Learning skepticism for life extension
As a self-appointed life-extension advocate and practitioner, I feel rather limited not being about turn to my doctor with questions about life extension, healthspan improvement and feel frustrated being told such-and-such biomarker is good “for my age”. Until our current sick-care system shifts focus towards healthcare based on continuous monitoring, prevention, and personalized care, we are left to navigate the rapid development in the field anti-aging ourselves. This has motivated me to start listening to “The Skeptic’s Guide to Health, Medicine, and the Media” by Dr. Roy Benaroch, The Great Courses to be better prepared to separate hype and fake news from usable, practical information.
A short summary for you from sciencebasedmedicine.org.
Dr. Benaroch’s Skeptic’s Toolkit consists of these six S’:
Source of the story Is it based on a valid scientific study from a reputable institution, or is it anecdotal information from a non-scientist? Is there any reason to think that the writer might be biased?
Strength of the evidence. Was it a small preliminary pilot study or a large double-blind, placebo-controlled trial? Was the effect a large one? Was it a clinically meaningful effect? Does it only report a correlation, or is there evidence of causation? Do they report relative percentages or absolute numbers?
Salience — is the study about people like you, and are the results important to you? If it was a study in mice or test tubes, it may not provide information that is meaningful for you. Are you a mouse?
Sides of the scale. Does the story provide a balanced view with input from experts not involved in the study? Are there legitimate disagreements?
Sensible — does the story make sense and fit with other information you know? Does it use “red flag” words like “miracle cure?” If it claims that breatharians can live without food, you know that can’t be true, and a little digging will show that they do, indeed, eat food.
Salesmanship — is the purpose of the article to sell you something or to promote a particular treatment or brand? If so, the information may not be trustworthy.