think they’re worth a share so that you are aware of it the next time you read the sentence “Scientific research shows”
1# Cherry Picking
Take an interesting topic on nutrition and it won’t take you long to find 100+ different scientific studies on it. It’s very common for people to pick a scientific study that fits their argument and use that as “proof”. If you don’t have the knowledge, or time, for that matter, to take a good look at what that article actually says, it’s an understandable result to accept that as truth.
You’ll also want to ask yourself the question: who is benefitting from this bit of research? It has happened more than once that scientific studies have been over/underplayed to favor the financer of the study.
#2 Science has been wrong more times than it’s been right
Take this example of cholesterol and the drastic dangers of it on your cardiovascular system. It’s a funny explaining video on how Science was wrong on it many times. It’s not that scientific studies are badly done necessarily, there are many other factors in play.
We could have been asking the wrong questions, doing the wrong tests, or didn’t quite have the right instruments to do proper testing -and who says we do now? –
#3 Human Errors
Science may sound bulletproof, but it’s still executed by humans. And we make mistakes. When we have problems that can’t be explained easily we tend to blame stress for pretty much everything but stress is never factored in when it comes to scientific research. Not for the scientists, and not for the participants. But we do make mistakes. Constantly. We make them when remembering facts, with what we are supposed to write down, and sometimes, well, it helps to get paid $50.000 to say something that goes against everything you know is true
#4 Research is not Research
Anecdotal evidence, expert opinions, cross sectional studies, they’re often presented as evidence but the actual value of them in terms of the hierarchy of scientific studies is not very high. There’s a pretty serious change that there are another couple of studies of the same level of reliability that prove the conclusions of yours, wrong. And otherwise, there will probably be one very soon.
#5 Research can be slow to catch on
Sometimes we practice certain principles that are based on scientific research for years, only to find out that it was the wrong approach all along. I touched on that with my 2nd point but here’s another great example on how we’ve overplayed the importance of calories in weight loss. It’s still the most practiced approach (and it does have value) but the point is that only now we are finding that it’s most likely hormones that play a crucial part in weight loss, and not just energy balance. This video is a long one but has very valuable information that might change the way you think about weight loss.
As always, I’d love your thoughts about these things. Because I need any insights I can get 🙂