Breaking News: Studies Prove Studies Unreliable

I don't generally appeal to a broad audience or allow my profession to leak into my writing, but my following very modest proposal should appeal to most level-headed people.  Further, I think you will find it useful if you fall anywhere in one or more of the following debate categories:

  • Skeptics vs. Mystics
  • Republicans vs. Democrats vs. Libertarians
  • Economists vs. Other Economists vs. Laymen
  • Gun Control Advocates vs. Gun Rights Advocates
  • Modern Medicine Practitioners vs. Alternative Medicine Gurus

Let's all agree to stop saying phrases of the type, "Studies prove 'X', 'Y', or 'Z'."  (I'm looking at you journalists.)  More than likely the study being cited doesn't "prove" anything, and if history is any guide, the study is more than likely to later be refuted, indicating that either it or the subsequent study(s) is(are) incorrect.  Consider the following intriguing research from the medical field:  
In the interest of full disclosure, I was introduced to the preceding work by the book Wrong:  Why Experts Keep Failing Us...And How to Know When Not to Trust Them, which I highly recommend.

Bottom Line:
I propose the following alternative phrasing, "Studies provide evidence for 'X', 'Y', or 'Z'."

Inductive arguments can never be proven in the way that deductive arguments are.  Thus we can never have the certainty regarding the efficacy of homeopathic remedies, gun control laws, minimum wage restrictions or the teachings of Zoroastrianism that we can about Euclidean geometry.  So let's stop pretending.  I know it's a small change, but maybe this way fewer middle aged house wives will be sucked into the latest supplement craze (green coffee bean extract?).


Any priest or shaman must be presumed guilty until proved innocent. -- Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love  


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