I told Tom I thought I felt another blog coming on, and he was happy to have the chance to spend the rest of the week putting the finishing touches on the final version of the Fat Head Kids DVD. So I get to stay in The Big Chair this week, too!
Think of it like this — your loss is his gain!
As always, I appreciated the comments people took time to write on my last couple of posts. Also, as always, I especially tend to appreciate the ones from people who don’t necessarily share my perspective. Everyone seems thoughtful and articulate. The international group we get showing up here still amazes me – this time while in The Big Chair, I got comments from Germany, Singapore, and New Zealand! The comment from our Kiwi friend, “S,” accidentally hit one of my triggers (hey, I’m a sensitive guy, ok?):
“…I’m not saying I support Obamacare… But perhaps the US should start thinking about *evidence based* health-care policies. There’s plenty of evidence out there if one is willing to look…”
Yeah, Obamacare doesn’t rattle me much, but I tend to have a visceral reaction whenever I hear the phrase “evidence-based.”
First of all, it gets some contempt just because it’s soooo overused. It’s one of those phrases that everyone seems to feel sounded cool when they first heard it, then started sneaking in anywhere they can.
Like right after Newt Gingrich lead the Republicans to take control of the House. You couldn’t have a conversation with a lobbyist without them saying “I would submit that….(blah, blah, blah).”
Another was as IT was sweeping the economy in the late 90’s as everyone decided they needed to computerize and network all of their systems at once, and the Project Management field got flooded with sharp, young, eager, confident consultants who probably still had to have their parents drop them off at work. If you were in a meeting and asked a question the consultant deemed not relevant to the whole group (meaning they had no idea what the answer was), they’d say “let’s take that off-line.” I heard a corporate type use it three times in a one hour presentation. To cob one of Tom’s lines — Head. Bang. On. Desk.
But those kinds of affectations are just irritating. Then there are the kind of things you hear all the time that are designed to mislead, usually repeated incessantly by people who have no idea what they’re saying.
One example Fat Head types have probably heard often (usually by some 10% body fat “expert” in Spandex) is “you need carbs because they’re your body’s main source of fuel!”
I always considered this a trifecta — it’s a misstatement of an intentionally misleading fact that’s also false. Tom and others have covered this one over the years, but it still comes up. The misstatement is that the correct term is “primary,” which denotes order (primary, secondary, tertiary, etc) – not “main,” as in quality. The correct statement is designed to mislead the uninformed to interpret it as the misstated version. And it’s false – your body will burn alcohol preferentially over carbs, because too much blood alcohol will kill you faster than too much blood sugar.
“Evidence-based” is all the way in this category, and then some.
It sounds appealing. It sounds like science, only with maybe a bit more rigor built in, doesn’t it? Like hey, this isn’t just theory – we’ve also got evidence! It also is cursed with an origin in good intentions. “Evidence-based medicine” is the root, which proposed that physicians incorporate clinical results in their decisions instead of just going by their particular beliefs and experience.
We all know how the “clinical studies” thing worked out, now that Big Pharma owns the medical schools, clinical study industry, and most of the professional journals, right? “Hey, statins reduce heart attacks by a third! Don’t take our word for it – here’s a clinical study — it’s ‘evidence-based!’ “
That kind of success was duly noted by the rest of the groups that regularly line up at the trough. You can’t read a letter to the editor these days without whoever is begging for more of other people’s money citing “evidence-based” research. There’s evidence-based school funding, evidence-based juvenile justice reform, evidence-based climate science, evidence-based management, etc., etc.
Makes one wonder, for example, what they’ve been going by in Illinois for the last decade or so, where we keep pouring $35-40 billion dollars a year into the public schools. “Spitballing it-based” funding, perhaps?
There’s more, of course. I kind of think the icing on the cake is — wait for it…
“Evidence-Based Dietetics Practice” (!)
…brought to you by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Yeah, the same turds who’ve been pushing the Soda-, Grain-, Candy-, and Pharma-sponsored “arterycloggingsaturatedfat, hearthealthywholegrains, calories-in/calories-out” program for decades. That’s “evidence-based” now, too.
What all these advocates seem to have in common is that people are catching on to them. As I replied when another commenter (Brandon), while finding the plethora of “evidence-based education” initiatives laughable, thought perhaps it was a hopeful improvement:
“Evidence-based” is strictly a rhetorical (or perhaps more accurately — “marketing”) device. It’s used by people who’ve already been wrong so many times that even they realize people are onto them. It’s a term invented to give the impression there is something like science involved … when it’s the exact opposite of science.
Collecting evidence (even done objectively, with no intention of isolating results that support a preferred outcome) and then developing recommendations based on interpretations of that data is not science. Its old (discredited) name was Observational Study.
Science is when you take that collected data, form a question, design a disprovable hypothesis, test the bejeesus out of it, then if you can’t disprove it, send it out to see if other people can replicate the results. No one using the term “evidence-based” has any interest in that kind of activity, although they desperately want whoever they’re lobbying to think of it as scientific.
Teachers’ unions use “evidence-based.” Bureaucrats use “evidence-based.” Lobbyists use “evidence-based.” Politicians use “evidence-based.”
Galileo didn’t use “evidence-based.” Newton didn’t use “evidence-based.” Einstein didn’t use “evidence-based.” They used “science.”
My suggestion is to adopt a mental habit of whenever you hear or see the phrase “evidence-based,” you automatically substitute “circumstantial evidence-based,” “cherry-picked evidence-based,” or “evidence- instead of science-based” before processing the rest of whatever statement a person has issued.
I believe you’ll find that the reconfigured statement will be much more understandable, both in integrity and intent.
Tell all your friends.
The Older Brother
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