In reading the posts and comments on PCT, I’m often astonished by what I view as a near complete lack of open mindedness. Discussions quickly turn into epic battles which degenerate into name calling, outrageous accusations and hurt feelings. Unfortunately, this leads to a situation where no one is able to learn anything or consider any idea that they don’t already agree with.
This is not how things should be.
If you care about the truth & want to make the best informed decisions, you need to be open minded and think skeptically. Here are a few ways to ensure you are.
1. Think with your brain not your gut. While you might “feel” or “want” something to be true that does not make it true. Forget about your feelings and desires and logically evaluate claims based on evidence. If you feel that natural cosmetic ingredients are safer that doesn’t mean they are. Look for scientific evidence for and against the conclusion.
2. Figure out the reliability and accuracy of evidence. There is both good and bad evidence.
Good evidence is that which is collected under controlled conditions following proper experimental design. It is typically published in independent, peer reviewed journals. It is also conducted by specialists who know the field.
Bad evidence is that which is not controlled or conducted by professional researchers. This would include things like stories from your friends or other anecdotal evidence, blog posts, biased websites and opinions from any single source. Do not base your conclusions on bad evidence.
3. Be tolerant of uncertainty. While every question has a true answer, no answer is completely knowable. The best we can hope for is to figure out what is most likely true. Future research might demonstrate that our current beliefs are wrong. Hopefully, as we collect more data our answers get closer and closer to the truth. Often the best answer to ANY question is “I don’t know for sure.”
4. Be open to the possibility that you are wrong. The more you learn about a topic, the more you will discover just how much you don’t know. Professional scientists experience this all the time when experimental results don’t conform with their initial theories. And if professional scientists are often wrong, imagine how frequently you must be wrong. The only way to defend against this is to be humble enough to admit that you may be wrong. Be dispassionate about your beliefs. If evidence shows that you are wrong, admit it and change your position. This means you should always be able to answer this question about any subject “What evidence would I need to change my mind?”
Currently, I believe that parabens are perfectly safe to use in my formulations. But if a good study came out to demonstrate they weren’t, I would have no problem changing my mind.
5. Look for evidence of how you might be wrong. Confirmation bias makes this one of the hardest things to do. Your brain naturally gravitates to evidence that supports what you want to believe. If you want to believe that cosmetics are perfectly safe, you will unconsciously filter articles, stories, and any other evidence that supports this belief. You will also naturally ignore anything that proves otherwise. To overcome this natural tendency you must constantly try to prove yourself WRONG. Find evidence that contradicts what you currently believe. It is only after you’ve answered all the possible ways that you could be wrong that you can say you are probably right. However, remain open to the possibility that you could be proven wrong in the future.
Ultimately, there is no way to prove anything is absolutely true. The best we can do is make rational decisions based on the best available evidence. Remain open minded and logically evaluate information. Come to your conclusions, live by them, but understand that there’s a good chance you are wrong. There should just be a better chance that you’re not.