On of the things we’ve tried to achieve here at We Want Organic Food is to publish fact; or, if something is our opinion, just to say so, so that we build a website filled with more than assumptions, rants, biases and vague what-have-you. That’s why we try to base our articles on real science and properly conducted studies.
Now, one of the benefits of working in the Web industry is that you get to meet a lot of people, some of whom are experts in their field. You would not think that being a "web geek" <yes, that’s a good term> would enable you to meet a PhD in bacterial genetics like Pierre Far who would explain the way consensus is usually arrived at in the world of science, but amazing things happen.
In discussing Google’s new Knol initiative (a kind of Wikipedia where knowledgeable folk can write their own stuff), Pierre points out the dangers of blogging from authority:
A huge problem in the science blogosphere is what’s called "blogging from authority" where a blogger claims ultimate knowledge because they are a PhD, or an expert, or whatnot, and so everything they say becomes the truth. A good science blog post will always reference papers and link to other discussions (like those hosted on the Lancet journal’s website). The post should explain the evidence and should explain the background and why the new evidence is interesting. A bad science blog post will state the opinions of the blogger – who may know quite a bit! – but does not stand on the shoulder of evidence. The danger here is that the blogger, as an authority, will be disseminating false information that does not reflect current scientific thinking. If this relates to subjects like health and medicine, this could actually be dangerous!
Given that much of the discussion of organic food has to do with what is and what is not true, it is important to note the above because the fact that someone holds a degree does not automatically mean his or her opinion is correct based solely on that degree.
To put it a better way: you’re only right when you’re right.
I think it’s important that we not blindly follow anyone’s dictates, especially if he/she does not give any proof or sound reasoning for his/her statements. It’s hard enough to build a knowledge base with which to understand things — but if we don’t examine the truth of facts that we take on board, then we may have a knowledge base sewn with fallacies and inaccuracies, no?
That, and the ability to apply reason and logic to a concept, is what led me to call into question a few statements from a Ph.D. (Gutsy? Probably. I think all this makes me sound a bit like Mr. Spock: Illogical!)
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