Thursday, April 28, 2016
A while back, I ran into a couple of articles on health and
"performance" fads that illustrate something I would like to see more
of in our culture: a healthy degree of skepticism.
In the first, Charles Krauthammer regales us with a whirlwind tour of things that have come and gone as conventional wisdom, and offers the following example of skeptical thought:
Yes, you need some C to prevent scurvy if you're seven months at sea with Capt. Cook and citrus is nowhere to be found. Otherwise, the [Vitamin C] megadose is a crock. Evolution is pretty clever. For 2 million years it made sure Homo erectus, neanderthalensis, sapiens, what have you, got his daily dose without having to visit a GNC store. [bold added]I am not sure I can endorse his view on placebos, although I have encountered it before.
The second article, from The Economist rightly mocks the "cult of extreme physical endurance" among business executives in a similar manner:
It is time to call a halt on all this hyperactivity, before it gets out of hand. There is no doubt that many bosses have heavy weights resting on their shoulders. But are they likely to make these decisions better if they arrive at work exhausted and sleep-deprived? Working around the clock is probably a sign that you are incapable of delegating, not that you are an invincible hero. Frenetic multi-tasking -- surfing the web while watching TV while listening to music -- is a formula for distraction, rather than good management. And bosses who think of themselves as supermen and superwomen can weaken their companies. As Peter Drucker, a management guru, once pointed out, "No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organised in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings." [bold added]There is nothing wrong with attempting to improve one's health or performance, but incredible claims should be an immediate cue that some independent thinking and research is in order. Sometimes, even common sense and a visit to such sites as Snopes can be enough to avoid wasting time, money, and energy on rubbish.