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How fair is this presentation? Does it use techniques such as exaggeration, emotion,...

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ashifs | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted May 1, 2011 at 4:54 AM via web

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How fair is this presentation? Does it use techniques such as exaggeration, emotion, distortion, or selective evidence?

Based on this article:

http://www.csicop.org/si/show/science_and_pseudoscience_in_adult_nutrition_research_and_practice/

How fair is this presentation? Does it use techniques such as exaggeration, emotion, distortion, or selective evidence?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 9, 2011 at 6:26 AM (Answer #1)

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I am hardly an expert about nutrition, and so I have no idea whether this article's conclusions are true or false.  However, I can offer a few comments about the article's rhetoric (in other words, how it tries to be persuasive).

Things seem to get off to a bad start when we look at the headline of the piece:

Human nutrition research and practice is plagued by pseudoscience and unsupported opinions

The word "plagued" is obviously an appeal to the emotions. A word such as "hindered" would have been far less emotional.  However, the headline may not have been written by the author of the article. Even if he did write the headline, the author subsequently seems to have guarded himself well against charges of exaggeration, emotion, distortion, and selective evidence. Here are some representative quotations that show how he tries to protect himself against the potential charges you have listed (with key phrases highlighted in bold print).

EXAGGERATION:

My purpose here is to definitively (wherever possible) or tentatively (where the data are incomplete or nonexistent) answer a series of key questions about adult human nutrition using relevant rigorous scientific principles and methods. The data clearly show that much current advice . . . is frequently unproven, erroneous, or even harmful and is often based on pseudoscience or derivative incorrect professorial opinion.

EMOTION:

As I described earlier, unless proper studies are done (randomized, single variable, hypothesis-driven, with validated instruments and proper statistical analyses), the literature is doomed to potential, often-unknown bias and confounding.

DISTORTION:

With a rigorous scientific approach, we can then distinguish “true” nutritional claims with some certainty—separate facts and reasonable inferences from false claims and unproven hypotheses where there is inadequate, incorrect, or misinterpreted data.

SELECTIVE EVIDENCE:

In general the clinical trials in Table 3 are examples of controlled, randomized studies done with very large numbers of people often versus placebo. (It is true, however, that in certain populations the RDA of a few vitamins might be slightly higher than in normal adults . . .

I leave it to scientists to jude whether this article is persuasive. I can say, however, that it effectively tries to be persuasive, and that I have seen many other articles much guiltier of the charges you list than this article seems to be.

 

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