Science versus Baloney

December 4, 2017

Bias and context exist within all of us. Whether we know it or not our consciousness, genetics, environment and personal history inform our interpretation of the world around us.

The opinions we form, the choices we make, the actions we take.

This is no different in health and fitness.

Take me for example. I am a Physiotherapist. I’ve done extra training in pain education and management and strength and conditioning. I think all of those things are excellent.

How do I know this?

Without any assistance, all I have to go off is the amount of time I’ve spent learning it, the fact my livelihood depends on it and the people I interact with, who benefit from what I know.

All of those factors predispose me into thinking that everything about what I do is insanely awesome.

So, in order to know what we do actually does anything, we need SCIENCE.

In order to actually have any idea of what to do in the first place, or how anything that we see, feel or experience works, we need SCIENCE.

In order to think about how we might make things better in the future, improve what we do and get better outcomes, we need SCIENCE.

What we don’t need, but unfortunately is everywhere, is baloney.

Baloney is what happens when someone gets an idea and thinks they can make money with it. Or they like a certain thing and think every human on the planet needs the same thing. Or they read something, do a course or watch something and become an overnight expert. Then, and here is the important bit, they YELL AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS to convince everyone that they need baloney, that this baloney is better than every other baloney, and that anyone who tells you that you don’t need baloney is the devil.

They also spread fear and anxiety that a baloney-less existence will make you sick, poor or dead.

Baloney is everywhere.

Politicians selling clean coal or denying climate change, as big companies with vested interests fund their campaigns = baloney.

Cleansing diets telling you to drink petrified kale water as it detoxes your system = baloney.

Anything with organic, all natural, chemical free = grade A baloney.

Baloney in health really, seriously annoys the pastrami out of me.

It is also really, seriously damaging.

Generally when I speak about this stuff the words “baloney” and “pastrami” are replaced by four letter variations.

The standard excuse is “who cares how it works if it works.” I get it. When you are in pain you will pay heaps to try and get out of it. So people like me need to be better, for your benefit. For every one person who gets a “baloney – fix” there are 10 who are infinitely worse off. It is also ridiculous how expensive baloney is – as if the more you spend on something makes it more effective. Lots of money based on no evidence that has equal risk of benefit, nothing or catastrophe sounds crazy.

It is not your job to know who to see about a certain problem. Doctor is fairly obvious, outside of that there are so many baloney traders it can be confusing.

The less scientific they are, the more things they can make up about pain, injury, normal function or exercise and fitness. The less scientific the profession, the less regulation there is on what they can say. So it turns out often the loudest, most marketed options with the flashiest claims are the biggest baloney barons out there.

The biggest problem with baloney is it appeals to our natural bias and context. It promises the easiest and quickest option with the biggest promised benefit.

We love to agree with people who share our opinions. We tend to want be part of the group. We rationalise poor decisions easily. We love a bandwagon and fear missing out.

All these things occur, in most of us, without our knowledge. Baloney peddlers prey on these and offer magic pills, false solutions and cult-like followings.

Science doesn’t have all the answers, but only because humans as a species don’t have all the answers. There are no real answers that science hasn’t discovered. There is magic tricks, placebo effects and baloney. B.A.L.O.N.E.Y.

The current climate of science denial is equal parts scary, disappointing and hilarious. But the good thing about science is that it’s true whether you believe it or not.

May the mass x acceleration be with you.