Thoughts on Credibility

Whenever people come to argue on our Facebook page, the first question I ask them is to post a peer-reviewed, reproducible study with a large cohort from a credible journal. I rarely get a response to that. Sometimes I get YouTube videos. Sometimes I get blog posts. Most blog posts, when I click on them, are long rants against some perceived organized conspiracy to repress The Truth (whatever that may be) without a shred of evidence. YouTube videos are always a wash. They’re usually webcam-recorded screeds against some mainstream belief. Sometimes there’s a whiteboard at least. These days, I rarely bother clicking on articles from certain websites. If you’re nodding your head right now, you know which ones I mean.

If you want to argue against the mainstream, you have to have proof. If your proof is from a homeopathy journal, a blog post, a YouTube video, or another quack journal, then it’s not credible. If it’s not reproducible then it’s not credible. If it’s not peer-reviewed and accepted then it’s questionable. If it’s a small sample size then it’s not credible. If you lack a control group then it’s not a good experiment. If your literature review is limited to self-reporting or subjective measurements then it’s not a good review. If I run a PubMed search on your topic and your position is generally unsupported, your evidence is weak and you shouldn’t bother posting it.

If you said “Here are 5 studies with large cohorts that were published in JAMA showing that this same reaction was statistically significant with this expected cause in this medicine” then I’d say “Yup, sounds like they need to re-examine improving that medicine to remove the side effects like they’re probably already doing or pull it.” I’m not so ironclad in my beliefs that I’m unwilling to accept evidence that a mainstream practice could be improved on. Medical research isn’t a perfect science.

It’s the same reaction I’d have if I was reading an article on microvoid formation in immersion silver printed circuitboard pad finishes being reduced by a particular alloying agent being added to the mix. If it’s reproducible and published in a respectable journal then sure. I’ll bite. If that same article said it only used one test board  from a scrap bin and was written by a high school student as a lab report in their chemistry class, I’d probably not even bother reading it. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. Why is it any different if it’s an article on medicine?

The standards are about the same no matter what field you’re in.