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Good read: Logical Fallacies in Online Patient Groups  

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VeganOstomy
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September 21, 2018 8:11 pm  

One of my good friends, Dan Sharp, just published a very enlightening article that every patient who uses online support groups (including this one) should read! 

Logical Fallacies in Online Patient Groups

Just your friendly neighborhood ostomate.

~ Crohn's Disease ¦ Ileostomy ~


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john68
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September 22, 2018 5:22 am  

Clever guy, this does raise very real concerns about online information. Brilliant piece of work.

ileostomy 31st August 1994 for Crohns


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Raine
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September 22, 2018 1:32 pm  

Interesting read.  

I've seen this type of thing over the years on crohns support boards.  

Raine


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Dona
 Dona
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September 22, 2018 2:20 pm  

Thanks for posting this. We could all employ more critical thinking in our lives. Especially on the internet. 

Onset of severe Ulcerative Colitus Oct.2012. Subtotal colectomy with illiostomy July 2015; Peristomal hernia repair ( Sugarbaker, mesh, laparoscopic) May 2017.


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dogtalkerer
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September 28, 2018 5:45 pm  

I thought the article is rather peculiar.   Is veganostomy or UOAA site an online patient group? if they are, Id say the statement, """" online patient groups are best characterized as unreliable sources of information.""""  is biased and inaccurate.   

this  is odd :   """"It can be difficult at times to realize the limitations of one’s own knowledge.""""""      then  the statement   """""" While people can become an expert on their own personal experiences and condition..."""""",   these two statements conflict,   a logic fallacy?   an expert usually isn't known for limited knowledge.      I'm skeptical anytime people use the word expert.  people drive cars all the time, does this make them expert car drivers?

the rooster example is good for an intro into premise/conclusion theory.   but is no help in deducing the hair loss medication x situation.    the authors  example would imply that: I took med x, problem went away, therefore med x works , is unreliable or false?  but if I add "headache" and "aspirin" in the above statement, most people would agree its a true statement. or simply A + B =C.

the statistics part is of no value to the article.   when I post a question about a problem,  I only want specific replies, not replies from the statistical norm population .  I want to talk to the pocket of people having the same problem, I do not see that as biased at all, but specific.  knowing the percentage of the total population that have my problem does nothing to help  find a solution.  who cares about statistics here , just a solution.

Appeal to nature: natural supplements,lions and bacteria.   what is the logic statement here?:

lions are dangerous, C diff bacteria is bad, both are natural, therefore natural supplements are bad???what is it??   seems the author is making his own fallacy here.  So my "only" question to the author, how would he put these 3 statements   in  proper premise/conclusion form?

to my knowledge, most healing medications derive from nature and are toxic.  it seems illogical when sick, to take something that makes you even sicker, but thats what chemo does.

 sometimes simple, odd sounding solutions work, saying     """"..... treatment ideas out there that have never been formally studied . Does this mean they are good ideas? Absolutely not. """"     i would call this an improper logical statement. some of Einsteins theories took 40yrs to prove. 

So;  treatment not studied, therefore treatment is ineffective.   again improper logic, how would new treatments ever get tested?

article  points out some general terminology in philosophical logic.   other than the overly  simple nontransferable examples,  there's no real discussion on making such fallacy determinations.       the whole discussion on logic doesn't need to be in article, since the author eludes to this in the end, why bother talk about it in the first place? better to have focused on  critic thinking,  being a skeptic, thinking things through and asking questions.

the articles general  format really applies to all formats, internet, radio, TV, newspapers.  I hear these kind of fallacies all the time on npr-national public radio.

 


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VeganOstomy
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September 29, 2018 11:42 am  
I won't touch on all of the points, as it would likely lead to an exhaustive debate, but I will clarify a few from my own perspective. 
Posted by: dogtalkerer

I thought the article is rather peculiar.   Is veganostomy or UOAA site an online patient group? if they are, Id say the statement, """" online patient groups are best characterized as unreliable sources of information.""""  is biased and inaccurate. 

