So science has made me kind of a jerk. Sometimes it is more convenient to not think critically. I find that more and more, I am feeling irritated and increasingly intolerable toward people when they say things that I "should" be doing, for my health, for my kid's development, etc., without giving me any real reason why.
I recently attended a promotional function for my friend's Pilates class. She started it by having everyone drink a warm cup of water and urging us to drink a very specific amount each day before meals. She listed myriad ailments it would help with - arthritis, weight gain, flexibility, nutrient absorption, kidney problems... with the accompanying testimonies of her own experiences and those of her family. Okay. Maybe it's true. Maybe it does help... do something. I don't know. I haven't looked it up. But the way to convince me is not by throwing out a bunch of complicated, serious health problems and personal anecdotes and claiming you have the next cure-all. I felt so cynical, so jaded, regardless of how reasonable my attitude may seem to any fellow scientists. The issue, really, is how unable I am to hide my contempt. (This is a general flaw of mine.) I certainly can't expect every well-intentioned, advice-toting person out there to carry a reference list around, can I? Or be able to cite some specific studies off the top of their head?
I feel like although thinking critically is good, we cannot expect the research to be handed to us. We have to accept that most people probably do not investigate most things to our standards (although maybe my friend is totally right. I don't know.), and that maybe they really shouldn't be expected to? i think this is a similar plight to that of the science journalist. Scientists get angry because the writers get this or that detail wrong, but can they be expected not to? The writer's job is to bring the science to the public in a digestible, timely, accurate manner; their job doesn't allow them to dedicate the time to learn as much as every scientist would want them to before reporting on their life's work. My Pilates friend is doing what she thinks is best and her job to the best of her ability and knowledge. And that's really as much as we can ask, right?