Curb Your Enthusiasm for Headlines and Breaking News

The next time you see a headline proclaiming a medical breakthrough, think of this ancient Latin expression: Cum grano salis. It means with a grain of salt. That expression started because salt used to be very valuable. And, it was in high demand as a food preservative, as a poison antidote and a taste enhancer. Salt was relatively scarce at one time. It also was thought to have healing qualities. Now that’s a laugh, since in modern times it kills those who overuse it for long periods by raising their blood pressure. But, to urge taking one thing or another with a grain of salt still means to look upon an object or proposition with a healthy dose of skepticism, suspicion and caution.

Thus, where headlines and modern-day carnival barkers on TV send a message of urgency or proclaim a breakthrough, remember cum grano salis. It’s easy to get excited at some of the headlines in daily newspapers, especially those heralding new research findings. The media does this in part to sell newspapers or get you to tune in. Maybe it’s done in part by editors in newsrooms who simply don’t have time to read the full studies. In any event, I’ve noticed a serious disconnect between the promise and the reality in announcements about the latest research findings on health matters. Politics

If you think you are easily fooled, you might be. I recommend an attitude of bemused skepticism at all times, but particularly with regard to newspaper accounts of the latest discoveries from medical research. Don’t put too much stock in these unlikely headlines, at least not before you read to the end of the stories or check out the articles in respected journals. Adopt the perspective of Sherlock Holmes, namely, Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, has got to be true. Thing is, once you eliminate the impossible AND the improbable, there is seldom anything left! So, don’t be an easy mark for nonsensical things, whether they be headlines in newspapers or sensational stories. In the latter category are the Indian Monkey Man scare, the Loch Ness monster, Big Foot, space visitors in New Mexico, the Yeti, trolls under bridges and the candidacy of Sarah Palin for any public office, let alone president of the United States. Tooth fairies? Well, that’s something else – there might be a tooth fairy, because where else could that nickel have come from that I discovered under my pillow after a tooth extraction long, long ago?

Instead of credulity, put your faith in things solid, reputable, virtuous, wise and above suspicion, such as the typical essay in an AWR. These essays are filled with startling conclusions and partially-baked opinions founded on irreproducible findings, inspired hyperbole and medicated data intermingled, intertwined and occasionally intertwixed with subjective experience. How can you top that? On several occasions, these reflections and surmises have been shown to contain elements of truth, however elusive veracity in the health and medical field can be. REAL wellness perspectives always work, and that is the best measure. If forced to choose between statistical methodologies or utilitarian discoveries, you are usually better off with the latter but, fortunately, the choice of positions is always wider!

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