Episode 188 of the Institute of Performance Nutrition‘s “We Do Science” podcast! In this episode, I (Laurent Bannock) discuss “Embracing the Ethos of Scientific Scepticism” with Dr Nick Tiller PhD (Harbor-UCLA, USA) and Prof Stu Phillips PhD (McMaster University, Canada)
Discussion Topics Include:
- Snake oil and fraudulent claims in the health, wellness and sports nutrition industry
- Bad science and its impact on research and practice
- Why being a responsible sceptic requires a comprehensive set of critical thinking skills
- Why having the courage to confront pseudoscience can potentially alter the paradigm, and reverse the current emphasis on marketing over science
Key Paper(s) / Book(s) Referred to:
- How Skepticism (not Cynicism) Can Raise Scientific Standards and Reform the Health and Wellness Industry
- Baseless claims and pseudoscience in health and wellness: A call to action for the sports, exercise, and nutrition-science community
- The Skeptic’s Guide to Sports Science
Related Podcast Episodes:
Check out our other podcasts, publications, events, and professional education programs for current and aspiring sports nutritionists at www.TheIOPN.com and follow our social media outputs via @TheIOPN
[00:00:00] Dr. LB: Welcome to episode 188 of The Institute of Performance Nutrition’s We Do Science podcast. I am the host, Dr. Laurent Bannock.
Now, today, a really important discussion was had. Normally we get into unraveling the science behind various exercise physiology and sports nutrition concepts, mechanisms. All sorts of stuff that relates to helping athletes become bigger, faster, stronger. Or recreational gym goers get the results that they’re after. Body composition, exercise, you name it. These are the things that we get into.
But behind all of this goes thought, beliefs. Things like critical thinking. The need to be skeptical. But not so open-minded that your brains fall out, which will all make sense when you listen to this podcast. Okay, it’s not necessarily sexy topics like protein, creatine and so on. But this is important, what we talk about today. And I know that you will get a lot out of it.
I really enjoyed listening to my two guests today, which was Professor Stu Phillips and Dr. Nick Tiller, off the back of a series of publications by Dr. Nick tiller all about this stuff. And boy, is it interesting.
Anyway, I’ll let you have a good listen in a second. But before you listen to us talking about skepticism, and critical thinking theory and all that sort of thing, please check out our website at www.theiopn.com where, well, you can read our latest publication on evidence-based practice and guidelines for sports nutritionist. You’ll find that under research on our website. We’re doing a podcast about that soon.
Our 100% online diploma, master’s level diploma fully accredited in sports nutrition, this podcast, back episodes, resources, that sort of thing. Our new professional development program for current aspiring sports nutritionists, that’s up and running now. You can see that on the website. And all sorts of other things that we’re up to and releasing on an almost weekly basis on our website. Lots of new content on there. Come check it out at www.the iopn.com.
Now here’s our conversation with Stu Phillips and Nick Tiller on how skepticism can raise scientific standards and all such thoughts behind critical thinking in sport and exercise nutrition in particular. Enjoy.
[00:02:36] Dr. LB: Hi, and welcome back to the Institute of Performance Nutrition’s We Do Science podcast. I am the host, Dr. Laurent Bannock. And I’ve got two absolutely awesome guests back on today. I say back because these guys have been on this podcast before where we’ve talked about probably the most popular topic there is, course, being protein, with Professor Stu Phillips. We’ve done quite a few different podcasts along with the late great Professor Kevin Tipton. God bless his soul. And Nick, Dr. Nick Tiller. You’re also here. And we’ve had you on before to talk about ultra-endurance racing, which is by no means your only area of interest.
In fact, it was a paper that you published or co-authored with Stu that spurred my interest in putting this podcast together. And also, actually, an article that we’ll also talk about in the Skeptical Inquirer that you had written along this lines of skepticism and how important it is to raising scientific standards.
And from my perspective, with an interest in evidence-based practice in sports nutrition, is this business of evidence. What even is the evidence and how relevant is that evidence to inform decision-making? This whole business of decision-making. Anyway, we’ve got a juicy chat. Not always something people want to talk about because it’s a difficult one. And we’ll reveal why this topic is such a hot topic.
Nick, firstly, if you’d like to tell us about yourself?
[00:04:11] Dr. NT: Of course. Well, I come from a sport and exercise science background. In the US, it’s Kinesiology more broadly. But I did my undergraduate degree in sport and exercise science at a university called the University of Hertfordshire, which is just outside North London. And I stayed to do my master’s in exercise physiology and applied sports nutrition.
I knew at that point that I wanted to be a physiologist. That was the area that I’d really fallen in love with. I remember having a lecture on all the different bodily responses to different environmental stimuli, whether it was exercise, or nutrition, or aviation, or deep-sea diving, or whatever it happened to be. The body has this wonderful ability to adapt to the various environmental stresses. And I just remember thinking to myself, “Okay, I want to study this full-time. This is the area for me.”
At the time, like most postgraduates, I wanted to work in elite sport. I worked very diligently almost obsessively to get a job in high-performance sport, which I eventually did. Did that for a couple of years. And realized that, actually, I was in love with the science more than I was the sport.
And I mean, both of you guys have worked in high-performance sport. And, really, as passionate as I was about that, the science is a little bit diluted down. Everything has to be very applied, very specific and has to be filtered through the coach necessarily so. But that means that the science doesn’t necessarily get the priority. And that was really what I was most passionate about.
I left a high-performance world to do my PhD in human respiratory physiology. That was at Brunel in West London with Dr. Lee Romer. And then I had a few different positions in academia as an associate professor before moving to UCLA to focus on my research.
But really, I guess most relevant to this discussion is that, over the past decade or so, more than a decade, I’ve been trying to bridge the gap between the ethos of science and the scientific method, the scientific skepticism, or everything that we understand about this process; humility, evidence-based practice, testing your hypotheses, mitigating bias and prioritizing the process above the conclusions. All of these principles were in stark contrast to what we see in the modern health and wellness industry where science really is subordinate to marketing. And the marketing rhetoric is really what’s prioritized. I’ve spent the last decade or so trying to bridge the gap between those two opposing entities. And I guess that sort of has brought us to this discussion today.
[00:06:49] Dr. LB: Yeah, it’s a crusade, for sure.
[00:06:53] Dr. NT: Right.
[00:06:53] Dr. LB: I’m excited to get into this topic for various reasons. But, Stu, as I said, welcome back. It’s definitely not the first time we’ve had you here. It is possible that some people have not listened to previous episodes or have come across you on other podcasts. Why don’t you give us a little bit of a background?
[00:07:12] Prof. SP: Yeah, sure. I won’t tell you where I did my degrees because they were a long time ago. But I’ve been a faculty member at McMaster University for 26 years now. I’m a professor in the Department of Kinesiology.
