Questioning Authority

We are bombarded with diet and nutrition information. Separating wild claims from scientifically vetted data is on ongoing problem. Because T. Colin Campbell is himself a scientist one of the first issues in the Plant-Based Nutrition course was how to analyze the validity of data, information, advertising, products and claims. To do this we were introduced to a set of questions that the school called The Critical Questions Tool for Analyzing Nutrition Messages.

The Critical Questions Analytical Tool

1.    What is the message message recommending or promoting?
2.    What problem is this recommendation intended to solve? Is it, in your opinion, an important problem?
3.    What questions are being asked about this problem (by the author or in the research cited)? What questions are not being asked?
4.    What kinds of evidence are being used to answer these questions? How does it relate to other evidence on this topic, if you know?
5.    What kinds of assumptions are being made about the problem? (An assumption is a belief that may be unstated or taken for granted without providing evidence)
6.    What can you tell about the author’s approach to science and the scientific method? What might be missing?
7.    Are the conclusions offered well reasoned and warranted by the evidence provided? Explain what is and what isn’t to your own satisfaction.
8.    What might be some important consequences of accepting these conclusions (for you, for author/producer, for the environment, for society at large)?

We were encouraged to use this tool for evaluation of what was presented in class as well as how we evaluated new information as we encountered it. I found that taking the time to consider each of these questions was helpful in clarifying advertisements, articles, products and radio and TV commentaries. I hope you can use this tool too.

For fun try applying these same questions to some of the political messages that candidates are using to get our vote. You might find them as hard to swallow as the useless vitamin and mineral supplements.


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