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  1. #1
    Registered User s.o.u.p's Avatar
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    The scientific approach....... flawed?

    I wish to discuss, calmly and rationally, the merits of the scientific approach; when compared to a more open practice such as an anecdotal one.

    And whether those merits alone are enough to justify following a purely scientific approach.

    The pro's of the scientific approach (and the con's of an anecdotal one) are somewhat obvious, and mostly commonly known to all, however, in the interests of fairness, I shall state some.

    The scientific approach, when done properly, has evidence and conclusional proof of a certain dietary practice/supplementation/exercise.

    The scientific approach may shed light on areas previously unthought of in variables relating to the subject in question.

    The scientific approach has the ability to give exact numbers pertaining to the subject matter.

    The anecdotal approach can often come from superstition, myth, or even deceptive beginnings.

    Without correct application, the anecdotal approach can have a negative effect on the specific goal.

    Theories used in the anecdotal approach are just that, theories, only after scientific studies have been performed and prove a theory, is it actually fact.

    However, there are also cons to the scientific approach that can only be answered by a more anecdotal one, also, something has to be said for the placebo effect, remember, for something to be considered a placebo, it must first actually achieve it's desired goal.

    Other logics in favour of an anecdotal approach is that it doesn't actually exclude the scientific findings of any tests or trials performed, there is no stipulation that negates a practice that has been scientifically proven.

    There are some con's to the scientific aproach however....

    The scientific approach doesn't create new practices, while someone previously unaware of a certain method might become newly aware through reading or learning about a scientific study, the practice involved in that study was practiced popularily elsewhere. While this doesn't have a detrimental effect on the subject at hand, it does exclude finding new, more effective techniques.

    The scientific method can be open to bias, the nature of a scientific test does not guarantee to rule out or exclude certain conditions that can affect the outcome, the beliefs or even goals of the conducting parties can have an effect on how the experiment is conducted. Yes, the proposed methods are reviewed by some form of pier, but there's also no guarantee that those piers know enough about the subject to have an authority in the matter, or even that those piers aren't aware of the bias and allow it for profit.

    The findings of a scientific approach don't always return the result of "doing X will result in outcome Y" sometimes the results are only with 65% of the group, sometimes some people experience more of an effect than others, what if you're in that other 35%? What if you only experience the deminished effects?

    Many tests are done using a specific demographic, infact, using a wide enough definition, all scientific testing is limited to a specific demographic of one sort or another, but many tests can't use prime candidates, and test under whatever conditions are available, some don't even use human subjects. A large portion of tests are limited to a particular geographic location, and the dietary, environmental, and even attitudinal differences from the location of the tests to the location of those who use the findings of those tests can make for a diference in result.

    The anecdotal approach can yield greater success for your goals through some basic conceptions, and work synergistically with scientifically proven methods, some of these are:

    Everybody is different, even in scientific testing some subjects have greater improvements than others, this is due to the variables that are created by every other aspect of your life, due to this, only the person in question can really dictate specifically their actual needs, while information acquired from a scientific study can eliminate a lot of the guesswork, it is only a piece of the entire puzzle, science does not have, nor claim to have all the answers.

    All scientific research is based on a conception, theory, or idea that was created from anecdotal methods, it must show some form of merit, reason, or logic for someone to deem it suitable for scientific research, even if their goal is to disprove the act as beneficial, scientists don't just sit around and think up new theories "lets test to see if watching teletubbies during a workout increases protein synthesis" (porn however......)

    Just because something isn't scientifically proven doesn't mean it doesn't work, infact, the stipulants of the strictest adherance to the scientific approach should not rule out methods untill it has been scientifically proven as innefective!

    Now, I'm not claiming that the scientific method I'd wrong, and that test results don't mean anything, infact, I've made many points that show that the results of scientific research should be used in conjunction with a persons own research and findings about their own bodies, using and recording elements of their lives they think might be holding them back, and approaching them scientifically!

