A large majority of Hollywood believe Trump is basically satan, and many black athletes have taken a knee during the national anthem because they believe the police are too quick to shoot a young black man.
When they have these opinions, being someone who is used to being in the spotlight, they rarely shy away from sharing their feelings on any given subject—using their bully pulpit to encourage others to follow their lead.
There are a few important facets to these expressions of beliefs that I feel are worth discussion.
First things first. They have a right to an opinion, and they should share such an opinion if they’re passionate about it. They should be shown respect for speaking out on something that’s important to them. Their success means that if it is a cause worth fighting for, they can shine a light on a subject that us non-famous people simply don’t have the ability to do.
I’ve seen the Twitterverse often have regular people telling athletes with an opinion on politics to “Just shut up and play (insert their respective sport here)”, or people tell British physics Professor Brian Cox, who’s quite vocal about Brexit, to “just stick to science.”
I understand why people might feel this way, since such famous people are not famous for politics, and thus not presumed to be experts on the subject. But politics isn’t science, it’s entirely driven by subjectivity. Meaning one person’s opinion is just as valid as another. And as a libertarian, anyone who speaks truth to power (even if I think they’re misinformed on what is truthful) is still doing something noble.
By all means, make the effort to correct them if you think they’re wrong on the facts, but people should do so respectfully, and applaud anyone with a voice for speaking out.
Colin Kaepernick started a movement to call out when officers shoot unarmed black men, and little repercussions occur as a result, something we should all be bothered by when it happens. We can quibble over whether some of the shootings he rallied against were justified, some may have very well been, but it does happen nonetheless, and we shouldn’t excuse it.
But all that being said, people should understand that being famous doesn’t make you an expert and thus adds no additional credibility to their argument, versus your neighbor who may be espousing the same opinion, (unless they’re an expert in the field.)
So while we should not discourage them from speaking out with things like, “just shut up and play your sport” or something like that, please bear in mind that you shouldn’t be blindly following them either. You shouldn’t assume they’re in command of the facts, and that the information they provide is truthful. The only thing you could presume to be true, is that their heart is in the right place, and they mean well.
Just about every issue is way more complicated than any non-expert understands. So listen to what people say, but apply your own skepticism, and if you care about the issue, take the time to look up credible sources on the issue, forming your opinions based on them. Doing something, or believing in something because a famous person told you to, is irresponsible at best.
On this episode, my best friend Mike (a non-active duty Marine) speak with Wade and Byrne from Sci-Gasm about guns, gun culture, and why we love them so much here in the US. But it’s really a conversation on how to discuss controversial topics like gun laws as well.
Last year, Kevin Folta, host of Talking Biotech agreed to let me grill him on all the questions I have about gene editing, GMO foods, and genetic engineering in general. I’m a layperson, he’s most definitely not. His qualifications in the field are pretty well documents, and only the hardcore anti-GMO crowd doubts him, but they’re a bunch of zealous twits who are at level zero on the objectivity scale.
Kevin took all my questions and answered them in a way, hopefully everyone can understand.
I know that sounds like a joke is coming, but instead, a respectful conversation is coming instead. My good friend Drew Collins hosts a page called MAARS Alive, that’s designed to help recovering musician alcoholics deal with their addiction through faith.
But instead of me talking about how this discussion came about, below is what he wrote on his own Facebook page. I largely agree with what he said, except the part about me getting more “talk time” (we really are great friends, and that’s just him “taking the piss” as the British would say).
But like Drew, I agree it’s disgusting the way we often talk to each other about politics, religion, or any other topic we’re passionate about. So we hope you like the discussion, and hope it motivates others to discuss “hot button” topics in a similar manner. Enjoy:
One day, I got really disgusted with how people go online and allow their friendships to be destroyed, simply because their views are different. I thought of my good friend, Gary Nolan.
We agree on most everything, with one exception; faith/belief in God.
I called Gary and asked him if he would like to get together and talk about the one thing we both disagree on, strictly for the purpose of demonstrating to people that civil conversation can be far more productive and enjoyable than venomous hostility.
Gary came ‘loaded for bear’ and, in my opinion got more “talk time” than I did. That being said, I chose to post this in it’s unedited form so that I could not be accused, by others, of putting a “spin” on the talk. The whole idea was not about “winning” or “losing” an argument. It was about communicating with another person, whom I disagree with, in a respectful manner.
Despite the miles between us on the reality of God, Gary remains one of my best and most trusted friends to this day. A special THANKS! to my close friend, Dwight Farmer for all his work on filming this.