The article focused on online groups (like this forum, Facebook groups, etc.). That is, online websites that allow the opinions of many to be shared in one place (vs. articles written by a single individual or small team). 

It was accurate in saying that most patient groups are unreliable. This has been researched, but it can also be easily observed by visiting any large forum or Facebook group. 

This  is odd :   """"It can be difficult at times to realize the limitations of one’s own knowledge.""""""      then  the statement   """""" While people can become an expert on their own personal experiences and condition..."""""",   these two statements conflict,   a logic fallacy?   an expert usually isn't known for limited knowledge. 

I don't see a problem with the two statements. 

One can be an expert in their own experience while lacking the knowledge to educate others. Likewise, our doctors may be medical experts about our conditions, yet they aren't experts about how it feels to experience life with a chronic condition. 

I'm skeptical anytime people use the word expert.  people drive cars all the time, does this make them expert car drivers?

I would say that person is an experienced driver, but not an expert. 

the statistics part is of no value to the article.   when I post a question about a problem,  I only want specific replies, not replies from the statistical norm population .  I want to talk to the pocket of people having the same problem, I do not see that as biased at all, but specific.  knowing the percentage of the total population that have my problem does nothing to help  find a solution.  who cares about statistics here , just a solution.

I actually found it to be highly relevant and an important point to bring up. 

Let me give you an example that illustrates why this is a problem when seeking answers online. 

I've seen this happen so many times. Say someone asks the following question on three different online groups : "What has been your experience been with XYZ medication to treat ABC?" 

Group 1 is a support group for people living with ABC who are struggling. The answers from this group might be negative. Nearly all members stating that XYZ caused lots of problems and they didn't get better. 

 

Group 2 is for people with ABC who enjoy outdoor sports. Most of the people in this group have tried XYZ and most of them report long-term remission with no side effects. 

Group 3 is a group for moms, but several members have ABC and have used XYZ. A few people share both positive and negative experiences. 

Now, if you only relied on these online patient groups, what would your opinion be of XYZ? What percentage of people would you think had adverse reactions or achieved remission? 

As you can see, you'd have a very difficult time making that assessment. In reality, XYZ may be effective in 50%of patients with only 3% experiencing mild side effects. 

If you only visited group 1, you'd likely avoid the meds, even though statistically it's a very good option. 

Appeal to nature:

This is actually a fallacy I see all the time, both from well-meaning patients and snake oil salesmen. 

The point is this : Just because someone tells you that something is natural, it doesn't mean it's safe or effective. 

Many patients may take probiotics because it's been sold as a "natural" product, but it may worsen symptoms for some. 

The advice is not to assume that something is better merely because it's "natural". 

 So;  treatment not studied, therefore treatment is ineffective.   again improper logic, how would new treatments ever get tested?

Treatment not studied = claims for or against it cannot be made. 

Online groups are filled with anecdotes and only research can tell us what's true and what's simply coincidence. 

In any case, I strongly believe that patients should be aware of these fallacies they may find themselves in. Knowing about them can make us better prepared to be more critical thinkers. 

 

Just your friendly neighborhood ostomate.

~ Crohn's Disease ¦ Ileostomy ~


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dogtalkerer
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October 4, 2018 6:21 pm  

 Ok, maybe that was too much at once.......my comments were more toward logic usage than points being made.  

lets just look at the rooster fallacy.   first, for those who are interested, I suggest googling " logic history" .  on wiki you'll find a  parts on Aristotle as well as  on Boole, Boole developed Boolean logic/algebra back in the mid 1800's.   we used his algebra to simplify digital logic circuit designs before they were built.  and I should have used "Aristotelian logic" instead of "philosophical logic" in first post.