    However, there are many popular practices that people swear by, that have been used for years, even decades, if there are many people making a claim, there has to be some truth to it, do you really think that absolutely everybody thought the earth was round untill christopher columbus came up with the idea? No! It was a popularised theory he proved, so, I am also advocating for people to spare a thought for efforts that havn't yet (or may never) receive their turn on the scales that are scientific research, and just because someone in a lab coat hasn't decided it's worth, does not make it worthless.
    Last edited by s.o.u.p; 04-22-2009 at 08:24 AM.
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  2. #2
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    I think you missed one - the scientific approach can result in saving a lot of money if the results indicate that hotly pushed supplements/ingredients are not superior to other cheaper options.

    Kudos to you on attempting to dig yourself out of the hole you created the other day when emotion got the better of you.

    I agree that the placebo effect can have a big impact on perceptions.
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    Both methods are flawed in their own respect.
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  5. #5
    Registered User s.o.u.p's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by snorkelman View Post
    I think you missed one - the scientific approach can result in saving a lot of money if the results indicate that hotly pushed supplements/ingredients are not superior to other cheaper options.

    Kudos to you on attempting to dig yourself out of the hole you created the other day when emotion got the better of you.

    I agree that the placebo effect can have a big impact on perceptions.
    Actually I did somewhat cover this, when I mentioned that the parties making the scientific methods used, or their piers, could have reason for bias.

    A scientific study by a certain brand, for a certain product of that brand, proving that their product is superior to others has exceptional grounds for bias.

    Even a comparitave study of brands can have bias.

    Infact, unless it's a study on a pure substance, it can be open to a myraid of interpretational differences.

    As for the hole, kudos for being able to make a connection, ****it, reps.

    However, I consider my point was proven eventually by the outcome of said event.
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  6. #6
    Registered User Analyst's Avatar
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    Many of the flaws you list for a scientific approach (e.g. placebo effect, bias) are only flaws for poorly designed research.
    Last edited by Analyst; 04-22-2009 at 09:55 AM.
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    Misinterpretation of studies is the biggest factor IMO
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    Originally Posted by gekkoboy14 View Post
    Misinterpretation of studies is the biggest factor IMO
    What he said ^^^. And, along those lines, people will read the abstract of a study (or just the headline or a sound bite or the "take home message) and form an incorrect belief about the applicability of the study results without reading the study itself and uncovering flaws in the study design or methodology, and without critically analyzing the conclusions of the researchers to determine if they are warranted based on the data.

    Furthermore, people will assume that the results of the study on a specific group of people under specific conditions can be extrapolated to different groups of people under different conditions. For example, as Alan Aragon has explained ad nauseum, the studies whose conclusions people base their opinions about the glycemic index of a food and its potential rate of glycogen replenishment involved overnight fasted subjects who performed endurance exercise until they depleted their glycogen stores and then ate different types of carbs in isolation from fat and protein. Unless you fit these criteria, the studies do not apply to you.

    In addition, the physical properties of the test subjects at the beginning of the research will limit the applicability of a study's results. If the test subjects were previously sedentary, untrained middle-aged women, the results of that study would not apply to you if you are a 22 year old male who has been training for 4 years. This may seem obvious, but in reality, people tend to extend the applicability of a study well beyond its narrow scope.
    Last edited by signature166; 04-22-2009 at 10:24 AM.
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  9. #9
    Registered User s.o.u.p's Avatar
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    If you mix this:

    Originally Posted by Analyst View Post
    Many of the flaws you list for a scientific approach (e.g. placebo effect, bias) are only flaws for poorly designed research.
    With this:

    Originally Posted by gekkoboy14 View Post
    Misinterpretation of studies is the biggest factor IMO
    You get zealots quoting false facts like it were gospel. And calling anybody who disagrees with them voodoo bro's.

    The biggest con for the scientific approach is that it makes some people think they have the right to be a prick.
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  10. #10
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    i think the biggest issue here is simply the insane complexity of the human body and its workings. we're still not anywhere near a complete understanding of its functioning.

    that said, the scientific approach beats anecdotal evidence any time of the day. it's not even an argument worth having.
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    Registered User Analyst's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by s.o.u.p View Post
    If you mix this:



    With this:



    You get zealots quoting false facts like it were gospel. And calling anybody who disagrees with them voodoo bro's.

