The more incompetent someone is, the more sure of himself he is: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10626367/. It’s so well known and studied, it has a name, the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It’s so a part of the arrogance of mankind that there are Ancient Greek texts dedicated to the subject. There are even older Biblical passages aplenty. God tells the Hebrews they should have no political leader whatsoever; their response is, “yeah, yeah, give us an earthly king.” Even the chosen people think they know better than the creator of the universe. I mean, why listen and learn when you think you’re one of the chosen ones? Makes sense.
The less knowledge someone has, the more sure of the answer he is. Isn’t that curious? We all encounter this with children, with people who have zero knowledge of our specialities, with the new guy at work. It’s amazing how cocksure people become when they don’t know what they’re talking about. So I find it’s a good reminder for people when sifting through health and fitness information that no one ever arrives AT certainty. We merely reduce uncertainty.
Read it again: certainty cannot be obtained; all we can do is reduce uncertainty. And even that process is a lifelong toilsome one.
Experts who spend whole careers and lives in a given study do not arrive at certainty. They reduce uncertainty. When you earnestly study the scientific method, you find that we never arrive AT certainty, so much as do the best we can to clear out as much possible uncertainty. When you gain proficiency in business tax filings, you discover this wording comes up as reasonable research and development costs. The IRS notes, “any costs incurred to REDUCE UNCERTAINTY.” Medical doctors and lawyers refer to their professions as PRACTICE. Trials can take years to ascertain an approximation of "reasonable doubt" or "reasonable proof." I once attended a firearms course with an instructor who had over forty-five years of military, law enforcement, and tactical teaching experience; in his intro he was very firm in saying that anytime people ask for his opinion on a new story concerning a shooting, he says, "I have none." His very simple follow-up slams the door, "how can you form an opinion until you know every detail about the case?"
Yet, somewhere along the line, it became not just common but even cool for the least knowledgeable to affirmatively state final conclusions, to claim absolute assurance on topics they have at best perused for a few minutes. Look closely at the attached article screenshot. Evidence AGAINST the old school cholesterol hypothesis has been mounting for SIXTY YEARS. People who don’t read research are absolutely sure of the old hypothesis. People who stay on top of scientific research in the field aren’t sure. Instead, they merely work at being less uncertain, less unsure. The less you know on the topic, the more certain you are that dietary fats cause heart disease. The more you know on the topic, the less sure of a final conclusion you become.
When looking for answers in health and fitness, you won’t arrive. It’s not like that. You must merely reduce uncertainty. In professional fitness coaching, I have been personally irresponsible with overstating certainty at times. We all make this mistake. Granted, I would base my claim on decades and tens of thousands of hours of experience while including several peer-reviewed citations. Nonetheless, it wasn’t fair. Some things we do know with a good degree of certainty. That isn’t the same as total certainty.
It seems every week we are afforded a new example of braggadocio ignoramo. Post-doctoral statisticians and genuine math geniuses have no problem sifting through the 2020 national and state voting tabulations without alarm. I had advanced calculus in high school. I studied collegiate statistics. My best man at my wedding and still best friend is an actual mathematician whose current profession is data analytics. None of us have seen one trend which indicates Democratic theft. Republican congresspeople haven’t seen one trend which indicates Democratic theft. The conservative courts haven't. The Attorney General hasn't. The Republican election officials and election security specialists haven't. But you know who is absolutely certain that the numbers show fraud? People who weren’t in my higher level mathematics classes. People who can’t balance a spreadsheet. People who never studied statistics. People who can barely multiply two numbers together. People who don’t even know what a derivative is or a longitudinal analysis, all of a sudden, are experts on BOTH of these things. Why, oh why, is it so hard to just pause, sit back, and say, “I don’t know”? On an opinion in a subject where you really are out of your depth, "I have none"?
It’s embarrassing, for YOU. I’m embarrassed for you. And it’s doubly embarrassing, because you don’t actually know enough to know just how embarrassed you should be. Ignorance plus paranoia doesn't add up to evidence, let alone proof.
Now, this is just the example of the past several weeks. But I’m sure we’ll get more today and tomorrow and forever. Perhaps, as grownups, we can make a deal that we will all try for more patience. Let’s make a deal that we will try to humbly avoid jumping to conclusions. Let’s make a deal that we won’t arrogantly overstate scant or nonexistent evidence. In the case of the completely failed cholesterol hypothesis, perchance, we can stop spreading the falsehoods and lies that were never supported by any science.
People, please stay in your lane.