Consider the source

We all remember Todd Akin’s ridiculously ignorant ‘legitimate rape’ comments. The ensuing firestorm left most of us outraged and shaking our heads. Joe Walsh thinks  modern medicine negates the need for abortion, Jenny McCarthy spreads dangerous misinformation about vaccinations, conspiracy theorists have their followers frightened for no good reason…It leaves many of us wondering: Why do people believe them? Amongst other things they don’t consider the source.

One of my favorite examples is Jenny McCarthy. She is an outspoken and popular critic of vaccinations of all kinds. Vaccinations are a medical issue, they are used to control infectious diseases. Let’s look at her qualifications versus a pediatrician (name withheld for privacy reasons):

Jenny McCarthy Pediatrician (Name Withheld
  • Graduate of Mother McCauley Liberal Arts High School
  • Playboy Playmate 1993
  • Various movie and television acting roles

  • Board Certified by the American Board of Pediatrics
  • Licensed to practice pediatrics in both Connecticut and New York
  • Active Staff Privileges at *** Hospital

Pediatric Employment Experience:

  • General Pediatrics in a private primary care office in *** from June 2002 to August 2005
  • Emergency Room Pediatrics at the **** Children’s Medical Center in *** July 2002 to August 2006


  • Bachelor of Science in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania, May 1991
  • Master’s Degree in Physiology and Biophysics from Georgetown University, May 1995
  • MD from Temple University School of Medicine, May 1999
  • Internship and Residency in Pediatrics from the University of *** at the *** Children’s Medical Center

Awards and Honors:

  • Douglas MacGilpin Community Physician Award
  • Connecticut Children’s Medical Center Attending spot Award for excellence
  • Emergency Medicine Spot Award for excellence in service and patient care
  • Temple University School of Medicine Dean’s Award

This impressive resume might be considered ‘typical’ amongst medical professionals.  Also doctors are require to subscribe to journals, attend conferences..etc. in order to stay on top of the latest research and keep their skills fresh. While specific regulations do vary from state to state and country to country within a democracy no one can be a licensed medical professional that doesn’t have at least something close to the long and thorough training and experience you see in the above resume.

Who would turn to for advice about your health? Would you trust me (a blogger) or a mechanic to fix your car? Would you trust a florist or a contractor to fix your home?…

Types of sources

Primary: This is the raw data. Usually the paper, document, etc. that reports on the research or the experience (whatever that is). Examples include research reports and articles, interviews, transcripts and official records.

Secondary: A secondary reports on and/or analyzes the primary source. This includes textbooks, magazines, newspaper columns, and encyclopaedias.

Tertiary: A collection primary and secondary sources. This can also include encyclopaedias and textbooks but also reports, presentations, and almanacs.

The following are not (or rarely) trained professionals and should never replace seeing a doctor, psychiatrist, specialist…etc.

  • Celebrities of any kind:  While they may be a talented musician, actress..etc. and are often idolized very, very few celebrities are also doctors.
  • Strangers: This, believe it or not, is not common sense. Everyday people take  psychics, pseudoscientists and conspiracy theorists at their word. These are total strangers who, if pressed, can very rarely or never provide credentials.
  • The News:  Mainstream is far too often guilty of bias or shoddy reporting to be considered a reliable source. Even if the reporting is perfect it is simply impossible to know if the report applies to you without asking your doctor.
  • Advertising: Another no-brainer but time and time again people mistake advertising as a reliable source. Advertising is out to get you to buy a product or use a service. It doesn’t get much more biased than that.

Although any of these may provide good reason to ask a  professional; they may be exactly right. But there isn’t a doctor in his right mind that will tell you to trust any of these things over their advice. Remember that at the very least a licenced professional has the training and if ever intentionally misled you they can be sued, disciplined and/or lose their career.  This is not true for the Jenny McCarthy’s of the world.


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