Spent most of my career looking at the interaction between various forms of exercise and nutrition and really focusing in on skeletal muscle. I would say that the early part of my time here was really focused on younger individuals. And more recently, it shifted towards sort of older individuals as I get older, right?
Research becomes me search, right? But really focusing in on protein and lots of other supplements and their interaction with exercise. Predominantly resistance exercise and then the hypertrophy phenotype that goes along with that. But we’ve dabbled in lots of other things along the way.
I think from my perspective, a lot of the want to maybe set the record straight on a few of these things has come from areas in science in which I’ve changed my mind. And it’s been humbling in some sense because some of it is having to wind back some of the possible. I don’t know if it’s rhetoric as much. But maybe some of the hype around certain things like protein, for example, and its role.
And when you’re confronted by evidence to the contrary that this is really not very kind of important, you’re obviously forced to maybe walk a few things back. And that tends to upset people. But, as I say, science is a process. It’s not an absolute thing. And so, it’s been humbling to come to the realization that some of the things you held near and dear earlier in your career all of a sudden are not maybe as big a deal as you once thought.
[00:08:58] Dr. LB: Yeah. Actually, I remember a number of podcasts that we’ve done with various guests. But including Kev, of course. And you’ve mentioned that before. And it’s very interesting because, I mean, protein research is such a popular area. It is easily – I joke all the time about this on the podcast. But it is by far the biggest number of downloads I get, is whenever protein is mentioned in the title. It’s just crazy.
We’re going to get into this in a minute. There’s a lot of information out there and a lot of perspectives. Some of which are qualified, whatever that means. And some of which are just downright bonkers. And some of which are deliberately twisted for various commercial purposes or otherwise.
But it is very interesting when you’ve got all that stuff going on. But then we get the likes of yourselves. Actual researchers doing the highest level of research in this field. And you’re saying, “Actually, I’ve changed my mind about this topic.” I find that utterly fascinating.
But therein lies some of the issue, doesn’t it? Because if we’ve got some disagreements going on between experts in our field. And by experts, I mean actual experts, which we can define in a minute as well. I think that would be important. It can be a little bit confusing for the consumer who doesn’t necessarily have – well, almost certainly doesn’t have PhDs or some form of science education.
And as you guys have pointed out in your paper, and also, Nick, in your national inquirer, Skeptical Inquirer. Almost got you into the wrong publication there. Even people with that level of training.
[00:10:35] Prof. SP: Nick’s moonlighting [inaudible 00:10:37].
[00:10:37] Dr. LB: Yeah, I bet. I bet. I bet. Well, you know, you’ve got to get this information out into the popular media. Slip it into some dodgy papers. You never know.
But I link that to my own experience. Because, of course, my journey started out as a PT in this industry. I’ve had various careers. But that was my health and fitness industry, was as a PT. Sidetracked into alternative medicine. All sorts of stuff that I talked about a lot in the early episodes of this podcast. And I absolutely got stuck deep into this stuff and believed every bit of it. Was singing this stuff. You need to do this. These pills, potions, whatnot.
And I thought I was pretty well educated until I realized I wasn’t. And that was a pretty scary place to be. But the stimulus for that is many 15 years or whatever it is now, almost 20 years now, later ended up being retrained and educated.
In fact, my own doctoral research was on bridging the gap between science and practice. And we’ve just had another paper published on this topic, which is an upcoming podcast. But I’m really keen to get my teeth into this topic for personal reasons. But also, I think there’s an awful lot of people listening to this podcast who are obsessed, for all the right reasons for the most part, about nutrition, sports nutrition, the science and all that stuff.
And although we do mention it quite often, there is an issue when it comes to science publications, quantity rather than quality and so on, which we do dabble. We get into this. On most podcasts, we briefly mentioned it. But this would be the first time that we actually properly cover this topic.
Nick, help us understand what led you to wanting to get this paper out. What was the reason for doing this? Because it’s quite a lot of work anyway to do this.
[00:12:30] Dr. NT: Well, as I said, I’ve been writing and speaking about this subject in one form or another for well over a decade. And as you kindly mentioned, I have a monthly column in the Skeptical Inquirer. I’m talking about this sort of stuff all the time. But it reaches a certain audience. It doesn’t necessarily reach academics. Certainly, not people, exercised scientists, within our discipline.
And these are the folks that I really want to try and reach more and more. Because the people that seem to be most receptive to the stuff that I’ve written about, health and wellness skepticism most broadly, are people who are science enthusiasts and who are critical thinkers. The type of people that would attend a conference on science and skepticism. But very rarely are these people exercised scientists, the people who are doing the research, people who are communicating the science. People like us.
And I really want to try and do more to – you were talking about bridging the gap. But bridge the gap between this message of scientific skepticism and the exercise science community. Because one of the key things that we mention in our short paper is how being a scientist and being a critical thinker can be mutually exclusive.
The fact that somebody has a science education does not necessarily mean that they can think critically but does not necessarily mean that they can mitigate bias. And being a good scientist above all means not just being able to look at evidence and apply evidence. But being able to take a look at the way that you are assessing information. The way that you are disseminating at bias and address your biases. Something we call cognitive debiasing.
Where are those biases being introduced? Are we exhibiting a confirmation bias in the way that we interpret data? Are we being truly objective in the way that we are arriving at conclusions? And a lot of the time, we are practicing what we think is good science but we’re forgetting the broader picture of being able to do that effectively.
I really wanted to work within our field a little bit more. Write papers like this. We wrote a slightly broader paper along similar lines that was published in Sports Medicine a couple of months ago. And really just try and communicate these important themes to of people within our discipline.
And I wanted to focus more on – a little bit more nutrition and supplements. And that’s when I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to coauthor with Stu given it that he’s a leader in this field.
[00:14:51] Dr. LB: Yeah. No. That’s great. Well, I love this concept of ignorance. But also, we have to bear in mind that there’re an awful lot of people who are ignorant of their own ignorance of course. And that’s what we’re trying to do, is help them understand that stuff.
[00:15:04] Dr. NT: Just to stay on that point just for a second. People often don’t understand almost the philosophy of science. The modern-day scientific method is derived from the Socratic method. And that is premised on the idea of Socratic ignorance. You have to be aware of the reach of your own ignorance.
And that’s sort of where a lot of modern scientists fall down. Because we’re so focused on our own area of research, we forget to think about, “Okay, what do I not know? And what do I not yet understand?” And that’s kind of where we need to spend a little bit more time.
[00:15:34] Dr. LB: I gave a lecture just for the pandemic about the epistemology of ignorance. I’m not going to spend time on that right now. But it is a fascinating topic. But speaking of which, Stu, you are well known for battling some of this stuff on social media, which is amazing given how busy you are as a researcher and a professor. You’re getting a lot of publications out there. You’ve got a lot of responsibilities with your PhD students and so on and so forth. And yet, you still obviously feel it necessary to spend the time and effort trying to fight the good fight on this stuff. Including this paper with Nick. Why is that? Why have you felt that that’s necessary and continue to do so?
