I had a long chat last night with a colleague about "trusting information sources." We often have to make important decisions for our own health or education and an interesting question is "how do we find good information" so that we can make good decisions? The truth is that we outsource those decisions...to others that we trust...some we put high levels of trust in (medical researchers from top institutions) others we put much less trust in (e.g., a therapist appearing on TV with no known credentials).
The other day I came across a news article in my local paper, the Keene Sentinel, that a research group called the EEnvironmental Working Group had done an extensive study on the effectivness and safety of sunscreens sold in the U.S. The results startled me: The Neutrogena sun block I had been using (recommended by my Dermatologist) was rated as one of the worst (ineffective in blocking sun; high toxicity)...while the sunscreen made in my "back yard" in nearby Gilsum, NH (Badger) was rated among the best.
While I had previously "outsourced" my opinion about sunscreen to my Doc...I believed that I now had better information. For the time being at least...I'm using Badger 30 PF sunscreen! My big point: We tend to "outsource" our decisions too easily...without spending time seeking relevant data. We must know that our Doctors are capable of poor judgement? Or that they are simply not accessing relevant data themselves?
Working with individuals on the Autism Spectrum is a constant reminder to avoid sentimentality in decision making. We need to "get real" by questioning conventional wisdom, and spending a bit of time pursuing more and better information. I'm off to Kauai where you can be sure I'll be wearing my big Tilley hat, sunglasses, and applying #30 Bagder sunscreen...at least until someone shows me data that suggests I do otherwise.