Sorting fact from fiction – for the layman

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The whole point of this blog is to discuss rational thinking, and the consequences of not doing it. One of the benefits of rational thinking is to help us evaluate propositions and form an opinion on some subject. But evaluating some areas is often very difficult for a non-expert – for example, climate change. So how should the layman go about it?

I recently heard an excellent talk on this very subject by Eran Segev, (president of the Australian Skeptics, http://www.skeptics.com.au) on the ABC’s Ockham’s Razor program, and it’s worth paraphrasing his thoughts.

Eran offered some rules of thumb for people to use when evaluating a proposition: Read the rest of this entry »

Glucosamine – should I take it or not?

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As a 50-something now, with 40-odd years of running-based sports behind me, I have been wrestling for some years now with the ‘will I’ or ‘won’t I’ of Glucosamine.

It certainly seems to be a product of my generation, and I myself have taken the stuff for years. Many of my friends and acquaintances have as well.

As a result of those mis-spent years running on roads, I have also had two arthroscopies on each knee, and am probably due another pair soon. My GP, with a background in sports medicine (and several years being doctor for an AFL club), strongly recommended Glucosamine. The surgeons doing the arthroscopy also recommended it, along with a little ingredient called Chrondroitin.

After years of taking the stuff however, I couldn’t honestly say I could feel any difference. Of course, this is just anecdotal, and no one person can ever know whether or not it’s making any difference, can they? For all you know, you could be no worse off without it.

This is why we rely on doctors, who in turn rely on clinical testing.

After asking the question of my GP, the answers were less than enthusiastic. He takes them as a prophylactic – the stuff does no harm, and he can afford it, was his position. He also suggested consulting the Cochrane Review (http://www2.cochrane.org/reviews/). This is a terrific, non-profit organisation which aims to summarise in plain language the state of play across a whole range of medicine and alternative medicine.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, here’s their summary of the studies: Read the rest of this entry »

A Good Read

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Currently reading Chris Hitchens’ “God is not great”, and really enjoying it, although his vocabulary is rather extensive, resulting in regular visits to websters online.
He revisits many of the key arguments against religion which have already been made by Dawkins et al, but adds significant historical context. While I’m generally not a fan of historical filler, it does help clarify some issues for me.
He is also surprisingly witty, even cheeky, and I have found myself laughing out loud – something one would never expect from his work.
In summary, I have found myself itching to get to back to the book, rather than having to ‘slog’ through it as I imagined. Go read it.

Here we go!

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Welcome. This is the first post from the rationalbrain.

Rationalbrain is dedicated to discourse in the areas of rational and free thinking, and the associated concepts of discovery leading to knowledge.

Should be done in a half a dozen posts or so.

r.