People who fancy themselves as intellectuals often take pride in citing someone’s argument for being a logical fallacy. While it’s good that people are aware of logical fallacies, and know the value of avoiding them in reasoned debate, it appears many know the words, but don’t necessarily understand what they so eloquently recite.
Logical fallacies are ways people make arguments, where they make a definitive statement, as if something must be true or false, when the argument may be either/or.
For instance, there’s the Tu Quoque Fallacy which translates to “you too” is basically that just because someone doesn’t do the thing they said you should do, doesn’t mean it’s invalid. For people not familiar with the name of this fallacy, they might simply argue someone is guilty of “do as I say, not as I do” hypocrisy.
Imagine I advise you not to drink alcohol, citing all the health issues that go along with it. That is genuinely good advice. Even if I drink myself, it doesn’t mean it’s bad advice. So arguing that because I drink, it must mean that my argument that drinking is bad for you must be invalid, or I wouldn’t drink myself.
These are matter-of-fact statements which is what the tu quoque fallacy seeks to correct. However, it’s not applicable to subjective claims.
For instance, if I say that I believe drinking is immoral, and then I drink anyway, and someone criticizes me for it, they’re not committing the tu quoque fallacy, they’re just rightfully calling me out for being a hypocrite.
In the first example, I made a factual statement, the second example I shared an opinion.
Another example where logical fallacies are mis-attributed is when people assume the answer is binary, in that it must be true or false.
For instance, imagine I say that someone wants to legalize marijuana because they just want to smoke it themselves. That’s a logical fallacy, arguably either a Non-Sequitur, or a Strawman fallacy, depending on how it was presented, because it’s entirely plausible that such a statement is not true.
However, that doesn’t mean it is automatically false, either. And this is where many people who correctly cite the argument as logically fallacious go into their own logically fallacious whole, by assuming it must not be true.
What may be logically fallacious may still be more likely than not, or at least plausible. It’s just a logical fallacy because the person who made the argument, argued as if it must be true, which is false. It’s merely plausible.
So I applaud everyone for trying to be a better debater, or for educating people (and themselves) on logical fallacies. It’s just important not to go down your own logically fallacious hole doing it.
Despite those with maybe some rare psychological condition (libertophobia?), we all want to be free. Specifically; I don’t think a single person has something they want to do, that they then want government to prevent them from doing it. So denying others similar freedoms should reasonably be thought of as hypocritical.
While everyone can apply their own nuance to what liberty or freedom means to them, I’d like to politely take the role of arbiter for a moment, and share where I think many go wrong when proposing roles of government. Here are a few instances I’ve come up with. Feel free to add more in the comments below.
You have the right to say whatever you want. You don’t have a right to be heard or to be uninterrupted.
Because I have a decent number of people I enjoy interacting with on social media, I am rather uninterested in disrespectful discourse, since there’s so much respectful discourse I could be having instead.
As a result, many often insinuate when I mute or block those people on Twitter, I’m stifling free speech. Which is a pretty outlandish false premise.
On social media, you might get blocked. In person, people might walk away from you. But, if you want to be heard, and people are exercising the right to take their leave of your message, maybe you need to work on your delivery of said message, or the message itself. But you don’t get to compel them to listen. Nor should you argue that them blocking you is anti-free speech.
Your right to free speech means you can’t be impeded by government for exercising your right to speak. It doesn’t mean that protesters can’t protest Milo Yiannopoulos, employers can’t fire you for saying something inappropriate, or people on social media can’t block you.
You have a right to seek employment, but not a right to be employed.
If you go to seek a job, assuming it’s a private business versus a government job, the business OWNER owns that business, no different from you owning your home stereo for instance.
If no one has a right to dictate to you what music you play on that stereo, you don’t have a right to dictate who they hire, serve, what they pay you, or anything else.
The job market and the consumer markets are intended to be free markets. Either both parties agree to terms on what is to transpire, or one/both of them walk away. But forcing one party to comply with the other’s wishes is a mafia tactic, not something the people should be sanctioning.
Does that mean a bigoted jerk could put a sign out front denying service to gays, blacks, whites, women, Latinos, Asians, et al.? Yes, it does.
Does a private citizen who is offended by that practice have a right to share it on social media, maybe get local news involved, protest this business, etc., until the market decides that this bigoted jerk doesn’t deserve their money, then watches his business fail due to lack of revenue?
Why yes…yes it also does!
You have a right to engage in free speech, you don’t have a right to put someone in harm’s way utilizing speech.
Using the “Fire in a crowded theater” analogy, you can say the word “Fire” in a theater, you can even yell it if the theater were empty, or if the people know you were joking. If there’s actually a fire in the theater, you’ve not only broken no law, you’re potentially a hero.
