I’ve just been involved in a few discussions based on information gleaned from the internet. I thought I would share my rules for internet information, and see if you have any others, or take issue with mine.
- Look for corroboration- if only one website has a certain opinion, it is automatically suspect in my mind.
- Look for detractors. Google “critique of ‘x'”, or “reviews of ‘x'”. If you only find one, or if the one can’t write or spell, see rule number one.
- Look for detail corroboration in neutral sites.
- How does this fit with what is generally accepted?
- Be suspicious of “Doctors don’t want you to know”, or “The government doesn’t want you to know” I concur the government and institutions are inept, but draw the line at malignant.
Using those rules, I was given Neal Barnard’s name as a trusted source of food information. I googled it and came up with PCRM, Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine. Their site was definitely biased in favor of veganism, and he is officially tied to PETA, as their medical adviser . Acticash.com and physicianscam.com both critiqued PCRM, but I had reason to believe those two were linked, so I couldn’t be sure there was more than one critiquer.
As far as corroborating information, I read a LOT of nutrition advice. I find lots of sites in favor of paleo, low carb, low fat, anti-gluten, anti-lactose, and even a few vegetarian. PCRM is about the only one I’ve ever seen that is that strongly vegan. Veganism is not widely supported by most nutritionists, as it is very difficult to achieve true balance, without a tremendous amount of will power and discipline.
I was going to leave PCRM in the question mark category, suspend judgement until further notice, till my daughter sent me this:http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/09/why-a-big-mac-costs-less-than-a-salad/
IT states in the article that the graphic was compiled by PCRM. My first thought was to google subsidies and see how much truth was in this. Here is one cite I found, the CATO institute
The U.S. Department of Agriculture distributes between $10 billion and $30 billion in cash subsidies to farmers and owners of farmland each year.1 The particular amount depends on market prices for crops, the level of disaster payments, and other factors. More than 90 percent of agriculture subsidies go to farmers of five crops—wheat, corn, soybeans, rice, and cotton.2 More than 800,000 farmers and landowners receive subsidies, but the payments are heavily tilted toward the largest producers.3
This was one of the few sites that put numbers on it, but I found several others that were complaining about farm subsidies, and they all had the same line, meat and dairy is not as heavily subsidized as grains and cotton.
All this to say that if your biases get the best of you, you become an unreliable source. It doesn’t make them evil, and I wouldn’t automatically discount everything they say, but I would see if through the filter that they are heavily biased, and they are not being 100% honest about that bias. They are less about health than they are about animals. Eating meat is not the worst thing for you, nor is dairy.
In light of this, in case you can’t figure it out, my bias is strongly in the direction of Michael Pollen. Eat real food, not too much. Yes, less meat and dairy is better for most people, but I don’t think no meat is better. Or eggs, milk, and fish. Eat lots of veggies, and less of every thing else is healthy. Eating fewer calories, independent of the source, is better. Eating nutrient dense foods is good. Milk, vegetables, eggs, fruit and meat are nutrient dense. Avoid sugar and baked goods, they have few or no nutrients and lots of calories.
The internet is a great source for information, but you have to do your due diligence. How do you do yours? Did I miss anything? Do you have any funny misinformation stories?