[00:16:17] Prof. SP: I’m not sure, to be honest with you. Most of it has come around – I was trained as a biochemist. I think of things in biochemical detail before I think of the physiology, to be honest with you. That’s was my training.
And a lot of, I’ll call it exercise science, tends to be – and this is not to sort of paint with a very broad brush. But it’s risen out of – it has roots probably more in sort of – British people call it PE, or phys ed, and sports science. And a lot of sports science is, I think, born out of things that people did because they worked for somebody else. They just got the empirical that worked for that athlete. This is how we do things.
And there’s been a lot more lore, I think, in the area of sport science than probably other sciences. And Nick goes to pains to point out that sports science, it’s a very young science. Kinesiology is, the term even, maybe 50-years-old at most.
I think that that’s a little bit of maybe some of where this has come from. It’s not like physics, or chemistry, or other very – or biology, very old sciences, very mature that have gone through number of iterative cycles of having theories and then theories being debunked and then et cetera, et cetera. And sort of certain things have stuck. Whereas we’re not even a century into “sports science”.
But I think that that has meant that some principles and some things came from a position of a lack of understanding of basic, either, physiology, biochemistry, endocrinology, et cetera, and maybe aren’t as well grounded.
And add to that than the monetization of things like supplements and other issues, then I think you begin to ferment a little bit of an environment where things could really go off the rails.
More than anything, it’s been my understanding of biochemistry or biology that has puzzled me when I first saw some of these what I would call dogmatic beliefs in sports science. I would be like, “That’s not how I understand this to be.”
And so, yeah, we’ve said about challenging them and trying to find the right basis as opposed to just accepting that that’s the way it is because tens of other people or hundreds of other people before you thought that that’s the way it should be. There’s been a number of examples, but probably more famously post-exercise rises in anabolic hormones. Heavy loads being necessary for muscle hypertrophy. And a couple of others. But supplement-wise, we’ve taken around at a few things. And it’s been gratifying to do that.
I’m not really sure where it comes from. But there’s a part of me that does enjoy pushing back against a long-held belief, particularly when we think the science says that it’s not exactly the way that it should be.
[00:19:22] Dr. LB: I wish I had the proper sound effects. I would have pressed the button that was the jackpot belief. The word belief for me is such an interesting word here. Because – I mean, look. For me as a nutritionist, right? I only have to go to a dinner party or something where I happen to mention what I do for a living. And just everything goes downhill from there, which is why I often tell people – and forgive me if there are accountants out there. But I tell them I’m an accountant. And then they don’t want to talk to me.
But belief is a crazy thing. And everything from the consumer to the researcher, there’s a degree of belief and how this belief informs or impacts decision-making, biases. I mean, there’s all sorts of stuff, which we’ll dig into.
But repositioning me from just being a nutritionist to a nutritionist who, for the most part, has worked with elite athletes. And my athletes, basically, they’ve got one thing in mind. And that is to win the competition. Win the match. In the case of Olympic athletes, they’ve got a four-year cycle before they’re even going to potentially podium. And there’re only a few spaces on the podium. And if they don’t do things that work, it’s a serious problem.
Now it may not first do no harm. It may – all that stuff, which we’ll get into in this conversation. But ultimately, knowing the difference between quality and fluid evidence, or right and wrong and so on so forth, which I hope to explore further, really does matter when you’re interested in outcomes and outcomes that results in the intended or desired results that people are after. It’s a big deal this stuff.
And sports nutrition, which is the focus of this podcast, is an interesting field. Like you said, it’s a sub-discipline of sports science that is not old at all. And sports nutrition is a real young newbie in that sphere. And yet, one of the tools in our toolbox is supplements, which constitutes – I don’t know. You guys will have the answer to this. But it’s a vast amount of money. Is it trillion-dollar industry now? Certainly, multi-billion I would imagine.
[00:21:39] Prof. SP: Could be coming close to trillion on a global level. And I know it’s hundreds of billions in North America alone.
[00:21:47] Dr. LB: Yeah. I mean, that’s just – but that’s crazy. And unfortunately, what goes with that is money and the pressure. Particularly now in the UK, we talk about cost of living crisis. People have different ways of phrasing these things. But people are trying to make a living. And there may be a bias to recommend products and services, tests and various other things that we see out there that will result in increasing revenue for people. And it’s a sad fact that that is a factor that exists out there. But either which way, it’s a big business. And with that come some problems.
Having said that, some of these things can be useful. And we’ve discussed that with various experts on this podcast. But centrally to this, it’s this ability to navigate this concept of whether something is valid or not.
And Nick, let’s bring this back to you because you use the phrase snake oil a bit in this. And that’s a term that I think everyone’s heard of not just in North America where, obviously, this comes from originally. But why has this been a problem for so long? And just how long has superstition and pseudoscience been around do you think?
[00:23:03] Dr. NT: Well, since the dawn of civilizations, pseudoscience, and bad science and false claims have been around since the earliest recorded history. In this paper, we give some examples chronologically from Mesopotamia to the Roman and Greek Empires, all the way through to the Old West. The term snake oil itself was derived from the Old West.
When they were building the Transcontinental Railroad in the 1800s, some of the workers that the conditions were particularly severe. And lots of very long hours. Very dangerous, hard work. Some of the Chinese immigrants would rub the oil from the Chinese water snake onto the joints. They shared that with some of their co-workers.
And before long, the snake oil preparations were being toured around the Old West. And they were making all sorts of miraculous claims about how this thing could cure pain and cure all kinds of medical ailments. Of course, not evidence-based at all. This was before analytical chemistry had been developed in the 1900s. They couldn’t even tell what was in the product.
And in the early – I think about 1905 when they finally did test one of the main snake oil preparations that was developed and sold by a guy called Clark Stanley, they found that it really contained no active ingredients and certainly nothing that would reduce inflammation or pain. And from that moment on, the term snake oil has been synonymous with false and fake, or health fraud essentially.
And even though a lot of the products and services that we associate with snake oil have now been relegated to the pages of history through the process of modern science because we can test these things and determine to a relatively high-degree of accuracy if these things work or not, snake oil, or at least traditional snake oil, has been replaced by, as we’ve been talking about, a lot of these supplements, and services, and garments, and sport shoes, and fad diets and anything for which a health claim can be made, these things are going to be sold.
And it comes back to the point you made earlier about belief. It doesn’t matter if these things work. Manufacturers of these products know that as long as people believe that they work, then it’s going to manifest in sales. And coupled with the very, very poor, the very lax regulations on the sale of these products, it leads to the sales – the commercial sales is actually going through the roof because the science is subordinate to marketing.
