Humanity has explored many ways of knowing, from trusting deities and their 'earthly conduits,' to seeking out experts, to looking for evidence and statistics, to believing what one feels is 'right.' I am fascinated by epistemology (the investigation of how we know things, of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion) and the psychology of choice, but I am even more interested in what we can do to promote critical thinking.
How do you raise children to question the statements that they hear?
How do you inspire patients to develop their health literacy and explore how probabilities are presented to them?
How do you convince policy-makers to consider value rather than throughput in their decision-making?
Can we convince health 'experts' to include effectiveness, the risks, and costs of various interventions when they write guidelines?
Apparently the heat from climate change has fried our leader's critical-thinking brain centres, and we now find ourselves awkwardly in an era of supposed "alternative facts." We know that fighting firmly held personal beliefs (even if we consider them lies and delusions) with facts is not effective; however, if you a reading this then you are already probably a bit skeptical, and you can explore the resources below to help with your own decision-making.
HERE ARE A HANDFUL OF PUBLICLY-AVAILABLE TOOLS TO HELP:
1) A book: Know Your Chances - Woloshin, Schwartz, Welch - FREE Online via PubMed
Every day we are bombarded by television ads, public service announcements, and media reports warning of dire risks to our health and offering solutions to help us lower those risks. But many of these messages are incomplete, misleading, or exaggerated, leaving the average person misinformed and confused. Know Your Chances is a lively, accessible, and carefully researched book that can help consumers sort through this daily barrage by teaching them how to interpret the numbers behind the messages. . . The book's easy-to-understand charts will help ordinary people put their health concerns into perspective.This short, reader-friendly volume will foster communication between patients and doctors and provide the basic critical-thinking skills necessary for navigating today's confusing health landscape.
[some other books about overtesting, overtreatment, and being skeptical in medicine are listed HERE]
2) A video: How to spot fake news
This video highlights the need to be skeptical and question headlines on social media or on other sites; it's sometimes hard to tell if a story is fake. If something seems shocking or strange, it's a good idea to ask around and do a bit of google-sleuthing. Checking the date, the source, and asking a skeptical friend can help you figure it out.
3) A website: Testing Treatments Interactive
The TTi site contains learning resources to help people recognise and understand Key Concepts, and how use them to evaluate treatment claims. These are categorized by concept, target learning group (kids, undergraduate students, etc), and the format (videos, websites, cartoons, etc). The book is also free and available in audio, PDF, or HTML format.
4) A guide: 12 Questions to Ask: How to Evaluate Health Information on the Internet
The National Institutes of Health has put together a great tool to help patients and caregivers check the reliability if information from the internet. These 12 straightforward questions can help you decide if what you are reading is useful - or useless.
Do you have other tips for getting to the truth?