How MSG Got A Bad Rap: Flawed Science And Xenophobia

Below are a few resources that explore the myth of MSG (food additive) being bad for you. This case demonstrates the intersection of various TOK concepts include how we produce knowledge in the natural sciences, the role of intuition in acquiring knowledge, and why we have such a hard time changing our minds once we believe something to be true.

That MSG causes health problems may have thrived on racially charged biases from the outset. Ian Mosby, a food historian, wrote in a 2009 paper titled “‘That Won-Ton Soup Headache’: The Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, MSG and the Making of American Food, 1968-1980” that fear of MSG in Chinese food is part of the U.S.’s long history of viewing the “exotic” cuisine of Asia as dangerous or dirty. As Sand put it: “It was the misfortune of Chinese cooks to be caught with the white powder by their stoves when the once-praised flavor enhancer suddenly became a chemical additive.”

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-msg-got-a-bad-rap-flawed-science-and-xenophobia/

This American Life: The Long Fuse (prologue and Part 1)

In this episode, the hosts explore the the MSG myth and in the process also demonstrate the challenges we face when constructing knowledge about the past

Since the ’90s, the FDA has listed MSG as perfectly safe for its intended use, like vinegar, salt, pepper. Today on our show, we have three stories like this one, where people throw words out into the world that take on a totally unexpected life of their own. And in all these stories, the words wreak havoc for years.

Episode: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/668/the-long-fuse

Transcript: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/668/transcript

Scientific Studies: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

All of the links below speak well to the how knowledge is produced in the natural sciences along with the limitations and pitfalls that come with that process.

John Oliver discusses how and why media outlets so often report untrue or incomplete information as science.

This connects well this article:

“This is why you shouldn’t believe that exciting new medical study”

https://www.vox.com/2015/3/23/8264355/research-study-hype

I adapted this article into this handout. It all goes well together.

TOK Day 56 This is why you shouldn’t believe that new medical study

This also connects well to the podcast:

“Is the knowledge factory broken”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csvsy8

Art and reality: How accurately does “Euphoria” portray real teens’ lives? Does it matter?

The central point here is that the show Euphoria inaccurately portrays teenagers’ lives which raises the question: Is there a responsibility that comes with creating artwork? Must it be accurate? Who decides?

The claim that the show is inaccurate is backup with statistics raises the question: How can math/statistics help us acquire knowledge? (or understand reality?)

People’s perceptions of teens’ behaviors seems to be generally inaccurate beyond what this show. If presented with this article and appropriate statistics would people change their mind or perceptions of these issues? I’m not sure that it would which leads us to the question: What is the role of intuition in acquiring knowledge? Can mathematical knowledge overcome intuitive beliefs?

This reminded me of an earlier article from the New York Times:

“The Kids Are More Than All Right”

https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/02/the-kids-are-more-than-all-right/

In Defense of Scientism

In science, the jury is always out. This is because science is a methodological approach to the world, not a set of inflexible principles or a catalog of indisputable facts. Truth is always provisional. Science does not hold something to be incontrovertibly true. It says, “This appears to be true according to the best available theory and evidence.” On science, the jury long ago returned a verdict: it is awesome. It has conquered deadly diseases and eradicated oppressive superstitions. It has increased human flourishing and extended life expectancies. It has put humans on the moon and many fathoms under the ocean’s surface. It has uncovered the forces that guide the crudest motions of matter and those that govern the most exquisite processes of life. In short, it has vastly improved human existence while dramatically increasing our knowledge of the universe.

Despite all this, skeptical philosophers and pundits continue to forward arguments against scientific “arrogance”—or against what they see as science’s hubristic attempt to crowd out other forms of understanding and discourse. In recent years, these arguments have focused on what is called “scientism,”

The version of scientism we will be defending here is the version advocated by Pinker, Harris, Dawkins, and Tyson; the simple contention that we, as a society, should use the principles of science—skepticism, experimentation, falsification, and the search for basic explanatory principles—to determine, however clumsily and slowly, how the world works and what the best and most effective social policies are. If we want to determine the best marginal tax rates, we shouldn’t dredge up some dogma or other or cite the authority of a dead economist. Instead, we should examine and weigh the evidence, compare the merits of competing theories, and then aim for the most reasonable rates.

https://quillette.com/2019/04/06/in-defense-of-scientism/

Why people believe the Earth is flat and we should listen to anti-vaxxers

Science communication has lost its sense of empathy and misunderstands how fear can alter a person’s belief system.

When we feel so fundamentally disenfranchised, it’s comforting to concoct a fictional universe that systemically denies you the right cards. It gives you something to fight against and makes you self-deterministic.

It provides an “us and them” narrative that allows you to conceive of yourself as a little David raging against a rather haughty, intellectual establishment Goliath.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/05/why-people-believe-the-earth-is-flat-and-we-should-listen-to-anti-vaxxers

Is the Immediate Playback of Events Changing Children’s Memories?

Looking at a video right after an event can overlay and alter the actual memory of the experience, experts say.

What would have happened if I let my daughter watch the video right after her experience? According to Dr. Siegel she would have quickly moved from being a participant to being a more distant observer.

“A half-hour after the show, instead of being able to languish and enjoy the rich bodily sensations and emotions that accompany autobiographical experience and memory and narrative, she’s now being thrust into the observer autobiographical experience because she’s watching herself on the screen,” he said.

Mental Models: The Best Way to Make Intelligent Decisions (109 Models Explained)

Screen Shot 2019-06-01 at 11.50.02 PM.pngMental models are how we understand the world. Not only do they shape what we think and how we understand but they shape the connections and opportunities that we see. Mental models are how we simplify complexity, why we consider some things more relevant than others, and how we reason.

A mental model is simply a representation of how something works. We cannot keep all of the details of the world in our brains, so we use models to simplify the complex into understandable and organizable chunks.

https://fs.blog/mental-models/