That’s really the crux of what we’re trying to do here, is to get people thinking a little bit more about, “Okay, why am I investing in these products? Is there evidence to show that it works? And if not, why is my belief constantly being reinforced?” And it really comes down to the fact that these marketing companies understand our biases better than we do. And they exploit our biases in order to sell product.
[00:25:51] Dr. LB: What’s fascinating about this though is just how fixated people can be on their beliefs. And even when presented with evidence, varying kinds of evidence, they can still not budge on their positions that they have on this, which makes this very difficult.
And actually, there was a bit in your Skeptical Inquirer piece that you talked about rather than tackling people – we’ll get into debunking and so on in a minute. But getting people to question their own beliefs and having them get to a point where maybe they can’t actually answer your questions or can be a rather interesting position.
But Stu, I want to bring this to you because we do exist in an interesting place in sport science in particular, where there is a massive growth of evidence that’s coming from the research community. But if one was looking at the criticisms that have been levied at the research community in sports science is the quantity rather than quality perspective. What are your thoughts about that angle of things when we talk about evidence in the context that I’ve just mentioned?
[00:27:07] Prof. SP: I’ll be the first to admit that research isn’t easy. You can maybe sort of forgive some people for trying to do as best they can with limited resources. Because the funding for the type of, say, sports science research that’s out there compared to a disease-based research paradigm is – I mean, it’s nothing basically. People kind of try to do the best that they can. And some people are doing good jobs and some people I think don’t do a particularly good job.
One of the things that you have to bear in mind is that physiologists, and with supplements and everything, are now I think just coming to grips with a concept that pharma has known for years, and that’s that individual variability is inherent in testing humans, right?
The concept that a placebo, in a lot of circumstances, or a nocebo can essentially have in various – particularly sports performance arena is a pretty marked effect. And probably that’s even been exploited by some coaches and just sort of reinforcing to their athletes the specialness of something and the athlete believing that it’s going to do something.
And there’s probably no harm in that. But when it’s put against a backdrop of marketing and sales, the question is, “Well, who’s getting duped? And by how much? And how much money do you have in your pocket?” As you point out, cost of living is going up and up.
And I think that that’s the real rub for me with a lot of research that’s done. First, it’s hard to do. It’s generally small sample sizes. Sometimes it’s not appropriately controlled. Other times, and it’s rarely, if ever done, in elite athletes. But other times it gets misinterpreted. Or even the authors themselves aren’t really certain what the research means. But it’s very difficult to sort of filter out the signal in the noise. And if you can, then that’s great. But when you get down to reviewing all the evidence for supplements, there’s sort of maybe four or five that kind of repeatedly come to the top.
And if nothing can be caffeine, then that’s sort of where it sits, isn’t it? Is that that’s reproducible. Pretty marked for most people. And everything else is compared to it. That tells you a lot about the maturity of the science and what else you can kind of expect with a given supplement, for example.
[00:29:41] Dr. NT: And I don’t I don’t necessarily think that there’s any difference fundamentally between sports nutrition research and other fields in terms of the emphasis on quantity over quality. I think it seems to manifest maybe a little bit more in nutrition research for the reasons that Stu just mentioned.
But I think one of the big problems is the way that the science is then portrayed in the media. Because if there is one, let’s say, a poor-quality study with low sample size and rubbish statistics that shows that a supplement can help with weight loss, let’s say it completely contradicts the scientific consensus and it’s published in a low-quality journal. Most scientists would look at it and go, “Okay. Well, this isn’t very convincing for me.” And they’ll put it to one side.
But all it takes is for somebody in the New York Times, or The Washington Post, or Peloton Fitness Magazine and say, “Look, there’s a published study here showing that X, Y, Z supplement can help with weight loss. And it’s all over the front page.” And that’s how misinformation is essentially spread.
And unfortunately, most of the people who are writing these types of articles for the media, they’re not scientists. They’re often not scientifically trained. They don’t have the understanding to interpret the nuances of the studies. They see a published study, they’re not able to, like a scientist would, pick holes in it to look at the statistics, look at the sample size, the power calculation, all of these very specific scientific methodological things that we would highlight. And that’s why it’s important that I think people who are doing the research, they often have a responsibility to communicate it as well.
I think it’s great when scientists are active on social media, like Stu, when we’re writing for mainstream articles. Because if we’re not going to write about this research, then it’s going to be left to people who don’t necessarily have the nuanced understanding of the science.
[00:31:34] Prof. SP: I think the other point – and just to like nitpick a little bit here, and I’ve said this on social media several times, is that people talk about the bar to get past is that it’s a published article. But rewind this field 20 years, 30 years, there were a handful of journals that you had choices to publish in. And then it dropped off fairly sharply into other journals that nobody really had access to.
But now with the internet and online-only journals. So there actually is no physical print copy of the journal. They’re relatively cheap from that perspective to produce. There are no barriers to publication anymore. Everything can get published. You can find a journal. You can pay the open access fee or not.
And most of these journals, if not all of them, are listed somewhere either on Google Scholar or PubMed. They’re indexed and searchable and get a hold of the science and interpret it themselves. There’s nothing that can’t get, and I use quotation marks, “peer-reviewed and published anymore.” There is no barrier.
And so, it’s not even like that is a requirement for something to appear, to use the term sciency, to some extent as a means of judging the quality of what is out there. Let alone methodological details. It’s certainly not something that is a big deal.
[00:33:06] Dr. LB: I think that’s an important point you make. And you mentioned sciency. And that was something I wanted to talk about. I think it was Stephen Colbert that came out with Truthiness. Didn’t he?
[00:33:15] Prof. SP: Yeah. Yeah, that’s a Colbertism, for sure.
[00:33:17] Dr. LB: Yeah, Colbertism. And then a great article by Professor Louise Burke on sciencyness in sports nsutrition, which is well worth reading. But I’ll link to that in this because that’s kind of where we’re at, is this issue of it’s not the downright sort of fraudulent snake or peddling fraud necessarily. And it’s not necessarily the sort of Nobel prize-winning research. It’s this gray area stuff that I think becomes an issue.
And I mentioned earlier about being ignorant or ignorant of one’s ignorance. We got this issue where this stuff is rather difficult to differentiate quality from flawed. And anyway, depending on what question you ask will depend on how you answer that, won’t it?
Because, I mean, the journalists – I mean, there is a requirement for some of them to have science communication training. I realized that’s not necessarily sufficient for some of this stuff. But it’s very confusing nonetheless. And that’s why we’re having these conversations, of course.
But Nick, you’ve talked about in your articles this other thing that I find particularly interesting. And people will be much more familiar because of the COVID pandemic and so on. And it’s this business of anti-science. I think that’s worth throwing in the mix for a minute. Because you do take some rather crazy angry people out there who have certain agendas. What does that term even mean? And how does that impact sport, and exercise science and nutrition you think?