But if there’s no fire, you have instead put people in danger by creating a stampede that may lead to people falling, getting walked on, and harmed. So it’s not the “Speech” that is being prosecuted, it’s the act of putting others in danger.
Think of it this way. The 2nd amendment guarantees your right to own and fire a gun, but it doesn’t allow you to shoot someone who is no threat to you.
In the same vein, the first amendment guarantees your right to free speech, you can’t use that speech to harm someone either.
You have a right to ask someone for help. You do not have the right to dictate they help you.
If your car breaks down, you don’t have a right to demand a mechanic fix it so you can get to work.
So that should also mean you don’t have a right to demand a teacher educate you because you need a better job, or demand a doctor help you because you’re sick.
Doctors and teachers have the same rights as everyone else. As such, consumers have no right to free services or goods.
Free Education and Free Health Care are nothing more than servitude (if you force them to provide a service) and/or theft (if you force the people to pay for their services). If it’s volunteers and private donations, that’s the only way it is a completely moral exercise.
You have a right to equal protection and service from government, not from the private sector.
If you’re LGBTQ, you have a right to dictate that the government acknowledge your marriage, and under our current system, to have a judge (a government employee), perform the ceremony. You’ve paid taxes into that system, and the government cannot discriminate. If the government employee doesn’t like it, they should have joined the private sector.
But you do not have a right to ask a private pastor to do the ceremony, nor do you have a right to dictate a baker bake you a cake. Why? Because they have the same rights you do.
People often think those who champion freedom are being selfish, and it is certainly true for some. But the people who are truly libertarian in their beliefs are also not hypocrites. They believe others should have the same rights and don’t have to agree with someone to support the rights of another.
A teetotaler can support the rights of alcohol drinkers
A monogamist can support the rights of a sex worker
An atheist can support the rights of churches, synagogues, etc.
A non-gun owner can support the 2nd amendment
A heterosexual can support gay marriage
Someone does not like abortion can support a woman’s right to choose
A clean person can support another’s right to use recreational drugs
A helmet-wearing motorcycle rider can support another person’s right to not wear a helmet
I can go on forever about what it means to do liberty right. Hypocrisy is never considered a good trait to have. So hopefully, after reading this, you can find an area where you’ve had the opinion that government should restrict someone’s rights and are now second guessing that thought. Liberty for me, must come with liberty for thee.
Right behind used car salesman and politicians, some of the most commonly distrusted people in our lexicon are large pharmaceutical companies—if people use the term “big pharma,” you can often assume that their thoughts are less than flattering.
One look at that civil litigation list provided, and you start to see a common theme. Almost all of them are for an “Off-Label” promotion violation of the False Claims Act, originally enacted in 1863. Off-Label promotion is when a drug company promotes a particular drug for treatment of something that isn’t supported by clinical data and thus isn’t approved by the FDA based on that data.
In evaluating minoxidil effectiveness in stimulating hair regrowth, the investigators found the 5% solution very effective in 15.9% of patients, effective in 47.8%, moderately effective in 20.6% and ineffective in 15.7%.
But it was not tested on a receding hair line near the forehead (bitemporal recession), so despite the fact that logic would seem to dictate it would be effective there also, it can only be marketed to restore hair at the scalp until studies confirm its efficacy for bitemporal recession as well.
This kind of false advertising is certainly inexcusable, and I don’t want to claim otherwise—the purpose of this article isn’t to argue that pharmaceutical companies are faultless and incorruptible. But instead, to promote skepticism as to whether they are to be trusted to a lesser degree than supplement companies.
Because of the life-and-death situations or general health implications involved when taking pharmaceuticals, that industry is far more heavily regulated than most—and arguably for good reason.
But such heavy-handed regulation has other implications. The more regulations an industry has, the greater the risk they’ll be prosecuted for violations, as their compliance is that much more complicated to achieve.
Said violation may be an intentional misrepresentation, an innocent mistake, or a subjective situation where they feel their claims are fair and accurate, but the courts ultimately disagree.
However, any industry has a list of civil litigation, so the argument that pharmaceutical companies are unique in this where supplement companies aren’t, or any other industry in general isn’t, is patently false logic.
But it’s imperative to understand that pharmaceutical companies largely make testable and proven claims, where supplement companies almost never do. I don’t think one can fairly argue the people making testable and proven claims most of the time, are somehow less honest than the people who purposefully don’t, because they know they’ll get sued for false advertising if they do.
There’s this notion that big pharma rakes in huge profits, while supplement companies are promoting all-natural products that work just as well at treating illness, and are being suppressed by the pharmaceuticals industry because they’re so cheap, so big pharma can keep you sick to maintain those huge incomes.
