Geek at the cool table, cool at the geek table. (aspiring2live) wrote,
Geek at the cool table, cool at the geek table.

Who paid for that study? Source affects outcome

There's an interesting article on Yahoo! News about how the funding source of studies can affect the (ahem) "objectivity" of the study results. This surprises me not at all.

In fact, one reason you don't see me commenting much about polls, statistics, war, politics, etc., is exactly for this reason. I have a copy of a comedy song where the singer says, "They say that 64 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot" or something very close to that. I think that parodies the dark truth that most quotes of statistics/polls/surveys/studies that you hear supporting one side or the other of a given topic are manipulated to reflect that side's interests. Call me cynical, I call it realistic.

In part, this is why I'm so critical of our "public education," or, education of any people by any government. It introduces the idea at an early age that we don't really need to check things out for ourself, we just need to accept which ever "version" of the facts that sounds nicest to us. We are spoon fed twisted, chopped up, and smoothed out statistics carefully crafted to be believable, quotable, and easily remembered. The truth (which should be gleaned by individuals from the raw data available on topics of interest in order to form their own opinions) is much less important than the sound bite. Thus, our society has dumbed itself down, accepting the entertaining sitcom version of information over the less-than-exciting, droning, documentary version. Meh, a fair analogy at best, but you get the point.

So, here's what I suggest. Think for yourself. More accurately, let's all think for ourselves. Before you launch on a rant about your favorite political target/topic, or marvel at why no one is doing anything about global warming because you can't remember the last time you felt a really cold winter (not that I think any of you would), and so it must be true. Remember that almost every grain of information you receive on any given hot topic is filtered numerous times through spin doctors and campaign specialists, "scientists" bent on their own political agendas, "experts" and "specialists" who all have their own reasons for presenting the information in a particular way. It may not be the "right" way, or the most truthful way, or the way you should understand it. Before you believe it, read more about it. Check out the sources and the studies behind the data. Check out the organizations who commissioned the studies, and the organizations who performed the studies, and the organizations who are lining up on either side of the studies.

There's a lot more to all of this than meets the eye, is all I'm saying. Skepticism is a healthy approach when it comes to determining whether you are being informed of the facts by experts with no particular bias, or whether you are being sold snake oil by a charlatan.

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