[00:34:47] Dr. NT: Yeah, this is not a new thing. I suppose it’s been really cemented and popularized because of the element of social media and the way that we can all share information. Everyone’s given a platform these days to share their opinions whether or not they’re valid.
This is a term that Asimov wrote, I think, in the 1960s about there’s this growing strain of anti-intellectualism in America. And it was a big long quote. I can’t remember all of it in detail. But really, it mirrors the kind of problems that we’re dealing with in 2023 in a modern world. And it’s really just this idea that there’s a lack of public trust in science. And I think largely, as I’ve said, this is because of social media and the way that we can share messages and share misinformation and disinformation so easily.
I think we wrote in the article this idea that if you had a pseudoscientific product that you wanted to sell in the 1800s, 1900s, it would require some kind of horse and car and a touring theater company. And you’d be relying on letters, and prints, and newspapers and things to get the message out. Whereas the same kind of thing can be spread to millions and millions of people across the world almost instantaneously.
There’s research showing that fake news spreads further, farther and deeper than facts on social media in all categories of information, not just in health and wellness. Social media and the internet is a big part of it.
But I think, one, it comes back to what we were talking about at the start. This idea that one of the real strengths of science is that we change our mind. We change our perspectives on things based on new evidence that becomes available. This is absolutely crucial to extending and developing new knowledge and acquiring new understanding of different phenomena.
But unfortunately, the world we live in, people want absolutes. Because people want right answers and they want wrong answers. When COVID hit, it was a really unprecedented situation. It was all very new. The CDC, and the FDA and so forth were constantly changing. The World Health Organization were making decisions based on the scientific consensus. But new research and new information was emerging all the time. We kept on having to pivot and come up with new recommendations and new public health guidance. That is a strength of science. But people want absolutes.
And that is why the health and wellness industry is generating so much money because people will offer a supplement, will offer a fad diet, will offer a garment, will offer some kind of contraption and they will make these outrageous claims that this will help you lose weight. This will help you perform. This will improve your libido. This will improve your mental health.
And it offers this guaranteed shortcut to expedite your health and wellness outcomes, whatever your target happens to be. And the real world doesn’t work like that. As we all know, any meaningful health and wellness outcome takes time. It takes investment. It takes patience. It can take many months or years to achieve. But this idea of the quick fix, the quick fix fallacy that I’ve written about previously, is really the basis for the modern health and wellness industry.
That’s kind of the anti-science aspect of it, is that it sort of subverts everything that we know about science, and that it takes time, it takes evidence and it takes patience to interpret new data.
[00:38:12] Dr. LB: I had mentioned on this topic of sports nutrition and particularly for this podcast a particularly popular topic, Stu, is protein. And one of the reasons why people love this topic is because it has the potential to impact adaptations to training, body composition. You’ll look bigger, faster, stronger. All these things. It is central to almost everything that people are trying to do in the gym or as athletes, physique athletes, whatever. Even health outcomes and so on.
And yet, there’re a lot of claims that are made. And there are a lot of perspectives given that there’s only one solution for this kind of protein. And other kinds of proteins absolutely don’t work. Maybe you could help us understand from your perspective a few examples that would be useful, I think, for the listener? But also, you mentioned changing your mind and other researchers changing your mind on this topic. Give us a little bit of an overview there. That would be great.
[00:39:14] Prof. SP: Yeah. It’s an evolution of my understanding of how to evaluate science as well. I work at McMaster University. McMaster University, they lay claim to being the home of evidence-based medicine. And you can probably argue on a David Sackett and Gordon Guyatt, two very famous clinical researchers, were probably the first to pool data from multiple randomized controlled trials and say that the answer to a question for a clinical treatment of disease X is not this trial, or this trial, or this trial. It’s all of these trials together. And this is the aggregate result.
And if you like, that’s, I mean, the foundational basis of a systematic review and a meta-analysis, which a lot of people now are – were sent to death meta-analyzes. And they can be good and they can be bad. And I’ll freely admit to that.
For a decade or more, we did a lot of randomized controlled trials. We did a lot of training studies. My good friends and colleagues, Kevin Tipton, Luke Van Loon, Blake Rasmussen, lots of other people did lots of trials in this area. And you begin to form a picture and an idea of your understanding.
And then when you formally examine the concept and you say, “Look, we’re going to systematically look at this.” And then now the literature is sort of blown up. I mean, there’s lots more data available now than there were even five years ago. But let alone 10 or 15 years ago. And it’s getting to the point where there’s a critical number of people that you can perform these types of analyzes on and have them be meaningful.
When you do that and you want to answer the question, “Does protein supplementation – supplements taken in addition to your regular diet,” and that can be weigh, soy, whatever, it doesn’t really matter, or just more food, “augment strength gains or make you get more muscle?” As the claims generally would be.
And look, we, the royal we, people who have gone through my lab probably as guilty as anybody else of sort of reinforcing that notion from a mechanistic basis and even clinical outcomes. But when you look at the answer and aggregate of all of the research that’s done out there – and we’ve done two, I would say, pretty good meta-analyzes on this question, the effect is there. But it’s remarkably small.
In other words, you get probably 90% plus of the muscle that you’re going to gain by just going to the gym. And the protein supplementation adds a little bit on top. But it’s just a small effect. And then embedded within that question of protein or all of the other things of the timing, the type and the leucine content, which I think are all very interesting questions. But that takeaway answer is it’s in effect there. But it’s not that big of a deal.
For most people, go to the gym. And the extra protein is – I don’t know. Whether it’s the icing on top or it’s the cherry on top of the icing. But it’s a small amount. And look, that’s a tough one for a guy who spent almost 30 years talking about the effect of protein to kind of say.
But once you’ve done that type of analysis a couple of times and it returns the same sort of aggregate answer, it’s not that big a deal. How can you turn around and continue to say, “Yes, it’s a huge deal. It’s a huge issue. Everybody needs protein.” I’m like, “Uh, it’s there. But it’s not that big of a deal.”
[00:43:03] Dr. NT: I actually have an interesting anecdote that is in line with what Stu’s just been saying. I have a friend who used to be an athlete in her youth. And recently, she’s wanted to get back in shape, and lose body fat, and increase her muscle, and get back into training and as asking my advice. Because people assume that I’m a personal trainer, even though I’ve got three degrees and I’ve been doing this for two decades, whatever. But, okay, fine.
And so, I gave her all this off-the-record advice that you need to increase your activity levels. You need to get your diet fixed. You need to start something sustainable. The activity is really important. Start training doing this. Maybe start doing some lifting. And don’t worry about supplements at this point. Make sure you’re getting your protein. Because protein is a role in building muscle mass and recovery and stuff.
