Learn to Avoid Fluff: Critical Thinking and the Internet

This morning I saw an ad on Facebook for the book “Get Serious” by Dr. Brett Osborn. Dr. Osborn claims that his book will “thwart the assault of the failed healthcare system” (a less meaningful statement about healthcare may have never been written). It piqued my interest, so I checked out his website.

Herein lies the problem with authors such as this: there is literally no information on the internet about Dr. Osborn that is objective and not allegorical. If you Google any of the authors selling these “anti-establishment” books, it’s the same story over and over. They have no peer-reviewed research, no credible organization mentions them, and all of their references are to (forgive me, my fellow bloggers) health blogs written by single moms. I’m not discounting the writing of single moms at all, they’re just not doctors.

Critical thinking is crucially important in the digital age. Not all information is equal and, much like your food diet, you need to carefully monitor your information diet as well. When utilizing critical thinking, we must ask ourselves questions such as:

  • What are this person’s credentials?
  • Has a credible organization cited his work or given reference to him?
  • Are his/her opinions objective and factual, backed up by research, or are they just personal beliefs?
  • What are credible organizations saying about this work?
  • Has he/she published anything in a peer-reviewed academic journal? (especially important for doctors and scientists)

The vast majority of “I will teach you hidden knowledge” authors out there fail these simple checks miserably. It’s possible that the author will fail in one category and still be credible… after all the only way knowledge can change is if people challenge it with new information. But to fail every single one of these, as Dr. Osborn has, usually means that the author is either lying or too stupid to understand the information they’re presenting.

Now, I’m not saying that his book is full of lies and misinformation, it’s just that it most likely doesn’t contain anything we haven’t been told a million times. Work out, get enough vitamins and minerals, don’t sit on your butt eating cake all day, etc. Moreover, these are things that the “failed healthcare system” has been saying for over twenty years.

He’s right about one thing: there are no shortcuts. Not in fitness, and not in science.