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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why I Don't Believe A Damn Thing I Hear

Yes, I'm really that skeptical. I distrust everything by default.

Why did I get this way? Well, let's look at a few examples.

Take health recommendations. Don't eat butter, because it has too much saturated fat, which is bad and clogs up your arteries; use margarine instead. Oh, wait, don't use margarine - it has trans-fats, which are weird and unnatural - use olive oil instead. Oh, hold on, one more - don't use olive oil for cooking (just dipping) because the polyunsaturated fats morph into something inflammatory when you heat them - use something with nice stable saturated fat, like... butter. Oh, yeah, and saturated fat isn't actually bad for you; in some cases it's good for you and cleans out your arteries.

It's worse than politics. Bash this, defend that, change your mind a day later. But, I'll be the first to bash the people who bash "flip-flopping" or "waffling." Hmm, changing your mind in the face of new information - we used to call that "learning," and it was a good thing.

Aren't the medical people just "learning," then? Sure. Fine. That's all well and good. What bothers me is that they're always so sure of themselves, like a ten year old saying "I won't spill that."

The other problem is that too many people stand to make money off the problem. Are statins wonderful life-saving inventions that lots of people should take? Or, as I've heard a good case made, were they recommended by a panel of doctors who were paid off by the drug companies to ignore the research against them showing they don't actually reduce heart attacks or mortality, and in a lot of cases do cause debilitating memory loss?

I have no freakin clue who to trust here. Everybody's got their own agenda, and most of them (besides obvious profit motives) are completely obscure and may include things like, "Don't get flu shots because apes in the wild never got flu shots!" I wonder sometimes if the nutcases aren't much different in their motives from the masses; they just actually tell you what their motives are.

Thus, I'm down to relying on my own observations. I'm no expert; I took one biology class in 9th grade, a massage anatomy class a few years ago, and I read a bunch of random articles and books. I'm also easily influenced by people making statements they claim are true, because deep down, the idealist part of me can't see why anybody would think it's okay to make a false statement.

In short, I have no good answers. I don't have a lot of info about, say, the potential automaker bailout, besides a few articles I've read, but that doesn't stop me from having an opinion - do I have any chance of making a better guess at the correct thing to do than somebody in DC? Maybe not, but I sure as heck don't trust the reasons the politicians give for things, or that they know much about what will really happen, or that they have the right goals.

Hmm, not very helpful, am I? I'm halfway through The Omnivore's Dilemma, which is a really excellent book, and it seems to present an honest view of where food comes from (hint: it's only gotten marginally better since The Jungle - just now we have atrazine instead of rat droppings). Apparently many people reported getting through the first 100 pages and stopping because they thought they wouldn't be able to eat anything by the time they finished. In response, the author wrote In Defense of Food, which has the subtitle, "Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants." I haven't read the book yet, but it seems like a good mentality.

Thus, my policy and recommendation: make an effort to find what's good, and try not to worry too much about it, or what's beyond your control, even if that's lack of knowledge. It's the worrying that gets you.

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