Sunday, December 4, 2011

Information Overload

       A lot of people are becoming overwhelmed and jaded by all the conflicting information that is now available to the masses today. For every new truth discovered there seems to be another truth to contradict it. The sound medical advice from several years ago ends up on a smug list of "health myths" and it seems experts are so happy to burst peoples' bubbles. This affects things like medicine, alternative medicine, politics, religion, philosophy and any other helpful forms of information.
       Some of this is due to the bias that no one, not even professionals are immune to. Some of it has to do with people not using their intuition and taking everything they read at face value. Some of this also may be related to "us vs. them" black/white-either/or thinking. People end up in polarized camps in more areas than in religion and politics. With the climate change debate it seems that two of the safest, most benign topics of conversation- weather and gardening are no longer immune to a heated argument. Sometimes people just need to learn how to put information into proper perspective and it won't seem as confusing. Oversimplifying reality can paradoxically lead to more confusion in the long run.
       In complimentary/alternative medicine there is a lot of promise and it's a field that can help promote more self-sufficiency. On the other hand there is a lot of quackery, pseudo-science, hype, and bias on both sides. Many times when a new herbal remedy is released both the sellers and even the media over-hype and overstate the claims to the point of becoming their own "straw men". People them rush to the stores and empty their wallets on what they think is a cure all only to be disappointed and jaded later on. People then start overdoing the herb, having bad reactions, suing the company... and the herb is then regarded as total bunk or a dangerous substance to be banned by the "Nanny State". Usually but not always the truth is in the middle, but exaggeration swings the pendulum too far the other way. People then go from being gullible to think all complimentary/alternative medicine is bunk and anyone who is open to it is naive and looking for an easy way out- and sceptics can exude so-much glee in bursting our bubbles...
       I think it's best to just accept that bias is everywhere and try to look at all sides of the story, gather the facts and then use intuition keeping alert for our own biases. I like to read both the hippy/new age side of things, the conventional side, and even the sceptics on shows like "Penn and Teller BS". I try to do the same with religion and politics- there is usually 3 or more sides to each story- his side, her side, and the right side (or sides). As for the word "straw man" if your not familiar look it up under "propaganda techniques".

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