 

from the authors article:

I started a new medication

Shortly after, some of my hair fell out

Therefore, the medication caused my hair to fall out

so this is incorrect form or something?    lets change medication to "chemo", certainly everyone these days  knows certain chemos DO cause hair to fall out.   now, whats the state of the statement? the 2 are nearly identical. say med x and med y.  therefore how can logic be used to show one is correct and one is not

 

even look at the rooster itself, but change a few things .

early man;  ground started to shake, then a big wave appeared. 

saw flash in sky,  and then later heard a loud rumble

sky turned dark gray, then water came from the sky

 

ok, these are all forms of  "After this, therefore because of this"

but we all know tsunamis can follow earthquakes, thunder follows lightning and rain can follow rain clouds.  but at some point in early history, these observations were not understood.

 

 the author is suggesting you can figure out fact from fiction based on these fallacy theorems.  the examples are all after-the-fact comments though, you only know the fallacy after it has been proven wrong, pretty sure thats not how logic worked way back when, even now for that matter. 

after several years programming machine control logic, using digital logic and knowing a couple different programming languages,  I took Aristotelian logic in college.   I was excited about the course only to be disappointed in its lack of usefulness.    even though it was the beginnings of mathematics and science that we know today, initially it was primitive.

 

guess it depends on your background, if you've read about aristotle or not.   for me, the article has too many misleading comments, extremely simple examples can easily mislead.

 


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dogtalkerer
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October 4, 2018 6:54 pm  

Expert:

i would sit down and have a very frank talk to your doctor about them being an expert.

years ago i did a lot of reading about Richard Feynman  and Einstein, what I came away with, the more you learn, the more you learn you don't know.  I had a good talk with my oncologist, it made a difference.  we talked about the unknowns in medicine.   I realize expert is used a lot now days in media,  I disagree with the over use of the word.  

I realize if you  don't have a background in aristotlian logic, my comments don;t make sense.  its history is interesting, but really who uses "fallacy" these days.  we have replaced aristotltes ideology with scientific method.  

and no,  I am not on facebook nor have a desire to be.


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VeganOstomy
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October 4, 2018 10:01 pm  
Posted by: dogtalkerer

from the authors article:

I started a new medication

Shortly after, some of my hair fell out

Therefore, the medication caused my hair to fall out

so this is incorrect form or something?   

Yes, the logic isn't sound because it makes the assumption that one thing is related to the other when it may not be. 

I'm that example, yes, the person started taking new medication and yes, their hair fell out soon after. But that could simply be a coincidence. Maybe this person also skipped taking supplements and now they are deficient in a vitamin that prevents hair loss. Or maybe they also started using a new shampoo that's too harsh on their scalp. 

The problem with people using the rooster fallacy is that it doesn't consider other explanations. I could say, "I wore and red shirt today and fell on the sidewalk, therefore red shirts cause people to fall." It's not sound logic. 

We can discuss logic and fallacies for months one end - it's quite a vast topic. But I think that for the average person to simply recognize certain fallacies, they are already practicing critical thinking. 

Just your friendly neighborhood ostomate.

~ Crohn's Disease ¦ Ileostomy ~


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dogtalkerer
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October 11, 2018 6:22 pm  

good job vegan.    it didn't dawn on me til the other day what you did.  you re-wrote the article leaving out the Aristotelian logic which I suggested was unnecessary, as well as some other stuff that just added unnecessary fluff.

as far as the statistic part, I carefully re-read the article.    as it stands on its own, no, statistics is not of any help in the question, "has anyone had trouble with (fill in the blank).      the thread on the cymed problem is an excellent example of no need for statistics.     your example  on the other hand,  added an additional criteria that changed the whole scope of the question/example.  but really,  your example is way past the scope of a 3/4 page paper on intro to statistics.    at best,  the statistics part does show that any answers on any forum are unreliable as far as info that could be published in say a technical research journal.    but straight forward unreliable, to me, makes no sense

as far as the research that determined forums unreliable, well I'd like to the see the numbers, how the research was done and what were the assumptions that were made.  my guess they assume the average reader has low intelligence and little ability to make any judgement calls.   I've used many different kinds forums over the years.    you need to have some sort of background knowledge and be able to sift through the useless info.  you also need a way to double check ideas and methods.  without these two tools, yeah your screwed out there.  

too much copy-and-paste tends to get you in trouble.

nice debate.


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