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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Raw milk and skepticism

Hello kiddos.  How has everyone been?  That's good to hear.  On the last entry I started talking about people in favor of consuming raw milk, and I will admit that I did not get too in depth on the topic.  Part of the reason for that is that when you put "raw milk benefits" in the Google machine, you get  1,880,000 entries.  Most of the come from websites with names like raw-milk.com, rawmilktruth, and rawmilkfacts.  Most of them spout a lot of the same concepts that I mentioned last time.  Or at least a lot of the ones I looked at.  I don't know anyone that has enough time to thouroughly go through that many sites.  It took me 10 seconds to find the down side of drinking raw milk, and granted it was mostly from the F.D.A. website, but you would figure that an organization that actually tests foods for safety might know what they are talking about.  The up side is when I put in "raw milk dangers" into Google, I got 2,720,000 hits.  And they come from sites with names like FDA.gov, and wikipedia.  It is one of the few times I've looked up basically what is a conspiracy theory and gotten more real research hits than pseudoscience hits.

And this brings me to my next point.  If you are curious about something you've seen or heard, or something just doesn't add up, I've got 2 words for you.... Snopes and Wikipedia.  Snopes is pretty good at debunking urban legends, myths and misconceptions, kinda like MythBusters, without the explosions and Adam Savage.  Wikipedia catches a lot of flak for being open-sourced and letting people edit content, but overall, their controls are pretty tight, and generally the information is reliable.  So if you need to research something pretty quick and don't want to wade through a ton of information, those 2 sites are my advise.  The other piece of advise I have is "Think for yourself people." Part of being skeptical is not just accepting what a bunch of talking heads are telling you, but to do your own research and come to an informed decision. Part of the reason that so many misconceptions still exist is that people don't want to find the info themselves.  They would rather trust "the #1 news team in (put your state here)"  than do some digging.  When it comes to science articles, you have to remember that most news organizations have either cut or eliminated their science writers.  The people that are smiling at you through the t.v. and telling you that eggs are good for you, wine will hurt you, and red meat will take years off your life, are just reading from a copy put in front of them.  Part of the reason for this is also ratings and bad releases of scientific research.  A lot of times, a lab or foundation will put out preliminary results from something that they are studying, such as the neutrinos moving faster than light, and they news outlets will run with it and end up blowing it completely out of proportion.  In the case of the neutrino research, they put the research out to have other groups help them figure out what they did wrong, or if they actually had found something that violates the theory of relativity.  When the problem was found, news groups made it sound like the scientists were incompetent saying that they hadn't checked to make sure everything was connected properly.  There are multiple articles all over the web, and frankly physics like this are hard enough to read, let alone have a lay-person like me try and explain them in a coherent manner.  What no one really focused on was the fact that they re-tested it several times and asked other to try an duplicate the experiment.  when no one could, they realized there was a mistake.  That is the great thing about the scientific method-when new information comes to light, a theory can be changed.

I could keep going, but I need to keep it relatively short, because I'm taking my son to the OKC Zoo tomorrow and  need to get things around.  I know I tend to bounce from topic to topic in these posts, but for those that are reading these, just stick with me.  I'll eventually either make a relevant point or actually become entertaining, kinda like a million monkeys with a million typewriters (does anyone still use those?) in a million years might write an Adam Sandler script.  Personally I think it would only take them about a week.  Until then, be polite, be friendly, but most of all, be yourself!

The Skeptical Okie

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