Zeno's Paradox
While critical thinking may not make up for a lack of knowledge, it is essential for gaining knowledge.
Friday, July 29, 2005:  
Humans learn without explicit thought - Michael Hopkin, Nature.com

Humans can learn skills without remembering what they have done, according to a study of patients with severe amnesia...

Most people gather information and abilities through a process of 'declarative' learning, in which they remember the act of learning as well as the new skill or knowledge itself. Hopefully, you'll recall reading this article, as well as remembering the nuggets of information it contains...

Other animals, which lack our cognitive powers, use a slower, more primitive method called habit learning. If one item in a pair of objects is designated the 'correct' item, monkeys can learn to select this particular item by simple trial and error. Without realizing they are doing it, they gradually acquire the habit of picking the right option.
Interesting, especially if you're not familiar with more current theories of memory. Some of our learning takes place without our being aware of what was learned or that we even learned anything. This type of learning occurs primarly by repetition. It's no coincidence that repetition is a very effective method to influence people's thoughts and behaviors.

    -  Ron  9:14 AM

Thursday, July 28, 2005:  
Medicine, Health, Critical Thinking:
Echinacea Has No Effect on Colds - The New York Times

Echinacea, the herbal supplement made from purple coneflower and used by millions of Americans to prevent or treat colds, neither prevented colds nor eased cold symptoms in a large and rigorous study.

"We should assume that echinacea does not work until somebody proves it does," he said. That, he added, "is the flip side of where we've been."
Echinacea didn't help a bit. Imagine that.

So what's the herbal supplement industry going to do now that their product, which was never shown to have any effectiveness in treating colds, now has yet another study showing it has no effectiveness at all? Will they:

A) Start a misinformation campaign to spread doubt about this study, hoping people are too stupid to recall that there is no good evidence echinacea is helpful at all and plenty of evidence that it is useless?

B) Make up new guidelines as how echinacea should really be used, based upon no evidence at all but rather just their own desperate need to get as much money they can out of the dupes that they have been fooling for so long?

C) Look for new supplements that they can sell to replace echinacea without any regard for their effectiveness either?

D) Start acting as if they care about the effectiveness of their products?

The snake oil industry is alive and well. As long as they can count on people to look for products that have not been shown to have any effectiveness, the snake oil industry is more that happy to provide both the products and supporting misinformation.

    -  Ron  7:45 AM

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