    The biggest con for the scientific approach is that it makes some people think they have the right to be a prick.
    Whether or not someone who uses a scientific approach is "a prick" has little to do with whether the scientific approach is valid. There are "pricks" wherever you go.

    At any rate, I'm not sure if you were referring to how I answered you (I thought I was pretty even-handed, actually), but I'm talking about flaws in methods.
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  12. #12
    Registered User s.o.u.p's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Analyst View Post
    Whether or not someone who uses a scientific approach is "a prick" has little to do with whether the scientific approach is valid. There are "pricks" wherever you go.

    At any rate, I'm not sure if you were referring to how I answered you (I thought I was pretty even-handed, actually), but I'm talking about flaws in methods.
    It wasn't a comment on you dude :-)
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    Originally Posted by s.o.u.p View Post
    It wasn't a comment on you dude :-)
    NP
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    Originally Posted by THERUNNlNGMAN View Post
    i think the biggest issue here is simply the insane complexity of the human body and its workings. we're still not anywhere near a complete understanding of its functioning.

    that said, the scientific approach beats anecdotal evidence any time of the day. it's not even an argument worth having.
    Scientific studies have returned inconclusive, some people have made gains, some havn't, it's not a flaw of the subject matter, it is a lack of understanding of the true nature of said subject matter.

    This is a common occurance.

    A scientific approach to this would be, cumbersome, and may even take more time than a more anecdotal aproach to discovering the secrets of the subject in question.

    And then a further, more comprehensive scientific study can be performed.
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    i read that post 4 times now and i still have no idea what you meant.
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    Originally Posted by s.o.u.p View Post
    If you mix this:



    With this:



    You get zealots quoting false facts like it were gospel. And calling anybody who disagrees with them voodoo bro's.

    The biggest con for the scientific approach is that it makes some people think they have the right to be a prick.
    Irrelevant distraction. Your claim above says absolutely nothing about validity of the scientific "approach" itself, but says much about your own personal biases and your opinion of certain insolent "anti-bro" posters who frequent the nutrition-related forums of BB.com.

    To be fair, if you were an honest and introspective kind of person, you would admit that the real problem that you are having is that you are upset because people continue to challenge your claims, advice, and opinions with the most current and best available scientifically-supported information and your response to their criticisms typically takes the form of an unsatisfying anecdote or subjective pseudo-science.
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    Originally Posted by THERUNNlNGMAN View Post
    i think the biggest issue here is simply the insane complexity of the human body and its workings. we're still not anywhere near a complete understanding of its functioning.

    that said, the scientific approach beats anecdotal evidence any time of the day. it's not even an argument worth having.
    If we are not capable of its understanding, how can we base science on it?
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    Originally Posted by signature166 View Post
    What he said ^^^. And, along those lines, people will read the abstract of a study (or just the headline or a sound bite or the "take home message) and form an incorrect belief about the applicability of the study results without reading the study itself and uncovering flaws in the study design or methodology, and without critically analyzing the conclusions of the researchers to determine if they are warranted based on the data.

    Furthermore, people will assume that the results of the study on a specific group of people under specific conditions can be extrapolated to different groups of people under different conditions. For example, as Alan Aragon has explained ad nauseum, the studies whose conclusions people base their opinions about the glycemic index of a food and its potential rate of glycogen replenishment involved overnight fasted subjects who performed endurance exercise until they depleted their glycogen stores and then ate different types of carbs in isolation from fat and protein. Unless you fit these criteria, the studies do not apply to you.

    In addition, the physical properties of the test subjects at the beginning of the research will limit the applicability of a study's results. If the test subjects were previously sedentary, untrained middle-aged women, the results of that study would not apply to you if you are a 22 year old male who has been training for 4 years. This may seem obvious, but in reality, people tend to extend the applicability of a study well beyond its narrow scope.
    Since all studies are flawed, this gives credence to anecodal information and broscience...
    LOL

    IMHO I agree that whole studies need to be read in order for the information to be applied to ones specific information. Also the methodology does need to be understood as to how the conclusion was reached.