The problem with this argument is that it’s a patently false premise because the supplement industry is incredibly profitable too. As this PBS article from 2016 points out, they’re a $30-billion industry. By comparison, this US Trade Commission report shows that total pharmaceutical sales weigh in at a stout $333 billion.
Big supplement is 1/10th the size of big pharma, but they’re nothing to sneeze at, and at the end of the day, the profit-based-motive argument that decries big pharma is equally true for big-supplement. So one cannot fairly use that to attack big pharma against big supplement. But there’s more meat on this bone than you might think.
Why the Price Discrepancy?
As was noted earlier, the regulations around pharmaceuticals are based on the FDA requiring clinical trial data to support their claims. This is a good thing. But here’s a basic overview of how clinical trials work.
As you should easily understand from all of this, at a minimum, 2 years to 6 years of time and money will be spent by the pharmaceutical company, before they’ll ever see a dime of return-on-investment, nevertheless a profit.
But let’s do a little math here. Based on the FDA’s account of how many of those move all the way through the clinical trials process, 70 out of 100 move to phase 2 (70%), 23 out of 70 move on to phase two (33%), and 5-7 out of those remaining 23 move on to phase 4 (25% – 30%). Which means 93-95 out of 100 will not see the light of day, and will be money big pharma will have to write off as a loss. That doesn’t even include the ones that don’t make it through the other four steps that aren’t clinical trials.
So generally speaking, if one drug costs $5-$7 to manufacture, that means a drug company would have to charge, on average, $100 for that drug, just to break even.
When looking at the above, you can understand that since the supplement industry isn’t beholden to all of this, it makes sense that the average pharmaceutical would potentially be twenty times more expensive than the average supplement ($5 compared to $100). Not to mention, they don’t have to invest in all that pesky testing to verify their product does what they say it does either.
How does that compute? Think of it this way. If you’re going to argue some chemical does something to your physiology or health (everything is a chemical, even all-natural supplements, so I’m not talking solely about man-made products), then you simply have to prove it.
If you’re able to prove it, and you want to make that claim, then your product is a pharmaceutical. You will market it as such, because there’s credibility associated with your product if you do so. Not all pharmaceuticals require a prescription after all, things like ibuprofen, NSAIDs (aspirin), and other OTC medications are still pharmaceuticals that make specific, testable, and proven claims. So there’s no harm in marketing your product as such.
However, if you can’t prove it, but you want to sell something anyway, you have to make vague claims that can’t be challenged in court because they can’t be falsified.
For instance, you might say something “promotes heart health.” If something has any dietary value whatsoever, it can fairly be argued it promotes heart health, because nutrients keep you alive. Your basic apple, a juicy steak, or a big fat cheeseburger could make a similar claim, even though the latter two actually can harm heart function too. However, if you want to say it reduces the risk of heart attacks, now you have a very specific claim that must be backed up with data.
The basic gist of the argument is that if your product works, it’ll be a pharmaceutical, and if it doesn’t really do anything, it can still be marketed as a supplement. However, this is not to say that supplements can’t help. If your doctor notes a particular vitamin deficiency, then taking that vitamin supplement is surely an advantageous course of action. But as this Scientific American article points out:
The new studies, published today (Dec. 16) in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine —including two new clinical trials and one large review of 27 past clinical trials conducted by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force — found no evidence that taking daily multivitamin and mineral supplements prevents or slows down the progress of cognitive decline or chronic diseases such as heart diseases or cancer.
So when comparing the two on the trustability scale, consider this:
With pharmaceuticals, you’re trusting a group who has to support their claims with clinical data under threat of civil action, and therefore spends the millions of dollars to prove their claims.
With supplements, you’re trusting a company who avoids such litigation by making ambiguous claims because they either didn’t want to make the effort to do such studies. Or worse yet, such studies were conducted, and no efficacy was shown for the claim they hoped to make, so they sell it under the guise of an ambiguous and often untestable claim instead.
The Overlooked Downfall of Supplements
With supplements, the reason they’re often unregulated and avoid the skeptical eye of the FDA, is often because the FDA deemed them innocuous, and therefore didn’t need regulated. Think about that for a minute. The FDA basically argued that when taken at their recommended dosages, these supplements do very little, if anything, so there was no need to regulate them.
So how then does one come to a conclusion that such things are better at treating a condition than something which was actually proven to do something, and specifically the something you needed it to do?
But it does get worse. Because there’s a saying in biology that states, “Everything is a poison, what matters is the dose.” In small amounts, most of these supplement compounds are harmless. But as this CBS News video points out, because many people take these supplements on the belief that they can’t harm you, the fact is, some can do harm if taken in excess.