And then I saw her about a month later and I said, “How’s it going? How’s your training going?” She said, “Yeah, I’m not training so much yet. I’ve increased my protein intake. And I’ve doubled my protein intake. And I’m getting this many grams and this many mils.” And she’s not getting more activity. Not walking more. Not really doing much at the gym. Hasn’t thought about long-term dietary strategies. Changing her relationship with food. But doubling her protein intake is something that’s easy to do and that you can fixate on as being the kind of the means to the end.
And I think this is a consequence of the way that protein is portrayed in the media. Look, it’s obviously important. It’s an important macronutrient. And it’s important recovery. But that’s it. There’s nothing magical or sensational about protein as Stu’s just been saying. And he’s the guy that’s in the best place to say this, to be honest about it.
But it’s in line with everything that we know about contemporary health and wellness. People want something that they can take, something that they can buy that’s going to expedite all of their health and wellness outcomes. And it’s like, “Well, that’s a small part of the equation. Small piece of the puzzle.” But you’ve got to look at the rest of the puzzle as well.
[00:45:00] Dr. LB: Well, I think some of this is a path to the least resistance sort of thing for people, isn’t it? It’s a hell of a lot easier to have a protein shake than it is to actually physically go and do some exercise. And it’s also a cart before the horse scenario, isn’t it?
But either which, if we all gave the horse a bit of time off and pulled around our own carts, I think we’d find lot of solutions. But again, as a nutritionist, I look at this broadly where I’m also going to go, “Ah. But there are other reasons for eating protein, of course.” And if I’m not going to eat protein, what else am I going to eat? Am I going to eat more of something else? Of course, it depends on how you find that.
But there is a way of dealing with this, Nick. And that is developing a method of thinking, a form of critical thinking. And we use terms like skepticism and so on. And listeners of this podcast will have heard us talk about this a few times. Kev Tipton in most of the podcasts we did together. We did loads in the last year of his life. And he frequently made this comment about the importance of being skeptical but also being open-minded. Not one. Not the other. But both together.
But, Nick, I mean, that’s sort of the second word in the title of this paper that we’ve been talking about. What is skepticism and why is it important? And sort of the wider frame of critical thinking as it relates to this kind of problem that we’re talking about now?
[00:46:27] Dr. NT: Yeah, I’m glad you brought this up, because this is a really important. And it reminds me what you said, a Richard Feynman quote, that we should keep an open mind. But not so open that our brains fall out. And this is essentially what skepticism is. And we talk about this in the paper.
And I’m very quick to – and I even wrote it in the title, how skepticism, not cynicism, can raise scientific standards and reform the health and wellness industry. Because the way that the term skepticism is used in contemporary culture is sort of a little bit misleading.
To be skeptical in science is to judge the validity of claims based on objective evidence. Or at the very least, to withhold judgment until you have that kind of evidence available. But also, it’s not just about evidence-based practice. Because that’s the essence of science. But being skeptical is about introducing more of the broader tenets of critical thinking into your own practice.
That means, as I’ve mentioned already, understanding your biases. Understand when you are exhibiting bias when other people are exhibiting their own bias. And understanding the mechanics of that. Understanding the mechanics of decision-making. The depth and reach of our scientific media and social media literacy. That’s an important one, is the fact that people, especially young people, get most of their information and entertainment from social media. But very few people actually understand how social media algorithms work and how it generates content based on your previous viewing history.
Essentially, without even knowing it, we are curating our social media feeds into this sort of echo chamber of confirmation bias. We’re not getting exposed to two sides of the same argument. Whatever you believe, your rampant use of social media is going to reinforce it.
And unfortunately, the only people that really know how these platforms work are the people who design the algorithms in order to promote engagement. That’s a part of being a skeptic. It’s about understanding decision-making. Understand the platforms that we use to share information and receive information and doing whatever we can to mitigate bias to become objective decision-makers.
It doesn’t matter what you believe what you think is true and what you want to be true. It’s prioritizing the process of evidence-based practice and objectivity to arrive at something that we can all agree on is the best approximation of the truth. That’s, I guess, in essence, what being a skeptic is.
[00:48:59] Dr. LB: Yeah. No. That’s particularly helpful. I just wanted to just quickly mention because I’m aware, Stu, that you need to run and probably stick a biopsy needle into somebody or something. But I know you have to exit at this point. But I just wanted to use this opportunity whilst we’re still recording to thank you for your contribution to this conversation and so on. If you had any parting words you wanted to say just before I carry on with –
[00:49:22] Prof. SP: Well, yeah. I mean, thanks, first, for the opportunity. And I need to thank Nick because he was the one that did the majority of the work and just sort of pulled me into the project. It was a pleasure rating with Nick. But I think that he hits the nail right on the head when we talk about skepticism, which is warranted. And I think every scientist has to cultivate something like that.
I also think that there’s something out there that people need to be aware of. Like just about every scientist has bias of one form or another. And there’s nothing like wanting your hypothesis to be to turn out the way you want it to be. But I think that it speaks to a lot about the integrity that’s in science. Sort of it’s a self-correcting mechanism. And eventually, the truth, if that’s the right way to say it, or the path gets lit up, eventually, the evidence comes in that. But sometimes it takes a while.
And I still think that even nutritional science is not a particularly old science by comparison to lots of others. Nutritional exercise science is very young. And so, as always, buyer beware. But learn to be skeptical but open-minded. But not so open-minded that your brain falls out. I think that’s fantastic.
Yeah, thank you very much, both of you, for the time. I appreciate it.
[00:50:44] Dr. LB: Yeah. And I thank you, Stu. Thank you, Stu. Thank you. We’ll catch up another time down the road on this topic, no doubt.
[00:50:49] Prof. SP: For sure. For sure. Bye-bye.
[00:50:50] Dr. LB: Okay. Thank you. Nick, yeah, it was great to have Stu involved in the conversation thus far. Because as I mentioned, people just go bonkers over protein supplements and so on. And you see that those debates raging on social media and fights over animal versus plant protein and so on. And I’ve tackled these topics in great depth with Stu and Kevin Tipton and various other researchers on this topic. And I think a lot of this stuff sadly comes down to a number of people who seem to be shouting louder than others.
And I mentioned at the beginning of this conversation that there might be a number of ways in which we can tackle some of this. You’ve discussed critical thinking. My team and I have literally just a few weeks ago published a paper about essentially a framework for decision-making for evidence-based practice in sports nutrition. I’m going to do a podcast about that. And I think a lot of what we talked about today is just an essential part of that process, is just understanding that there might be a problem. And you need to wrestle with, tackle that knowledge, that piece of data, that evidence before you decide to use it or not. And there’re all sorts of thoughts.
