do your own research

Posted: August 1, 2021 in Humorous Bits, Observations and Commentary
Tags: , , , , , ,

“Would you like anchovies on your pizza?”

Excuse me? Anchovies on my pizza? Are you pranking me? That’s hilarious! Where is the hidden camera? While you’re at it you should ask if I’d like a nice dusting of baby powder and a fresh dollop of mud on each slice.

“Have you ever tried it?”

Wait. You’re serious? Why would I eat that? Imagine the sound of rodents racing through the walls as you sit down in a restaurant. You don’t see the wall crawlers, but does that matter? Would you still want to order food? Not if you’re with me. If you multiply that sickening feeling by 1,000 you may understand the scope of horror I feel when it comes to anchovies on pizza.

“You should try it. How can you be certain if you’ve never tried it? Do your own research, man.”

For that I had no comeback. They were right. Until I researched the disgusting concept of sea creatures on pizza how could I make such a definitive statement? My refusal was nothing more than a supposition, a preconceived notion sitting on a foundation of fishbones. So yeah, I tried it. And…well, the good news is I never have to eat that again. But at least I can point to real data born out of personal research, modest as it was.

“Do your own research!” We hear it constantly, particularly regarding vaccinations. Well, offhandedly dismissing pizza toppings is one thing. Researching the labyrinth of vaccine science is quite another. Yet “do your own research” has become a catchphrase of the times. The idea certainly sounds good. We want to make rational, informed decisions. I know I need more than my natural inclinations to guide me. If I left everything to my proclivities I would spend days binge-watching schlocky television wearing ratty sweatpants and t-shirts from the 70’s with a bowl of coffee ice cream on my lap and a cat at my feet. Actually, the cat would be in my grill trying to force his greedy face into my ice cream. He would ignore the schlocky television.

While self-education is laudable, it is also fraught with more potholes than Boylston Street in March. It is seductive to imagine you can get all the salient facts needed to form an enlightened perspective after a couple of hours of digging into the web’s rabbit hole. Empowerment comes with knowledge and watching a few videos created by slick talkers whose opinions happen to corroborate our own can be very empowering. But seduction is gauzy and never what it seems.

What motivates the person with the well-modulated voice and spectacular hair? Ideally, they want to contribute to the greater good. Look past their perfect teeth and bright eyes and closely assess the source of their information and, as importantly, why they are passing it along. This critical point is central to the “do your own research” mantra and one most of us conveniently ignore. It is much easier to take things on face value. I know I was shocked when they tossed Bernie Madoff into federal prison. He appeared so grandfatherly and legitimate.

Anyone can easily cite an official sounding study which implies competence. Some person once said they watched a video of Dr. Matthias Jones when doing their “personal” research on the transmissibility of airborne germs. Dr. Jones was a Fellow at the Institute of Pathology and Infectious Viruses. He hypothesized that 91.7% of people who sneeze without covering their mouth and nose only release 0.2% of the contagions from these mucky areas into the air. And a whopping 98.9% of those contagions immediately die once expelled from the body. He published his findings in the October 2013 issue of the American Journal of Airborne Diseases. How cow, that *is* something. Thanks to someone telling me something about a subject and person I know nothing about, I now feel qualified to propagate this stuff I didn’t know five minutes ago. Research box: Checked!

Not so fast, Newton. A few questions, aside from the dubious “some person once said” prelude. What kind of doctor was Dr. Jones? Did he practice medicine? Did he even have a Ph.D.? Or did he call himself “doctor” because it looked good on a business card? What exactly is the Institute of Pathology and Infectious Viruses? Is it a world-renown institute recognized for its ground-breaking work in viral research? Is it an accredited body? Or is it a make-shift lab in some dude’s basement? What methodology was used to support his conclusion? Was there a methodology? Was there even a study? Furthermore, who publishes the American Journal of Airborne Diseases? The World Health Organization? The American Medical Association? Dr. Mattias Jones using desktop software? Come to think of it, is he even a real person? I don’t know. Do you?

The larger issue with doing your own research into complex science is, of course, that none of us have the time, means, or foundational knowledge to appropriately study it. We need to rely on experts who have made it their life’s work – infectiologists, virologists, and yes, actual researchers. Proficiency in any subject is not achieved over the course of a few hours or days or months. Can you sit at a piano with no training and bang out Liszt’s La Campanella? Neither can I. Diving into YouTube won’t solve the core problem of not knowing what the hell I’m doing. Just like I can’t prescribe drugs after watching some guy’s PowerPoint about pharmaceuticals. It also adds to the confusion when we are besieged by senators trying to score political points and talking heads striving to maintain viewership. The more complicated a subject – especially one based in rigorous trial and error – the better off we all are stepping back, ignoring the ignorant, and giving experts the latitude to apply their expertise. This doesn’t mean you can’t throw anchovies on your pizza. Go wild with your questionable choice. At least the only victim will your taste buds.

Comments
  1. rangewriter says:

    Right on, John! Thank you for sharing your well-written and reasoned opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Esther Erman says:

    You may not be an expert on medical stuff, John, but great writing in this blog! Bravo! And you’re so right! One of the biggest surprises in this pandemic is the audacity with which some really unqualified people make pronouncements. BTW, good on you for giving the anchovy-laced pizza an honest try.

    Liked by 1 person

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