Although Old Wives Tales amount to only observational studies, we know intuitively that they have high value. Take chicken soup for example. When you have a cold, the home remedy works because it boosts hydration and increases body temperature. In Venezuela, sopa de pata de pollo — soup with chicken feet — is the go-to treatment for dengue fever. It’s a bowl of all-natural medicine: chicken soup plus minerals, and amino acids that strengthen the respiratory system. You won’t find this dish served in any restaurant or dispensed at any pharmacy, however. It’s always abuelita’s special recipe.
I’ve had both a high-profile doctor and an internationally-renowned expert call me a fool for relying on my observations rather than officially sanctioned scientific studies. The problem with these critiques, however, was the topic of Dr. John Ioannidis famous 2005 essay: It is more likely that published research findings are wrong than right. If you’ve not heard of Dr. Ioannidis, he predicted in March 2020 the true, miniscule IFR of COVID and did everything he could to stop the hysteria. His 2005 article alone has been cited 5,000 times.
When scientists try to uncover God’s secrets, it reminds me of what I said about an old boss: I’m not saying it’s an easy job, but she also happens to be bad at it. One reason research studies are unreliable, unrepeatable, and often refuted over time is because in the real world, there are too many variables. This is the well-known “burger + bun + french fries + soda = meat is bad for you” analysis.
Here’s another example.
I pleasantly surprised myself today with a powerhouse jump rope session. I spent some time thinking about what I have been doing differently to unlock this surge of energy.
Was it eating more calories than usual over the last couple days? The cooler Florida weather? More adrenaline around an upcoming biz trip?
Or perhaps it was none of the above — maybe it was just a good, strong day.