And of course, we’ve talked about even placebos and nocebos. And as a practitioner, I’ve found that to be interesting, where athletes have had this firmly held belief in a particular product, for example, a supplement. And the fact that you suggest that what they’re taking is snake oil can have very negative impacts on individuals. There is sort of a weird two sides to this situation.
But in terms of debunking dealing with other “experts, or clients, or whatever”, what are your thoughts about the concept of debunking these myths? And how maybe we can approach some of that?
[00:52:43] Dr. NT: Yeah, in reality, most of this stuff is happening on social media. These are the platforms that are most pervasive. I read your most recent paper just before we started recording. I thought it was great. And I was really pleased to see that you discussed social media in that periodically. Because it has such an impact on the way that we communicate these days. And I think it’s only going to become more ingrained in society.
But corrective messaging, you refer to it as debunking. And I think a lot of people will be familiar with that term. But I guess we can call it corrective messaging, which is, essentially, when you see some kind of misinformation online. Somebody has given some advice or shared an article that is not a good approximation of what we know to be true, then we can debunk that piece of advice so that other people don’t start exhibiting these erroneous practices.
And I think this is really important. This is a really important part of being a good skeptic and being a good critical thinker, is actually challenging these messages when you see them online. Because if we’re not going to do it, then who is, right?
There’re people like us who are standing between the pseudoscientists who are essentially making up these false claims, these erroneous claims to sell product. And the mainstream who don’t have the understanding of the science in order to challenge those claims. We’re sort of the gatekeepers here. And if we’re not going to be the ones who are challenging this bad advice, then nobody else is going to do it.
But there are ways to challenge this bad advice. There are ways to administer corrective messages. And I talked about this at length in the article in Skeptical Inquirer. And essentially, one of the ways is to firstly be respectful that there’s no point getting into an argument with somebody online because you’re not going to convince anybody by pulling abuse of them. Be respectful.
It’s also important that you provide some kind of evidence to support your claim. This sounds obvious. Sounds intuitive. But a lot of the time, people would just reply to something they’ve seen online and say, “Well, this is nonsense. This doesn’t work. This is absolutely BS.” And okay, this isn’t – it may be. But that’s not a particularly helpful response.
Be polite. Be respectful. Provide some evidence-based resources. Some valid resources that you can use to support your statements. And try not to restate the false claim. Rather than if you’re going to retweet something, don’t just retweet the false headline and then state your corrective messaging. Just focus on the good advice.
Don’t restate the bad advice. Because the more times the certain thing is restated, we can give some examples from modern political culture. But the more times something is stated and restated, the more chance that it’s going to become embedded in the mainstream belief and understanding. Don’t just restate the false claim. Focus on the good advice and your evidence.
And corrective messaging is super important. The research shows that it works. If you actually can challenge the misinformation in the pseudoscience, then it’s less likely to be disseminated to people who don’t necessarily have the same skill set to be able to challenge that bad advice. That’s a really – it’s not the only thing that we have to do as skeptics and critical thinkers. But debunking practices is an important part of it.
[00:56:10] Dr. LB: Also, there’s another paper you wrote that I had read where you’re dealing with the questionable research practices that exist in kinesiology. And it was really interesting. I don’t think that – it would be rare I would say, but it does happen, when researchers do deliberately go about producing a study that has a biased sort of end result.
But you talk about this concept of an ostrich effect. I love that visualization. But it does actually happen. Could you just tell us a bit more about that? Because I think that’s important as well about some the stuff that’s going on in this sort of ostrich behavior that goes on on all sides actually.
[00:56:54] Dr. NT: Yeah. Well, you’re referring to a paper that is just about to be published.
[00:56:58] Dr. LB: Just about. Yeah.
[00:56:59] Dr. NT: Yeah. We have the post-print that’s up on a post-print server, and the full title is Overcoming the Ostrich Effect: A Narrative Review on the Incentives and Consequences of Questionable Research Practices in Kinesiology. This term, the ostrich effect, that we can attribute to [inaudible 00:57:16], who’s my co-author on the paper. That was sort of his term. But it really encapsulates one of the problems that we have in kinesiology, this idea that we have a lot of poor practice, a lot of questionable research practice, a little bit of misconduct as well and a really profound replication crisis. This is not new stuff. We all know this. But we’re burying our heads in the sand and we’re not actually confronting the issues. Hence, we are exhibiting an ostrich effect.
And it really comes back to something that Stu mentioned earlier about how we have this over-emphasis on quantitative research metrics. And not just in kinesiology. In all facets of science. But we’re talking about kinesiology and sports science here. And it’s this idea that we have constant publication pressures. We have funding pressures. We have competition to publish studies. Journals really would prefer to publish sensational findings. To the extent that I’ve had several papers, and I’m sure there are people listening to this, that have had papers declined for publication because they didn’t find statistically significant outcomes, which I think is an absurd reason to reject the paper.
Because if something doesn’t exert a statistical significance, that is an important finding. And it’s important that we know that. But it was an interventional study. And I had one study that was bounced from four different journals on the basis that we didn’t talk about statistically significant outcomes. And I’m thinking this is ludicrous. Because people need to know if something doesn’t work, right? And the publication bias is a real effect.
And again, none of this is new. We all know this. But we’re not doing anything about it. And this is the profound problem. This paper that’s coming up, it will be published in kinesiology review. It’s been accepted. It’s just in the editorial process now. And there’s a bit of a backlog. I hope to be able to share that with people. But you can Google it and you’ll find the post print online.
And it really does talk about this subject in much more detail and about how we can overcome the ostrich effect. Because it’s garbage-in, garbage-out, right? Not that all sports science research is garbage. There’s a lot of good stuff. But a lot of it is garbage. And if we’re feeding that stuff into the algorithm, then the stuff that we’re following the evidence-based practice is you’re probably more qualified to talk about this having just written about it. But the evidence-based practice is going to be garbage as well if the science itself doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
We’ve got to look at being skeptical not just at the end phase of the process where we’re looking at the commercial iterations and the supplements and the diets and things that people are buying into, but being skeptical of the research that’s going into the machine at the top end.
[01:00:04] Dr. LB: Yeah. Well, It’s tricky stuff, Nick.
[01:00:06] Dr. NT: Right.
[01:00:06] Dr. LB: In our paper – and we’ll talk about it when we do our podcast in the near future on this. If there’s one word that I would have to use, it would be appropriateness. I have another word that I use all the time on the podcast. Well, I used to say context all the time. But actually, my new word is relevant. Is it relevant? But we changed that word for the paper into appropriateness because that’s a language they used in evidence-based practice research. Is it appropriate?
And it’s not an easy thing to think about that. Is it appropriate? What have you thrown into your decision-making framework, your process to arrive at that? Yeah, it’s appropriate.
