Creativity in thinking

Today, with the amount of information out there in various means of media and networks, adults and children alike need to be able to:

  • filter information,
  • select right from wrong,
  • prioritize what to read, and
  • know what to trust

When it comes to medical research that is reported, do your homework:

  • ask for references,
  • is it published in peer reviewed journals or conference proceedings?
  • Ask a doctor or scientist to explain the information you read and verify whether it is true.

Never forget, research reporting is like the blind men and the elephant (*see poem below). The truth is somewhere … but what is reported may be an inaccurate or maybe even wrong interpretation. Sometimes, as in the poem, no one may be completely correct, and everyone may be wrong! Some scientific observations are simply coincidence. Let’s say a report says about a man who has hearing trouble that “he ate ice cream daily and he developed deafness”… well, the two facts may or may not be related. Media can report this as — “eating ice cream daily can cause deafness in some people!” However, to truly draw an association requires a cause-and-effect study in which say, a number of people are either fed ice cream daily for a period of time, or fed no ice cream, and their hearing is checked. Now confounding factors have to be accounted for – could it just be cold temperature? Or maybe any milk product will do? How about anything sweet… Perhaps there will be no difference between ice cream eaters and non ice cream eaters in hearing loss. You see? Many, many more studies need to be conducted on a larger scale to draw closer to the truth. So take it all with a pinch of salt! Oh, and keep working with me to bridge the gap

*The Blind Men and the Elephant

by John Godfrey Saxe

It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the elephant,
(Though all of them were blind,)
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The first approached the elephant,
And, happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl
“God bless me! but the elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried: “Ho! what have we here.
So very round, and smooth, and sharp?
To me ’tis very clear,
This wonder of an elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The third approached the animal,
And, happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up he spoke:
“I see,” quoth he, “the elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee:
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is very plain,” quoth he;
“‘Tis clear enough the elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most:
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right
And all were in the wrong!

So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean;
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

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