Scientific Distrust: To trust, or not to trust: that is the question.

A friend of mine recently had some TV problems. Issues dealing with good quality sound on some channels and bad sound on other channels. Was it the cords? The cable box? Are the cords plugged into the right place? Something wrong with the speakers? Call a friend for advice? Search online for answers from people that might have had this problem before? Ask a tech expert?

Here is one made up review on the issue “have you tried licking the cord, and then plugging it in?”

Um, no thanks, I’m good. Why? Because you want the information that you are going to try to be vetted well.

Now if 10 independent (and also made up) people said, try licking the cord, then plugging it in…well maybe you might think about it. Maybe. But they would need a YouTube how to video to go along with it!!! Or maybe if one person said it, and the comment was held in high regard by a well-respected tech website, then maybe the method will carry more weight.

So you try all these things and finally something works. You might not even be sure which of the 10 things you changed or tried worked. You might go back to see, but you are just happy that it works.

People do this all the time. Identify the problem and make it better. Well that sounds familiar doesn’t it? Congratulations, you are a scientist, or at the very least you used the scientific method to figure something out. Oh let it be your new phone or computer that is acting up, you will go to the ends of the earth to find out how to fix it. You will become almost obsessed. You have become obsessed.

Here’s the point.

Information is thrown at you constantly, all day every day. Make sure you vet your source. If the article says “Scientist say…” and doesn’t say which scientist, beware. If an article doesn’t cite a source, Beware. If the article only cites themselves as proof, BEWARE!!!

There is a lot of misinformation out there. And much of what “scientist say” gets distorted to make the story better while also getting lost in translation. But please, I beg you, at least make sure you find out the actual person who made the quote or the finding. If the article doesn’t mention who said it, maybe that source isn’t as trustworthy as you thought.

If you are going to go though all that research for a phone, all that experimentation to troubleshoot a phone, using collective opinions of experts from vetted websites for a phone, then why not do that with matters of science research. I’m not asking you to look up the primary source (which can be found here most of the time btw), but I am asking you to know who said it, at least before you quote it as fact. How can you trust someone and you don’t even know who they are?