    IMHO even a study done inaccurately is still closer to the truth then weight room mysticism and/or superstition about how to diet / get big etc
    Last edited by gjohnson5; 04-22-2009 at 10:58 AM.
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    Originally Posted by gekkoboy14 View Post
    If we are not capable of its understanding, how can we base science on it?
    that's what science does. that's just the best way we've figured out how to understand anything really. you do research, you pose questions, you perform experiments, you interpret the results. you collect more and more pieces and in time you hope to understand the bigger picture. most science is just a really really slow process of discovery. big breakthroughs are rare.

    mind you, i didn't say we're not capable of its understanding, just that we're not there yet, as with many other fields of scientific research.
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    Originally Posted by THERUNNlNGMAN View Post
    that's what science does. that's just the best way we've figured out how to understand anything really. you do research, you pose questions, you perform experiments, you interpret the results. you collect more and more pieces and in time you hope to understand the bigger picture. most science is just a really really slow process of discovery. big breakthroughs are rare.

    mind you, i didn't say we're not capable of its understanding, just that we're not there yet, as with many other fields of scientific research.
    Whats right today, may be wrong tomorrow. Therefore, to base science as concrete is foolish. Science may be applicable to other fields much more so than biochemistry/physiology. There are too many variables, and things we do not yet understand. And to derive a conclusion based on this unknowing isnt good enough for me.
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    Originally Posted by s.o.u.p View Post
    Scientific studies have returned inconclusive, some people have made gains, some havn't, it's not a flaw of the subject matter, it is a lack of understanding of the true nature of said subject matter.

    This is a common occurance.

    A scientific approach to this would be, cumbersome, and may even take more time than a more anecdotal aproach to discovering the secrets of the subject in question.

    And then a further, more comprehensive scientific study can be performed.

    Whether or not expanding and refining our knowledge base via the scientific method ("approach" is an annoyingly ambiguous term the way that you use it) is "cumbersome" has nothing to do with the validity of the information that it produces. Anecdotal approaches will never validly discover the secrets of anything in the way that the scientific method can because they do not control confounding variables, have no structured methodology so that you are actually testing what you think you are testing, and are not published step by step in peer-reviewed journals so that they are subject to analysis and criticism and able to be replicated. A theory is never "proven" or "proved," but certain hypotheses and theories are supported, butressed if you will, by the weight of the evidence over time and others are not.

    And, you might be surprised by this, there are many studies which are conducted specfically with the intent of evaluating anecdotal claims. You are right, as I already pointed out, that individual studies are limited by their potential methodological and design flaws, as well as the scope of their conclusions, but when later studies are conducted that aim to correct those flaws and improve on the first study, and those later studies generate similar conclusions, a picture of what hypotheses are more likely to be correct and
    which aren't begins to emerge. Over time the weight of the evidence will lend validity to some hypotheses and cast doubt on

    others. Researchers will sometimes conduct meta-analyses of studies and papers to evaluate the strength of certain hypotheses.
    Last edited by signature166; 04-22-2009 at 11:07 AM.
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    Originally Posted by THERUNNlNGMAN View Post
    i read that post 4 times now and i still have no idea what you meant.
    Allow me to reiterate

    Originally Posted by s.o.u.p View Post
    (some) Scientific studies have (been known to) return (as) inconclusive, (where) some people have made gains (and) some haven't, it's not a flaw of the subject matter (or product), it is a lack of understanding of the true nature of said subject matter (or product).

    This is a common occurance.

    A scientific approach to (solve) this would be(.....) cumbersome, and may even take more time than a more anecdotal aproach to discovering the secrets of the subject (or product) in question.

