Anecdotes or the Scientific Method?| Updated: Jan 31, 2019
I’m going way out on a limb with this post and may be opening myself up to a bunch of “you are completely nuts” emails, but I think what I have to say really needs to be said. So here goes anyway ….
Over the years, I have gotten increasingly comfortable with anecdotal evidence as opposed to scientific studies when it comes to health related topics.
Have any of you noticed that you are starting to feel the same way?
If I notice a pattern where a few of my trusted friends tell me that they have discovered that doing this or eating that is helping their families’ health, I tend to be more receptive to this message than when a big media story trumpets some big new “health breakthrough”.
Health Breakthrough? Yawn.
It seems that much of the so called “research” on health these days is really covert marketing by drug companies, Big Food and others.
Using “science” to manipulate the buying habits of consumers? Absolutely!
Anecdotal evidence, on the other hand, is based primarily on personal observation and case studies. If this observation comes from a trusted source, then it has much validity in my experience.
Think about traditional cultures. They did not have the scientific method to lean on. Anecdotal evidence was all they had to navigate through their choices about what to eat and what not to eat on a daily and seasonal basis.
Health anecdotes were passed down from generation to generation. Those who did not follow these anecdotes either died or failed to reproduce.
Nature is harsh when her rules are not obeyed.
This is not to say that I do not value the scientific method. On the contrary, I find truly objective, scientific studies to be a great achievement of our modern culture. Done right, these types of studies have the power to identify critical information that is of real value to humankind.
Unfortunately, it seems that the scientific approach to health and wellness is coming under increasing abuse nowadays which partly explains the resurgence and popularity of anecdotal evidence.
Moms seem especially open to anecdotal evidence from those they trust. Moms networking together and providing support and information to help each other grow healthy children is a very powerful force in the world.
Never underestimate the power of the hand that rocks the cradle.
Wise Traditions is a bit of a watchdog in that regard.
The letters in Wise Traditions are also very interesting, providing one anecdotal story after another about how traditional diet has helped a person or family come back from the brink of ill health.
Balancing the anecdotes, many of the Wise Traditions articles are extremely detailed and heavily rooted in science – science done right, that is, with objectivity and nonpartiality.
Anecdotes or the scientific method? Which do you value more and why?
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Sarah was awarded Activist of the Year at the International Wise Traditions Conference in 2010.
Sarah earned a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Economics from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Government (Financial Management) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mother to three healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, she writes about the practical application of Traditional Diet and evidence-based wellness within the modern household. Her work has been featured by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.