Many people fail to realize that you get almost all the vitamins and minerals you need in your diet, assuming you eat reasonably healthy. So taking a vitamin pill when you don’t have a deficiency of that vitamin, is effectively an overdose. Most of the time, you’re body just sends it out your exhaust pipe, but they can in fact be harmful.
One of the final arguments I like to address, is the “all-natural” argument. (If you want an explanation of the Naturalistic Fallacy, click the title above.)
Cancer, arsenic, snake venom, and a litany of other things that kill you are also all natural. Many drugs stem from extracting the thing that helps you from a plant for instance, without making you consume other parts of that plant that either don’t help you, or might harm you.
To give you a fictional example, imagine you had a panacea tree. You notice that when eating the panacea tree leaf, that you feel slightly better when you have a stomach ache. So you start eating a lot more panacea tree leaves next time you get an upset stomach, but then you get dizzy because the panacea tree also has a psychotropic substance in it.
So pharmaceutical companies will extract the compound that helps with the indigestion, produce a pill that contains just that, so the next time you have indigestion, you don’t have to eat panacea leaves. You can just take their drug, and not have to deal with the psychotropic side effects from eating the leaves.
That’s clearly an incredibly simplified generic example, but you at least hopefully understand the principle of what pharmaceutical companies might do, and why they should get the presumption of benefit, compared to just eating some random plant that may help somewhat, but harm in other ways.
Expanding on our fictional example, there’s another scenario to note as well. Some of these compounds from a natural source, are so low in that natural source, like 1 PPM (parts per million). But in order for that compound to cure your condition, you’d need a dosage that’s more like 100,000 PPM (or 10%), so you either take a pill that was made with 100,000 molecules of just that compound, or you eat 100,000 of the panacea leaves and blow up your stomach because you ate too much.
Purposefully Keeping You Sick
People argue big pharma only wants to keep you beholden to big pharma by stringing you out on a never-ending supply of drugs. But there’s a few things to note on this point.
If you have an infection, you might take an antibiotic for a week, then you’re done. If you have cancer, you might be treated by something like chemotherapy, be cured, and then you’re done. I’m sure almost every one of you reading this, at one point in your life, had a condition which required you to take a drug for a short period of time, the drug cured your condition, and now you no longer take that drug.
These are all instances where big pharma cured you and did not string you out. But most supplements expect you to take them for the rest of your life, because you’ll be healthier. So who’s stringing you out again?
Many conditions people might have may require surgery. Surgery can be very dangerous and expensive. But there might be a drug that can manage your discomfort much more cheaply and less dangerously. If the condition isn’t life threatening, people will often choose not to have surgery, and just take the drug to manage the pain instead. Things like back surgery for lower back pain and such, come to mind. That’s not big pharma stringing you out, that’s you and your doctor choosing not to take a big risk.
Something May Be Better Than Nothing
Many conditions are degenerative in nature. If you lop a finger off, it won’t grow back. This is true for your bones for instance, as well. So with degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease or osteoarthritis, you cannot cure what is no longer there, at least, not yet.
So sometimes pain medications are the only alternative to osteoarthritis relief. Again, that’s not big pharma stringing you out, that’s your own body falling apart and you managing the pain with pharmaceuticals.
I say “not yet,” because regenerative medicine (the ability to regrow things on someone that aren’t regrowing naturally) is one of the biggest areas of new discovery these days.
It should also be noted that because researchers are working on regenerative cures, they’re also working to heal you in a short time, then stop treatment once you’re well. If we go back to the “stringing you out” argument, if that was their goal, they’d be pushing painkillers, not spending millions to find cures.
Both Big Pharma and Big Supplement are hugely profitable. Arguing one is better than the other based on profits is false.
Big Pharma is heavily regulated and backed by science. Big supplement is just a company trying to sell you something that is largely unregulated.
Most people who make pharmaceuticals studied years of biology to do what they do so they could make things that save lives. People who make supplements often don’t have such training, and are largely operating on guesswork, anecdotal evidence, false assumptions, and sometimes, outright lies and speculation which can genuinely be likened to magic and the supernatural in their outrageousness.
You should always be skeptical in life, and I would never promote not questioning big pharma, but if I’m dying and have to trust one of them, I’m going to trust the one with proven results, and I’m willing to pay them in a manner that makes them profitable to do it.
log·i·cal: capable of reasoning or of using reason in an orderly cogent fashion lib·er·tar·i·an: an advocate of the doctrine of free will; a person who upholds the principles of individual liberty especially of thought and action