I’m excited to share that I’ve joined RLMI as their Content and Community Development Specialist. We’re working on a new project centered on Preventative Medicine through Lifestyle Modification, set to launch in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more details on ReginaldFinley.com and my other channels.
As many of you know, I am a seasoned skeptic and scientifically literate. I value intellectual honesty and strive to prevent personal biases from influencing my decisions. Dan Barker, who once spoke on my radio show, said his goal was to reduce harm as much as possible. This resonated with me, but I realized something was missing: the consideration of non-human animals. Why did I think it was okay to harm them? I discovered it was a cultural habit, a normalization I had never deeply questioned before.
Over time, my humanistic values matured, and I recognized the harm I was causing to humans and non-human animals. I became a vegetarian in 2015, a carideatarian (shrimp eater) later that year, and finally, a vegan in 2016. Watching Gary Yourofsky’s video, “The Best Speech Ever,” and engaging in discussions about animal sentience, pain, and diet-induced diseases led me to strengthen my convictions. It became clear that I was on the right side of history.
Since going vegan, some have accused me of losing my skeptical edge or being too biased. However, as a critical thinking and scientific literacy professor, as well as a science and health educator, my skepticism has only matured. I now challenge my own thinking far more than my analysis of others’ thinking. Because of this, I have become more compassionate and understanding.
For me, veganism is a rational and moral imperative. If I don’t want to harm others, I simply choose not to. My taste buds are not more valuable than the lives of innocent sentient beings. I don’t need to eat them, so I don’t.
I invite you to reflect deeply on whether needless harm aligns with your values. If not, consider going vegan.
How even the brightest of us can appear quite dim.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone about something you are passionate and knowledgeable about? Most of us have and it’s natural to share and impart our cumulative knowledge with the rest of the world. However, what if you don’t know as much as you think you know? How can you check?
The Dunning-Kruger effect is essentially a cognitive bias where someone with low ability in one area perceives themselves as more knowledgeable than they really are in that area. They are overestimating their depth of knowledge. Coupled with misplaced haughtiness and arrogance, the person suffering from this condition may have difficulty changing their position when approached with new knowledge.
This happened to me recently wherein a woman informed me that elderberry, probiotics, vitamin C, and fruits and vegetables can help with Covid. There may be some benefit to partaking in some of these depending on one’s health state but to somehow improve symptoms after a lifetime of poor dieting and while in a state of actively fighting a viral attack may not help very much. These would be useful post-infection while healing but even probiotics should be taken with caution as one’s immune system is already compromised. Non-pathogenic bacteria could convert to become pathogenic if the environment is suitable. Thus, one could make matters worse. A prebiotic may make more sense as this may help to simply restore the gut ecosystem that was already present. However, whether pre- or pro-, any significant change can take between 3 days to months to years depending on that person’s personal environment. When this was mentioned to this person, I was quickly informed that this worked for them. Of course, personal anecdotes are not how science works. Worked how? What do you consider as having worked? Was your recovery time statistically significant from groups that haven’t followed your regimen? If the healing times are not statistically significant, what does this reveal?
The person informing me of this has two degrees in Criminology. They have no expertise in diet, nutrition, science generally, or biology; yet, they quickly informed me that they know it works from personal experience.
Why do they rank their knowledge as more correct than mine? As a professional trained in science, it is clear that they don’t understand scientific or research methodology. Anecdotal evidence is the worse kind of evidence as the average person tends to draw conclusions from correlations that have not been tested or vetted.
I decided that it wasn’t worth the effort to remind this individual that I teach science for a living and have multiple degrees, diplomas, certificates, and certifications in science, nutrition, and health. One reason why I refuse to play the education card is that despite having gained a lot of knowledge in many fields, I still feel as if I don’t know very much. There are always new things to learn.
How to overcome the Dunning-Kruger effect
In my view, there are a few things one can develop to help avoid this dilemma.
1.) Humility – Learn to be honest about what you know and what you don’t know.
2.) Check your biases. Do you believe this way because you wish to believe this or is there solid scientific evidence supporting your claims?
3.) Admit that you could be wrong. To be truly open-minded is to accept the possibility that you could be wrong. Starting with this position helps to place the researcher in a position where they can seek information disconfirming their biases
4.) Develop research skills – Learn how to discern a valid source of information from an invalid source. Checking one’s biases can help with research skills as the honest researcher will be able to identify when they are seeking only sources that match their preconceived notions and beliefs.
