“Do you mind if I ask, what do you base that on?”
Learning to ask this twelve word question can improve your reasoning ability.
Many people put too much stock into what certain others say because “he’s a medical doctor” or “a scientist” or “an economist” or a “Harvard grad”.
You cannot determine if something is correct simply by establishing who said it. That’s called the appeal to authority fallacy. It is easily defeated by considering that other medical doctors, scientists, economists or Harvard grads say something different. Discussion on such matters usually turn into an unproductive he said/she said.
One of physicist Richard Feynman’s specialties was reviewing the experiments of other people to find the holes in their experimental design and logic. He once said:
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself…and you are the easiest person to fool.
Even experts can fool themselves.
A family member recently mentioned diet advice that the TV doctor, Dr. Oz, had shared. It didn’t sound right to me. I asked if Dr. Oz had provided any reasoning or evidence to support his claim. Did he explain why that particular diet would work or if anybody had followed that diet and had success? No.
So, I asked, Why do you believe him?
She replied, He’s a medical doctor.
I researched Dr. Oz’s advice on the internet and I couldn’t find any evidence to support it. I looked for studies and individual stories from folks who claimed success following that advice. I found one study that did not support his advice. And I found no individuals claiming to follow the advice with success.
I thought this was a good example to illustrate that just because someone who appears to be expert says something, it doesn’t mean it’s true. Dr. Oz may be correct, but I’d like to know what he based that advice on.
I always put more weight on results over opinions.
Which brings me to the infomercial. I recently saw a part of an infomercial for a set of exercise DVDs. The promise was that if you follow these DVDs for 45 minutes a day, six days a week, you too could look like some of the people in the infomercial.
I applaud the creators of the infomercial for showing me actual results. That’s why an infomercial might be better than a TV doctor. The infomercial sells you on results. The TV doctor relies on his credentials.