It’s Bachelor of Arts or Science, Not Bachelor of Google

The moles I wrote about earlier turned out to be completely harmless, but as they had the potential to become something unpleasant later on I’m glad we got them out now. I had already diagnosed myself with a stage four cancer on Web MD anyway, so I can talk myself down off the ledge and bookmark the listing on “hypochondria” for later.

A friend of mine who is in the process of applying for residency programs and I had a conversation this week after he was offended that someone said something on Facebook that he considered to be “junk science.” He was wondering if he should use his med school experience to refute the claim. I told him not to bother and in light of convincing myself that I had melanoma, we decided that a PhD in Google was absolutely no substitute for real education.

Basically, the crazy is out there, it has high-speed internet and a Blogger account, and no accountability.

Such is the peril of the information age; you can come up with the nuttiest bullshit theory and not only will someone else have thought of the same thing, but they’ll have produced a whole website full of “facts” to support it. Those sites will have partner sites or blogrolls with equally crazy “facts” in support of another bogus claim. It’s like falling down the rabbit hole, with all the distrust and suspicion and accusations of nefarious doings. For the record, I trust my friend because he’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever known, not because I’m intimidated by his MD. And really, I once saw him try to kidnap a kitten at a hostel in Paris once when he was drunk, so what better proof could there be that doctors are real people too?

And so it came to pass that I decided to be much more judicious with my Google searching and remember the basic rules of internet research:

  • Anyone can claim something and find other nutters to support their claim
  • There’s healthy skeptiscm and then there’s raging paranoia
  • Correlation does not equal causation
  • Anecdotal stories are not a substitute for hard evidence
  • Studies can say anything you want them to depending on your controls and criteria, and also because…
  • …There are lies, damn lies, and statistics, and statistics can be manipulated to prove anything

And most importantly

  • You really, really don’t have melanoma. Really.