For you, you’ll be doing this yourself when it comes to your research, when it comes to your work as a personal trainer, I think. I used to be a personal trainer, as I mentioned. And we’ve got loads of personal trainers listening. Obviously, that’s not an issue. But it is funny how people make assumptions also.
[01:01:01] Dr. NT: But I used to be a personal trainer as well. But it’s just not what I do now. It’s like, how can you still not know what I do is more the point.
[01:01:07] Dr. LB: Yeah. Yeah. But going to this concept of appropriateness. Because I remember talking, it might have been Stu and Kev actually, when we talked about this stuff quite a few years ago. And when we’re talking about pseudoscience, there is of course aspects to this, which is, at some point, what is now considered science was at some point considered pseudoscience before the evidence got to a point.
And I think boxers, for example, who love to go out and do their early morning fasted runs that they did forever. And then I remember James Morton saying, “Actually, we’ve only just got to a point where we’re sort of understanding why there may be a point to that.” Of course, now there’s some reversals on that thinking too, which is a podcast coming up. But for you, that concept of appropriateness and how that belief and all that stuff goes into it, is there any particular angles there that you feel are necessary to take?
[01:02:03] Dr. NT: Well, I think this idea that there are lots of sports that have a very rich history and a very rich tradition. You mentioned boxing is a great example. Martial arts is another. Soccer. Lots of professional team sports. A lot of the time the coaches of today are the athletes of yesterday who were in turn coached by people who were athletes.
And so, most of their knowledge and understanding of the subject, of the sport, has been handed down from the previous generations. And it’s almost like in the same way that ancient Chinese medicine has kind of been handed down from generation to generation and has been relatively well-insulated from the objective influence of scientific progress and understanding.
A lot of the time, we are passing down things for no other reason than it’s just what we’ve always done. We do it because it’s what we’ve done. And it’s what we’ve done because that’s just the way that it is. And that’s not a good reason to continue to do something. That’s the absence of a reason.
As people who want to focus on evidence-based practice, something needs to be implemented because it works. And we know that it works. And these days, we have the tools and the processes and the protocols to determine if something works.
Okay, if you’re going out the night before a big race, or the morning of a soccer match, or whatever it happens to be and you’re eating your three steaks and five eggs, or you’re drinking the raw egg yolks as you saw in Rocky because that’s just something that is so quintessentially just associated with being a boxer in the 1980s or whatever. Okay, because now we know, okay, rich in protein, protein is good, whatever.
But there actually has to be some kind of merit to the process. And if the thing doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, then we shouldn’t just continue to do it because of tradition. The product, the intervention has to stand on its own merit. And that’s essentially what science is, the scientific process is, is determining if things actually work.
And sentiment is overrated. I don’t believe in just continuing something because it’s what you’ve always done. It needs to actually work so. That’s why we need to all be good scientists and be good skeptics and just put our hands up and say, “Okay, if this thing doesn’t work, let’s just trash it.” We’ve got to have the guts to be able to do that.
[01:04:31] Dr. LB: Yes. Well, and that’s how you end your paper there about it’s important to have the courage to confront health and wellness pseudoscience. And alter the paradigm and reverse the current emphasis on marketing over science is great way to end that paper.
And also, generally, I think this conversation is neither the start nor the end of this obviously. It was important to me for us to have this conversation. It’s sort of underpinned a lot of things that have led me to get to where I am and having been experienced both sides of that myself. Where’s next, Nick? Where does all this need to go next do you think? And what are you going to be doing next?
[01:05:11] Dr. NT: Well, I think the overarching aim is to get better critical thinking education integrated into higher education. Because at the moment, there is very little emphasis on critical thinking in school college or university. And again, we wrote about this in the paper. But we teach research methods. And at several institutions where I’ve taught sports science over the years, we throw critical thinking into the research methods class. But actually, this has been quite well-studied. And critical thinking education helps to reduce belief in pseudoscience and bad science. Whereas research methods actually doesn’t.
Research methods is aimed at future producers of science. But it’s not appropriate for future consumers of science. It’s a different skill set. We really need to get people to understand. And papers like the ones we’ve written, I’m hoping people are starting to understand that critical thinking is an independent skill set.
We need to be becoming good critical thinkers ourselves and then independently integrating critical thinking classes into school college and university so that we can start producing the graduates of tomorrow with these skills ingrained. Regardless of whether they work in kinesiology, or health and wellness, or whatever walk of life, whatever career path they follow. Critical thinking is an absolutely essential skill regardless of whether you work in science or not, or you’re going to politics, or any form of education. Being a good critical thinker is absolutely paramount. That’s kind of what the overarching aim.
In the short-term, I want to keep communicating a good scientific practice and critical thinking at a local level. Trying to raise consciousness within exercise science and being giving platforms like this. Thank you, Laurent, for finding the good fight and giving platforms to messages like this so that we can reach more kinesiologists. Because that’s something that we’ve got to do. Yeah, and keep up with those corrective messages so that we can reduce the flood of mis and disinformation that is just so evident in health and wellness.
[01:07:22] Dr. LB: We’ve talked for a hour and a quarter or so about snake oil, pseudoscience, critical thinking and so on. That of course is not the only area that you’re involved in. In fact, you were on the podcast a while ago now. I can’t believe how much time flies where we talked about nutrition for multi-stage ultra-endurance racing. I’ll link to that podcast because –
[01:07:44] Dr. NT: That’s three and a half years ago. Time flies.
[01:07:46] Dr. LB: No. No. That’s terrible. I can’t believe it.
[01:07:51] Dr. NT: And as a caveat, if people do listen to that, there was one of the first podcasts that I was invited on to as a guest. And I remember my microphone was terrible and the fan on my laptop kept firing up. It sounded like I was going to be blasted into outer space. That’s my fault. I apologize in advance for the terrible audio. Hopefully, I’ve made up for it.
[01:08:10] Dr. LB: Nick, you’ve now got your sort of – well, now that you’re thoroughly absorbing the US focus on standards, the Hollywood standard. I love it. I love it.
Well, listen. Look, it’s been great to have you back on We Do Science. Loved having this conversation. I’m certain that the listeners will get a lot out of it. It’s important stuff that we talked about. Even more important would be to read the various papers that we discussed. I’ll link to all of those. And if they want to find you, social media, where’s the best place to find you, Nick?
[01:08:46] Dr. NT: Yeah, probably Twitter is where I post most of my professional content @nbtiller. And all of my work, especially in skepticism, ultra-marathon, can be found on my website, which is nbtiller.com.
[01:08:58] Dr. LB: Great. I’ll put links to that. Well, look, thank you. It’s been great to have you here. And we’ll bring you back soon, Nick, hopefully.
[01:09:04] Dr. NT: Repeat offender. Love it. Thanks, Laurent. Thanks so much.
[01:09:06] Dr. LB: Repeat offender. No. Thank you. Thank you so much.