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Is it science or opinion?
04 Nov 2016, 19:35
I thought this may have a wider appeal as a separate topic:

ferretgal wrote: No offense meant, but what doctors believe about breakfast or anything else nutrition-related is irrelevant. They disagree just as much as any other group. NO ONE, supposed expert or otherwise, has a corner on the truth. This is why you need to try different strategies to find what works best FOR YOU. This means not blindly following some arbitrary rules because common "wisdom" says so. ...


May I attempt to clarify a potential confusion?

Frustrations with the lack of scientific consistency is very common and reasonable as far is it goes. Individuals in every group disagree on the specifics of many things.

To be at all useful, personal and scientific theories must contain elements that can be verified. This is done by a theory's ability to predict the future. For time and resource-pressed individuals decisions to do this or that must often occur quickly. For immensely more complicated decisions like those in scientific discovery and medical research, it can take months to tens of decades of gathering related evidence from broad-based populations.

The advantage of larger population studies over that of a single individual is the ability to isolate and accumulate a large amount of long-term evidence that indicates a direction for further research and narrows down an approximation of what can be applied usefully to current needs. All this to generate a prediction.

Because the world is filled with potential interactions of causal influences and conflicting factors every living being must establish some way of working through the mess. Because none of us will live long enough to verify everything by ourselves, we learn from the relative safety and efficiency of relying on the accumulated experience of others. Things like school, non-fiction books, and for some, those miserably conflicting research and medical studies.

So belief necessarily means applying a level of trust (but verify). Parents, culture, and our own experiences supply a number of the tools for this.

Did you know that there's no guarantee that the results of a medical or scientific study will apply to you? In fact, there's a 1:20 chance (that mysterious P=.05) that it does not! That's the generally agreed upon threshold of success. 19:20 or 95% is considered good enough for the information to count.

Media coverage implies certainty when they report scientific discoveries. Health magazine articles, web sites and blogs then perpetuate it. Repeat anything often enough and it somehow becomes fact. In reality though, at no point in any science is the final "truth" ever reached. Unfortunately it often comes across that way even in college text books. Every theory is always subject to potential revision and subsequent refinement. That's it's beauty and it's curse.

So, what identifies the believability of a study (and of individual experience) is tied directly to that theory's summarizing assertions that predict the future. If an applied theory consistently predicts a particular outcome, it is considered a useful and believable fact until a better, more encompassing theory comes along.

So this is the best methodology we have to contend with living in a complicated world. At its core it is based on statistics where the likelihood of a particular event depends on the chance of it occurring in relation to everything else that might also have happened. Viewed as a simple division, the larger the top number is compared to the dividing number below it, the greater chance that the top number comes to pass.

In the case of low risk, high payoff opportunity like intermittent fasting (or even eating breakfast) we can often leverage the summaries of a large number of converging professional theories to our advantage without being forced to wait decades and without incurring any cost other than a bit of our time.

Have you ever stopped and considered how we as individuals come to believe anything? Not just superficially by accumulating facts, but really believe something? We do it by unconsciously considering what we recently have learned against the sum total of our life's experiences and come to an all-encompassing, nearly instantaneous impression - a feeling, a gut reaction, an emotion - that a particular conclusion is correct and trustworthy. In that very moment something suspicious suddenly transforms into something that you believed all along. Getting to that point can take a long time.

So here we are again pressed for time and space when we decide to post. The problem: how to relate a lengthy compression of facts and experience - something potentially very useful to others - briefly enough so that its it is clearly understood without also requiring that they also absorb 15 or so books, a long list of related studies and a variety of related web sites? How also to avoid coming across as pedantic and blunt? Odd as it may seem some people enjoy reading and research. If there's a payoff in there for them, its being able to convert that mess into something practical for others.

I've come to believe that we all live in our own fog of truths. If what's in that cloud doesn't harm or kill us, the absolute truth really doesn't matter.

Consider the source, ask specific questions to clarify your understanding of what's being proposed. Do the potential gains offset the possible costs and risks such that you are seriously considering a personal experiment? Has the presenter actually tried it? Their results? What more might you need to know? Are there other, specific references that you should also consider?

Answers that don't cover at least some of these aspects are opinions. That however doesn't mean that they are wrong. They are after all the summarizing emotional response of someone else's life experiences - an entry from their cloud of truth. But then, we could ask how applicable is their history to your concern? (See previous paragraph.)

As always, hope this is useful.
Re: Is it science or opinion?
08 Nov 2016, 20:58
Thanks @ADFnFuel for this helpful post, couldn't agree more. Perhaps one additional supportive point.

"Because the world is filled with potential interactions of causal influences and conflicting factors every living being must establish some way of working through the mess. Because none of us will live long enough to verify everything by ourselves, we learn from the relative safety and efficiency of relying on the accumulated experience of others. "

It's these interactions indeed and the large variation in how our human bodies react to any 'treatment' that make it difficult to apply what works for many to what works for us, being just one of those individuals. This is all even more complicated by the fact that not only our bodies are dynamic and reactive systems, but we are also able to react by all kinds of behavioural choices on what happens to our bodies. If 'science' finds out that most people react to not eating breakfast with taking some snacks between meals, and consequently sees that as an argument agains skipping breakfast, that is sound advice on a population level. However if you know from experience that you as a person are able to refrain from snacking, this advice is not necessarily something to follow in your own situation.
So to apply any solid knowledge is done best by finding out about the conditions and conditionalities on which this knowledge is based and comparing that to the conditions in your own situation. As indicated: that might need a lot of personal experimentation, an open mind about finding things out in your own situation and perhaps also some honest knowledge about which choices you are inclined to make in different circumstances. 'Science' seldomly produces simple answers to our questions. That's not a problem of science, but just and adequate reflection of how complex and dynamic the human situation is. If you are open to take that complexity into account, there is indeed still a lot to be found that can help you in your own situation. :smile:
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