Is it obvious that medical conclusions ought to be based on evidence and science? What are the alternatives? For a smile along with the serious point, I recommend this satirical list by two doctors: “Seven alternatives to evidence based medicine”. Vehemence-based medicine? Eminence-based medicine? The list predates the recent book on celebrity-based medicine with the splendid title Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? Looking at what people believe in medicine and why can be very funny — and very scary.
In his book debunking the specific health advice offered to her fans by influential actress Gwyneth Paltrow, Professor Timothy Caulfield is also dealing with a more general concern, and the implications of what people accept. Continue reading
Did you know that green coffee bean extract can help you lose weight? No? Me neither! Today, I’d like to propose a class discussion on thinking critically about media knowledge claims for products that yield fabulous (literally) medical benefits. The discussion is given a caffeine lift by a bite-sized example from a year ago – a story of fabulous claims and the corrective process of science. Continue reading
Posted in IB Theory of Knowledge
Tagged cause, critical thinking, evidence, knowledge claims, knowledge questions, methodology, natural sciences, reason, shared knowledge, truth, ways of knowing
(by Theo Dombrowski) When we depend on language to mediate scientific knowledge, the field is ripe for misunderstanding and abuse. And when life and death are involved, as they often are in medical science, getting it right is important. Hence the attempts of prominent figures who straddle both fields — medical science and communication (e.g. David Gorski, Stephen Novella, John Byrne) — to change terminology when current terminology has created problems. In fact, these medical writers/doctors have created a whole society and web site on the issue: Science Based Medicine: exploring issues and controversies in science and medicine.
The need for one particular new term, though, may seem surprising. “Evidence Based Medicine” is a term that should hardly need changing. Right? After all, evidence is exactly that–evidence. And evidence has always (in “modern medicine”) been and should always be the basis of medical science. Right?
Well, apparently, not. Continue reading
Today, a PS to this past week’s posts on classifying human beings. What do our categories highlight, and what do they exclude? My past two posts have used current examples from the media to raise knowledge questions about “race” and the contentious balance between biological heritage and culture or ethnicity (a balance that carries varies labeling in various contexts). Today I’d like to comment, just briefly, on another classification of human beings, one that carries enormous significance for how we live in the world Continue reading
Posted in IB Theory of Knowledge
Tagged cause, classification, concepts/language, definitions, evidence, human sciences, imagination, implications, knowledge questions, language, literature, reason
(by Eileen Dombrowski. re-post from December 16, 2013 OSC blog. It’s so appropriate for this time of year!) Is there really anything newsworthy about the value of doing good to others? So much has been said over so many centuries that surely current psychological research cannot add tremendously to our understanding! And surely doing good falls within the scope of ethics — and not within the scope of the human sciences! Yet, quite the contrary: recent studies in the human sciences do contribute knowledge — and knowledge that is particularly welcome at a time of year when in many parts of the world religious and secular traditions celebrate caring for others and giving generously.
(by Theo Dombrowski) When we hear the much quoted claim, “There’s lies, damned lies, and statistics,” many of us smile ruefully, suspecting that we have been duped by statistics at some points in our lives. How should we react, therefore, when we read a detailed report, accompanied by graphs and numbers, that, in the U.S., non-whites are more concerned about global warming than whites? After all, though we’ve known for a long time that statistics can be manipulated, we also know that statistics are much more effective and precise than words for communicating relationships such as proportions or correlations. Can we trust this report correlating race and attitudes to global warming? With the increase in “data journalism” the need for critical thinking is probably more acute now than ever before. Continue reading
“What do these statements about Africa have in common? A white farmer is killed every five days in South Africa. Earlier this year Nigerian Islamists Boko Haram burnt 375 Christians alive. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the rape capital of the world. Johannesburg is the world’s biggest man-made forest. Answer: despite being widely accepted, none of them are true.” (“Get your Africa facts right”)
The image of the shroud pictured above is a poster from 1898. By then the images on the shroud were faint.
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OSC TOK blog) This topic of the Shroud of Turin just keeps getting better and better for TOK. In my last post, I outlined TOK lessons based on it. But now – even better materials for launching a class! A podcast interview with historian Charles Freeman (25 minutes), linked from the website of History Today, readily sets up a leaner lesson on the methods of research of an historian. The interviewer applauds Freeman’s research as “historical detective work” on an “unsolved mystery” and invites him to explain his methods of investigation. Continue reading
Posted in IB Theory of Knowledge
Tagged analysis, cause, critical thinking, evidence, history, knowledge questions, literature, methodology, reason, shared knowledge, symbolic representation
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OSC TOK blog) Intense emotions and extensive discussion have swirled around the 4-metre-long cloth known as the Shroud of Turin. Is it really the burial cloth that was wound around the body of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion (as many Christians believe), miraculously preserving His image? Or is it a hoax? Earlier this month (Oct 9-12), a conference in St. Louis, Missouri brought together international presenters and participants on the topic “Shroud of Turin: The Controversial Intersection of Faith and Science”. However, it is an article by historian Charles Freeman that may at last give some definitive answers. In an article published this week in History Today, he argues that the cloth is neither a miraculous burial shroud nor a deliberate hoax, but a 14th century cloth used in church Easter rituals — with significance attributed later. His research is riveting for those of us interested in how knowledge is created. Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OSC TOK blog October 2014) Have your students heard of Jack the Ripper? If not, you’ll probably want to skip this activity. Even though it would still be an exercise in evaluating sources and evidence, a lot of the shiver would be lost – and hence the fun in class. However, if they have heard of the brutal serial killer who stalked East London, England, in the 1880s, this could be an engaging activity for early in the TOK course — to launch critical approaches quite broadly and plant vocabulary ready for more subtle application later on. Continue reading