“Whenever a theory appears to you as the only possible one, take this as a sign that you have neither understood the theory nor the problem which it was intended to solve.” — Karl Popper
Imagine returning from a doctor’s visit. The diagnosis? Acid reflux. Your doctor recommended exercise, a more careful diet, and—the best part—wrote you a prescription for Nexium.
After a frustrating process, your morale is high now that you’ve found a fix. Nexium’s advertising even goes as far as to call it the “Healing Purple Pill.” Plus, it’s a popular and successful drug with sales passing $6 billion per year. That kind of revenue has to be a good sign, right?
You check with Google to confirm your cause for optimism. But what you learn is downright shocking.
On top of startling side effects, you find out that Nexium only works for 1 in 25 people (Schork, 2015).
The drug was likely approved on the basis that it worked far better than placebos did. This was based on analyzing a group average. It doesn’t come anywhere close to telling you whether the specific treatment will work for you.
In other words, it doesn’t tell you the one thing you need to know.