    And then (after further study at an anecdotal level) a further, more comprehensive scientific study can be performed.
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    Originally Posted by gekkoboy14 View Post
    Whats right today, may be wrong tomorrow. Therefore, to base science as concrete is foolish. Science may be applicable to other fields much more so than biochemistry/physiology. There are too many variables, and things we do not yet understand. And to derive a conclusion based on this unknowing isnt good enough for me.
    sure. you don't have to follow any of it, no one does. i don't do it either, since i don't believe we have complete picture yet. i'm quite content with 'whatever works for me' method.

    however, the scientific method still remains the best one available without question. science isn't a set of 'facts' that everyone must follow. it's more about the method which one uses to gather and analyze data.

    and in this case, too many variables isn't so much an unsolvable problem by itself, it's basically just a matter of time until we know more about those variables and ways in which they interact.

    but again, this in no way affects the validity of the scientific method of inquiry.
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    Originally Posted by THERUNNlNGMAN View Post
    sure. you don't have to follow any of it, no one does. i don't do it either, since i don't believe we have complete picture yet. i'm quite content with 'whatever works for me' method.

    however, the scientific method still remains the best one available without question. science isn't a set of 'facts' that everyone must follow. it's more about the method which one uses to gather and analyze data.

    and in this case, too many variables isn't so much an unsolvable problem by itself, it's basically just a matter of time until we know more about those variables and ways in which they interact.

    but again, this in no way affects the validity of the scientific method of inquiry.
    Then how would science>anecdote?
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    Originally Posted by gekkoboy14 View Post
    Then how would science>anecdote?
    IMHO true every time.
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    Originally Posted by s.o.u.p View Post
    Allow me to reiterate
    The first "sentence" does not make any sense. Please explain the intended meaning of your first sentence and expand on the underlying concepts in a clear and coherent manner.
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    Originally Posted by gekkoboy14 View Post
    Then how would science>anecdote?
    it's simply a structured approach to learn about anything. it's not some magical thing. i know anecdotal evidence sounds reasonable in this context, but think about it in terms of medicine for instance.

    actually, let me tell you about it since i'm from bosnia originally and anecdotal evidence is king and everyone is a doctor. anecdotal evidence is people telling you to face north when you sleep to cure migraines, it's people telling you to rub honey on your joints to make them stop hurting when you're old. it's people using tooth paste to cure already rotten teeth. that's what anecdotal evidence. maybe it's right or maybe it's wrong but you'll never know unless you look at it in some reasonable way.

    and we both know we'll go see a doctor without a second thought for any of those.

    that reasonable way is what we call the scientific method. here are some definitions because i see there is some confusion between scientific facts and the scientific method here. that 'facts' can change, the method never does.
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    Originally Posted by signature166 View Post
    The first "sentence" does not make any sense. Please explain the intended meaning of your first sentence and expand on the underlying concepts in a clear and coherent manner.
    You going to have to point out what you are having trouble with dude.....

    Is it the part where science didn't prove or disprove something?
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    Originally Posted by gekkoboy14 View Post
    Then how would science>anecdote?
    Because it's better to eliminate and control for some variables (all that you can think of) than none at all, and better to examine an issue while eliminating obvious flaws (e.g. researcher and subject bias, using double-blind methodology) than try to draw conclusions without doing so.

    No one ever said scientific studies are perfect. They don't have to be, to be better than the alternative, which is entirely uncontrolled. And you know what? They're good enough to have given us the technology and understanding about the world that we have. Is that knowledge perfect? Nope. But the method seems to be doing something right.
    Last edited by Analyst; 04-22-2009 at 11:50 AM.
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    Originally Posted by gekkoboy14 View Post
    Then how would science>anecdote?
    I gave an answer to this question in one of my previous posts. I just want to point out that what anecdotes are "right" or "wrong" change over time also. Specifically, there were bodybuilders who trained at the first gym that I went to who told me that the nautilus bicep machine (the one where the biceps are at ear level and the arms are held out to each side) was best for developing a bicep "peak," that I should eat every 2-3 hours, that if I am going to eat a large cheat-meal that I should have it in the morning so that my body has all day to burn off the calories, that if I wanted ab defintion I should perform crunches for 30mins every day, that I should train every set to failure, and that carbs make you fat. Do you agree with those gym anecdotes?
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