Wednesday, 1 July 2015

So is it nine out of ten or

nine out of every ten. You do know what I mean don't you?
There was an advertisement for some sort of toothpaste once - when I was kitten - which used to claim that "nine out ten dentists recommend..." I can remember reading it and then asking why we didn't use that sort of toothpaste.
The Senior Cat explained the advertisement to me. I was about six at the time but it was a valuable lesson in reading comprehension. Of course I have not read and understood everything I have read since then. Like everyone else I have sometimes read what I wanted to read into something. I still hope that the lesson the Senior Cat gave me reminds me when I most need to be reminded.
Among the many things I read now are a number of news and commentary websites. I don't read them for pleasure but because I need to be informed about what people are saying about situations that may affect my work. 
Journalists are not known for accuracy. They may try but one person "on the ground" has to rely on information given to him or her by officials who may or may not have an interest in telling them what is actually going on. The officials themselves may not know. Sometimes it is necessary to rely on non-official sources. Opinion is represented as "fact".
Research, especially "scientific research" is another issue. Remember that myth about autism being caused by vaccinations? It is still believed by many people - people who desperately want to believe it. Cancer "cures" abound, as do other many other cures the desperate want to believe in.
I know that, if desperate enough, I might well believe in something like that too. I might believe despite now being trained to read something critically.
Presented with a position  - even solid proof - to the contrary people will go on believing what they want to believe about controversial issues. Yesterday I tried explaining to an otherwise intelligent person that a piece of research was based on a badly biased sample. I might as well have saved my breath. He didn't want to hear that. The sample gave him the results he wants to believe in. 
His thesis is going to come tumbling down and he will probably blame me. 

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