Suppose someone told you there was a scientific study showing that people should protect their eyes from light pretty much all the time. I mean, it makes sense, right, because we all know we shouldn’t look right into the sun, so light in general must be risky? And then wearing darkening glasses might become popular and fashionable, with lots of styles to choose from. Manufacturers would come up with glasses that darken the best, while still claiming to provide the best vision experience possible. Pretty soon, people would be so unaccustomed to seeing each other’s eyes, that if someone didn’t wear glasses, it would be thought rude or too personal. After all, everyone would know that you only take your darkening glasses off in the privacy of your own home. That is the only place it is socially acceptable to be comfortable, anyway. No matter that there are all kinds of injuries from people running into things or not being able to communicate well. The next glasses on the market would take care of that. People would be certain of upcoming scientific discoveries and technological improvements to help with these issues.
This is not so far-fetched. People are good at coming up with
improvements alterations on human form and function that often do more harm than good. Corsets are making a come-back again. A variation of them was called girdles for a while. These devices tend to inhibit breathing, can cause digestive issues, and lead to malfunction of other abdominal organs, including the uterus. But, hey, they are stylish!
There have been a number of studies released lately about whether or not barefoot running is good. Like with most so-called scientific studies, there are so many important questions to ask about the results. However, I think the most important ones to ask are along the lines of,
- “Do you need someone to do a study to tell you that bending your knees when you walk is helpful?”
- “Is it good to wear noise reducers over your ears nearly all the time to reduce risk of injuring your ears?”
- “Should your neck be held in an immobilizing brace while you drive to avoid whiplash?”
You get the idea. We know that inhibiting movement or sensory input would greatly reduce functionality of these body parts. The end result would be more injury and weakening of those body parts from disuse.
We might want to wear earplugs once in a while. It might be good to support our necks during an amusement park ride that is not relying on our guidance. There might even be times to brace the knees in a certain position to concentrate our force of power. But these are all the exception and due to unusual circumstances.
There is a reason that gymnasts are barefoot. There is no footwear that can give them the same balance and flexibility, nor the ability to use their lower legs to full force. They need the spring of the unshod foot. They need the splay of the toes. They are using the human body to interact with the environment in ways that cannot be enhanced by shoes, gloves, or clothes. They wear as little as possible, to allow the body maximum function. You might also note, they do not wear sunglasses, gloves, or neck braces. They need full range of motion to take full advantage of what the human body can do.
Running or walking are similar. These are basic human movements. The body is designed for them. These motions are different from things like riding a bike or skiing, where equipment is used to allow the body to do things it cannot do on it’s own power. Running and walking are the default means of human locomotion.
As such, there should not be any need for a study to prove that using the feet fully and unhindered for either activity is best. There shouldn’t need to be a study to show that the less interference with foot function, the better. If some sort of protection is desirable, it should mimic the natural foot. Just like with any other aide device, the goal should be to provide an amount of protection with the least change in function and perception possible.
If you want to evaluate such studies further, you can ask other revealing questions .
- How large was the sample size?
- What is the researcher’s preference?
- Who is paying for the study?
- How can you test something on people they are not used to using?
- What, exactly, was being measured?
- What was the environment for data collection?
- What other variables were involved and how were they accounted for?
- How were the questions phrased and who answered them?
- How did they take their data and synthesize it into their conclusion?
If you take a group of people who have been wearing darkening glasses their whole lives and ask them to function with bare eyeballs out in the sun, they will have a number of problems. Though at first they may find it invigorating and beautiful, they will likely get sunburned from too much exposure too soon. They may find the glare overpowering and not know how to moderate it. They will probably not be very good at judging when they are too hot or dehydrated and will easily get sunstroke due to lack of experience. They might even get overwhelmed by all the visual stimuli and just say it hurts their eyes. How well they adjust will probably be affected by things like their age, the comments and reactions of people around them, and the strong human tendency to go back to old habits. If they continue to go without darkening glasses, while most people wear them, they will be labeled rebels, stupid, or some such.
In all likelihood, someone will do a study to show that going without darkening glasses is not safe and a lot of people got hurt when they tried to go without them. Then it will become an even more firmly held “fact” that darkening glasses are needed. Life without them is just too hard. Some people will try to make laws requiring them. Some businesses will have signs saying things like “Glasses or Go Away.” But a few delighted souls will continue to live without darkening glasses and get to experience life on a whole other level.