5.) Thinking metacognitively – This is thinking about your own thinking. This process can be developed and becomes easier with practice. This is one of the most challenging aspects of critical thinking which helps to analyze why you should do something in contrast with the feeling to do something just because it feels good.
These steps can help one better control cognitive bias and to better assess their claims of knowledge. However, I could be wrong.
I know it’s been a while. I have decided to go back into the classroom. As such, you may have noticed that many of my old websites are now shut down. This is so that I can represent my new employer with the level of professionalism and reflective caution the county expects of its educators. I’m looking forward to sharing my passion for science in the classroom again. My assistant and I will still blog from time to time on AmazingLife.Bio and HealthandScienceFacts.com.
I am almost done with my dissertation. I consider myself about 85% done. I am presenting my data this week. I will finalize my conclusions this week and spend another week updating references and proofreading.
I am very proud of this accomplishment. It’s been a long time coming as I have been working on my Ph.D. off and on for at least 5 years… and have been to 4 different schools and just kept running out of money. Walden University, California Coast University, Huntington University, American College of Education (where I earned Candidacy), and now finally, the University of South Africa.
You have all seen it. You are in some online venue in which some controversial topic comes up in science, health, or medicine and invariably, someone will post a link to a “scientific” article supporting their claims. How do you determine what is valid and what is not? Let’s take a look:
1.) Website Links: Web of redirection
If you are sent to a website that makes many claims but they only link back to other articles on the same domain. You are probably
being scammed. Proper evidence should come from multiple sources
outside of their website that corroborate the site’s claims. However,
some are wising up. I have checked the site ownership of some of these
companies and even though they have different domain names, they are
owned by the same company. The express goal?… to get you to buy their
products. Which brings me to number two:
2.) Site Selling Products
If the website you are visiting is flooded with purchasing options.
You are probably being scammed. Keep in mind that their existence is
predicated on you purchasing their products, they may not be as
transparent and honest about what their product can and cannot do. It is
all marketing. Consider: What would sell more? A: Chemical X kinda sorta does this in some situations? or B: Chemical X treats Z and fixes P? A is more truthful, but it won’t sell as faithfully as B.
3.) “It Contains Chemical X”.
This argument is used quite often in promoting a product or health
food. The reality is that thousands of other products may contain the
exact same ingredient. It may not be necessary to only use that one
particular packaged version of the product. Worse, the chemical may not
even do what they claim in the first place.
4.) No Links to Research
As mentioned in #1, proper evidence should come from external
corroborating sources. If they make big claims with absolutely zero
links to a scientific website, medical journal, or other scholarly
resource. You cannot trust the source. Could be true, but how could you
know? How can you verify? Heck! How can they know? You should always
ask, “Where are they getting this information from?” Also, check for
disclaimers. Some natural, herbal, and medically-oriented blog sites
will inform you that they have not really vetted the claims of their
authors or they are not giving you medical advice. Believe that. That
should give you pause right there.
5.) Personal Testimony
Red flags should go up immediately when someone says, “Works for me!”
This is not to say that this is absolutely untrue, it is just that this
kind of evidence is the worst kind of evidence in science. The reason
is because most people are not critical evaluators of claims and/or do
not understand basic scientific processes. The cause of what appeared to
work may be all in one’s head due to bias. Humans tend to forget the
misses but cling on to what they perceive as hits. Did the cranberry
juice cure your UTI? Or was it time (your body’s own natural defenses)?
This is akin to when someone takes an antibiotic and they believe it
helped with their cold symptoms.
6.) Scientific Studies – “Studies show”!
Sadly, you can’t trust these either. Rather, you must know how to
discern the crap from non-crap. Here are a few tips to help you know
when you have fallen upon a crap scientific research paper.
Exaggerates claims and uses subjective language – “Great source of X”, “Best protein..” “No other study in the world has shown…”
Research the authors. What University? What Company? What are their qualifications?
Conflicts of interest not apparent. Do the scientists that claim cloves cure cancer work for Cloves Inc?
Old paper. Yes, a lot has changed since 1923. Find more up-to-date resources. Scholar.google.com may help you with that.
Confusing format: No abstract. Not professionally done. It’s
written more like an essay. Again, this not to say that the essay is
false, it just doesn’t help with credibility.
