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Critical Thinking Skills: Preppers NEED To Understand The Difference Between Anecdote & Evidence To Thrive

The difference between somebody who survives a tragic disaster situation may come down to ONE decision that they made: to base their plans on evidence-based preps instead of anecdotal based preps.

What on Earth is this guy talking about? Anec-what?

Anecdotal.

Seriously?

Yes, seriously. 

Let’s define the term anecdotal: Anecdotal is something that is not necessarily true or reliable, and the “evidence” that it works based on personal accounts rather than facts or research. This doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but it also doesn’t mean it’s right or complete. 

Here’s a simple example: Susie was sick. Susie ate some of her grandma’s chicken soup. Susie got well. That is an anecdote. Did the soup make Susie get well? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe her immune system made her well. Maybe what she was allergic to went out of season. We don’t know, all we know is that she ate soup and got well. That doesn’t prove the soup had anything to do with her getting over the illness. 

What is evidence? A whole bunch of people had Susie’s disease. Those that ate the soup mostly got well. Those that didn’t eat grampa’s tomato soup mostly stayed sick. Now there is good reason to think that the chicken soup helped them get well. 

The tomato soup eaters are what is known as a control group (more on that later), they are just like the chicken soup eaters (except for the chicken soup).

Here my point is in a nutshell: If your and your loved ones lives are on the line, if you are depending upon these supplies to survive, you stone-cold need to know they are going to work. When you are on the survival edge, there is ZERO room for error. You need to know, FACT, that what you are doing is going to work… not “man, I hope that guy who sold me this was right” type of knowledge, rather you need to absolutely positively have evidence that it’s going to work.

Now.

Ahead of time.

While you aren’t hanging on by a thread.

While there IS room for error.

All too often in the prepping community (and the world at large) we hear things from other members of the community about some product or other that’s supposed to be the greatest thing ever… only to find out that after we buy it and try it, it’s not really what we were hoping for.

While that kind of stinks today, when the world is still functional, it would REALLY REALLY REALLY stink if we were in a Stuff Hits The Fan (SHTF) situation.

Hearing about it from somebody else, hearing that it’s the greatest thing ever, that’s all well and good but how do you KNOW it works. Have you read non-partial reviews from people who do not have a dog in the hunt

If it’s something that you put in or on you, have you read the label for the list of active ingredients? Do you know exactly what’s in it if it’s a supplement? Do you know exactly what’s in it if it’s an alternative medicine? Do you have recommended dosing? Is there any peer-reviewed research on it? 

If it’s something you buy, have you tried it in person to verify claims? Brand X of a supposedly shelf stable produce claims to have five-times the shelf life than brand Y, is there independent research to prove that it is true? Have you checked the daily calories per serving, compared that to your needs?

Where do you get your information, from a certified label or in the big type on a company’s website.

It’s so easy to go with “Well, I’ve been feeling a bit down this week, I’ve heard from a friend that Product X gives me energy…” and right now, unless Product X is actually harmful, then it’s no real problem to use your friends anecdotal advice to try it. 

Here’s the real problem. If the SHTF, that’s not good enough. What you stock in your preps STONE COLD HAS TO WORK or you and your loved ones may die. 

Since the start of this project, we have been committed to evidence-based information and testing to see if anecdotal stories about products and concepts hold water. We are going to continue to do this, and frankly we expect to make some people mad at us along the way, because we are wading into a lot of anecdotes in the future. 

Honestly? Most anecdotes turn out to be either wrong, or entirely unsupported.

Who knows, they may be right and there’s just not any reliable evidence to support them out there at this time.

That’s not good enough.

If the SHTF, you can’t afford to be wrong. 

Salty

4 Comments

  1. Good point insufficient evidence. What people really need to do is NOT want “miracle cures.” It’s the lazy side in us that really REALLY wants there to be Weight Loss w/o Diet or Exercise, or to Eat Like a King, Post-SHTF, with Magic No-Cook Powder Stuff, etc.

    It’s our lazy side that wants to believe such things. Less-than-scrupulous vendors are more than willing to appeal to our lazy side to part us from our money.

    The flip-side of anecdotal miracle cures (Where a single instance doesn’t ensure success), is that a single deviation from the majority doesn’t ensure failure. If “Everyone” has X, then you’ve GOT to have X or you’ll die within days.” I’ve seen this (il)logic applied to AR-15s, Berkey filters, Mora knives, etc. Those things can be good, but they’re not the only way to get a job done.

    — Mic

    • Yes sir.

      There’s also something else at work here, we talked about it early in our website’s history but we are going to bring it up again and explore it more, the concept of understanding bias, specifically a type called “confirmation bias” that we are going to be coming back to a lot in the future.

      Briefly, for those who may not know, confirmation bias is (basically) when a group or belief system of people only get their information from sources within their beliefs: Example, people get all of their political information from whatever-wing radio show hosts… liberals only listen to liberal broadcasts, conservatives only listen to conservative ones… that builds up a bias that all that is not what they choose to listen to is wrong.

      Confirmation bias causes a lot of people to go “off-the-rails” on a lot of stuff, and we are going to try to bust that when it comes to prepper stuff. Obviously, we do not do politics or religion here (firm rule), and that’s one of the reasons… we don’t want to introduce confirmation bias into the conversation.

      We are biased, everybody is, it’s part of being human. What we are trying to do is explain upfront that we are biased towards presenting accurate information, and let the chips fall where they may.

      We believe freedom is good, and the responsibility that goes along with that freedom is to look for and present evidence, and when we create/use anecdotal information, we show it clearly, state it clearly and make it as evidence based as possible.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Made in China cold weather sleeping bag, where immediately upon use, the zipper tab broke.

    Made in China waterproof match case, with built in compass. The striker pad built on it is too smooth, and doesn’t light the match, and the compass isn’t accurate.

    Anecdotal?

    • Anecdotal, absolutely.

      Something may be anecdotal and absolutely accurate, or inaccurate.

      What you are offering as an example are two sample-sizes of one, with no independent testing or research being done.

      Let’s take the second thing you offer as an example. You are in a store and you see 15 of those match cases, right? You take them off the shelf, place them on a flat surface (say another shelf) and note which way the compasses are pointing. At this point in time, you are doing research. Do they all point the right direction? If so, you have research that at least this batch is moderately accurate. If not, then you know that this batch is inaccurate, therefore that feature should be discounted when buying.

      You can’t tell by looking that the striker isn’t rough enough, since it’s inside the bubble, but you do know, from your own evidence-based research, that this product has a major flaw in it’s design or construction, and I would assume experience would teach you that buying a product that has a major flaw known to you is probably something you won’t do. I wouldn’t.

      As far as the zipper goes, the question becomes how/why did you decide to buy the product? Was it after doing research, either through an independent lab (say Consumer Reports) or via a crowdsourcing review site (Amazon reviews, etc.)

      We live in a day where croudsourced research is available all over the place. One person saying “the zipper broke on the first use” is anecdotal and really doesn’t say anything other that one specific item was broken. 1,500 crowd-sourced reviews where 35 percent say the zipper broke in the first use is no longer anecdotal.

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