Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Rule Of Three

Does anyone else think there is a place for The Rule of Three in science? As in, for any of the main points of your work, give the reader (or listener) three items that support it. If you do that, then most likely the reader will buy into your line of reasoning. It's especially good if these points cover the most obvious and common objections.

After the first one, the reader thinks, "Hmm, ok, that's plausible."

After the second one, the reader thinks, "Yeah, they're probably onto something here."

And if the writer throws in one more, the reader thinks, "Alright, alright! I hear you! Enough already."

Give more than three, and you're risking pissing off the reader. Give less than that, and you're risking leaving some convinceable people unconvinced. (At this stage there's no need worrying overly much about those close-minded folks who will never change their minds).

[It's somewhat interesting to think about why adding more points, any single of which alone are not convincing, ends up makes the overall argument more persuasive. But I'll leave that for the epistemologists to worry about. Suffice it to say, most scientists are comfortable with terms like, "preponderance of the evidence" and "reasonable doubt" as standards for deciding when a certain thing is "known."]

*sigh* This is all brought on by revisiting some TRP channel literature, which is making me curse up and down, doing my best to channel my inner PhysioProf (though really, who am I kidding). Seriously people, if you're gonna string a bunch of experiments together, could you maybe, I dunno, try to convince me of one before you move onto the next? This is especially true if you're using a bunch of drugs of undefined specificity, which we all know are dirtier than my kid's diaper after a losing bout with the latest day-care GI bug.


juniorprof said...

Exactly why I am glad to be out of the TRP channel game. Such a frustrating field to try to wrap your brain around. What particularly gets me is when these compounds are treated as having any specificity whatsoever and when only agonist activity is examined. I cannot remember the paper right now but there is one out there where the authors showed that nearly every compound examined had agonist and antagonist activity at multiple channels.

On the other hand, TRP channels are still hot... I wonder what will happen when clinical trial data start to come in with severe side effects... are the TRPV1 fever failures the tip of the iceberg or just a little blip on the radar screen?

Nat Blair said...

Oh jeebus, my blood pressure just spiked again.

You're so right jp. And if you're talking about TRPV1, that's one of the mammalian TRP channels we understand best. When it comes to TRPCs, fuggeddabutit. The pharmacology is even worse, the knowledge of expression is bad, ideas of activation mechanisms are weak, and so far knock outs haven't been much help. Don't even get me started on the whole store-operated aspect.

*blood pressure spikes again*

There's a good post in these issues though. A blog would be a good place to start hashing through some of this. Perhaps appropriately, I've been working through some of the TRP history to do a short overview of things.