The article refers consistently to only a few external sources to
provide evidence for their claims. If this is the case, then visit that
primary source. Avoid the middle folks if you can. Often, you will
discover that what the biased secondary researcher is claiming, is
actually NOT what the primary researcher is saying at all.
No citations, images, graphs, or data at all. Oddly, I have seen this a few times.
Check dosages of chemicals. Far too many research studies are
misinterpreted or skewed for headlines and sound bites. For instance, a
scientific study may reveal that phthalates cause cancer. Okay, but at
what dose? If a lab experiment revealed that mice breathing 25grams of
phthalates an hour died in two weeks (which is absolutely horrible) you
must ask, are humans breathing nearly that much though. Probably not;
but even if so, how do we know that humans would react the same as a
mouse? In most cases, we don’t.
7.) No Mechanism of Action
I have mentioned this in the previous episode,
but if the page is chock full of science, medical, and health claims
but there are no explanations for how they work, beware. It is probably a scam. If an explanation is
given for how something is supposed to work, research that chemical or
process at an unbiased source. For instance, if you wish to discover if
tryptophan is a powerful sleep inducer, you should NOT go to:
ILoveTryptophan.com/store. Visit university sites discussing the
chemical. Search for these chemicals using scientific journals or
journal aggregators such as: Parity.com or Google Scholar.
Motherjones.com is not a trustworthy source. Even some science news
websites post crap from time to time so be very careful. You must triple
check their claims, even moreso, your own beliefs.
Well, that’s it for this lengthy episode. I hope you have found something of value, if not for yourself, perhaps for others.
I am now teaching at Ultimate Medical Academy full-time in which I will be teaching primarily General Biology. I have also accepted a position at Sonoran Desert Institute in which I will be teaching the Physical Sciences. I am looking forward to my new adventures.
Every few weeks, I’m going to post examples of pseudoscience and hyped-up claims to help the public develop the ability to recognize patterns of crap science. So, did you know?
Holistic Ali is apparently confused.
This is common pseudoscience that you are bound to run into especially among health conscientious groups. We should be passionate about health and the environment but not at the expense of our brains falling out of our heads.
Pseudoscience is notorious for:
#1: Tapping into the “Natural”. If it says, Holistic or Natural. Your radar should tingle. Not that it’s fake, but that you need to look deeper before accepting it as truth. Holistic is more a marketing term over providing anything of useful descriptive value.
#2: Conflating Ideas: Facts mixed with extraordinary claims: Yep, it’s a plant. Sleep better? Really? How so?
#3: Embellishment: Just because something may be able to do one thing, doesn’t mean that it is capable of everything else that is claimed. In this example: Like most plants adapted to dry conditions, succulents do indeed release some tiny amount of oxygen at night; however, a plant that size wouldn’t release enough oxygen to assist with any significant levels of oxygen intake. You’d need a room full of them… almost top to bottom.
#4: Having Lack of Mechanism of Action: How it Works is often omitted. Fake medical products and pseudoscientific claims tend to make large claims with no actual detail of how it works. Many holistic websites for instance provide no links to studies and research supporting their claims. In this case: Natural air-purifier: Purifying how? What is it taking from the air? How does that process work?
Don’t be a victim due to desperation and ignorance. This example is rather benign, but that is how it starts. Once you accept some things uncritically, it gets easier to continue to accept crap ideas. Internet herbs don’t cure cancer, glucosamine and chondroitin don’t treat arthritis, drinking cranberry juice doesn’t cure STI’s, you don’t have energy chakras that need to be aligned, and moving your furniture around doesn’t sync your energies with the planet.
I have been offered the position of adjunct biology professor with Valencia college. This is an exciting opportunity. I am currently working towards my associate professorship which should be complete by next year. After I earn my doctorate, I will push for full-time opportunities.
Well, I’m currently back in school earning my Doctorate in Education with a focus in STEM Education Leadership. My ancillary focus will be in evolution and climate change education. I am paying my way through school so I am working hard on this multiple income stream thing I have heard so much about.
I am currently a high school science teacher, a curriculum designer, an adjunct professor (in training), an online instructor, a course evaluator, a biology tutor, soon to be a science camp instructor, and I’m a speech and book editor. I am also working on the format for my new show. Yeah, I’m burned out already. 🙂
I recorded a video about the concept of cruelty free and veganism. Not all of my thoughts were in this video and I hope to do a part II. I have a lot on my plate today but I wanted to get a video out there about it as it’s a very hot topic right now.